Living with precarious employment: How long term job insecurity impacts on the lives of young Australians

Youth Research Centre Seminar Series 2017

Dr Hernán Cuervo and Dr Jenny Chesters from the Youth Research Centre, Melbourne Graduate School of Education

Job insecurity has become a central concept in contemporary social life and although the role of job insecurity in the challenges faced by young people within the employment sphere has been well-documented, examinations of the impact of job insecurity in other social spheres (e.g. health, housing, personal relationships) has received less attention.

This seminar will examine the effects of job insecurity on young people’s lives to expand the boundaries of current youth employment research and policy studies by drawing on longitudinal mixed-methods data that was collected between 2006 and 2016 for the Life Patterns project. After establishing the characteristics of those who were in insecure work between the ages of 23 and 28, Dr Hernán Cuervo and Dr Jenny Chesters will analyse how insecure work affects various aspects of their lives.

Analysis of the survey data indicates that prolonged insecure work is related to differences in living arrangements; availability of family time; and levels of autonomy. While analysis of the qualitative data reveals that as insecure work permeates different spheres of young people’s lives – family and personal relationships, wellbeing, housing –it impacts on the (im)possibility of planning into the future. This seminar will conclude that policy makers need to re-evaluate the perception that insecure work is a transitory phase and develop policies that take into account that for some, precarious work will shape their longer term outcomes.


Hernán Cuervo is a Research Fellow at the Youth Research Centre (YRC) and Associate Dean (Diversity and Inclusion) and Senior Lecturer at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. His research interests focus on inequality, youth studies, and theories of justice, rural education and education policy. Hernán coordinates and teaches the subject Diversity, Inclusion and Transitions in the Master of Education, as well as Youth Leading Change, Youth & Popular Culture, and Learning and the Digital Generation at an undergraduate level. He regularly lectures in the Master of Teaching at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education, the Sociology program in the Faculty of Arts and in the Master of Adolescent Health in the Faculty of Medicine. Hernán also works in the Life Patterns project focusing on youth transitions and the link between education and work. Since 2015, he is the co-convenor of the Rural Education Special Interest Group at the Australian Association for Research in Education. He is also currently a member of the Council Advisory Policy for the Australian Youth Affairs Coalition and the Red de Comunidades Rurales, Argentina.

Jenny Chesters is a Research Fellow at the YRC at the Melbourne Graduate School of Education. She completed her PhD at The University of Queensland in 2009 and has published in national and international journals. Jenny is currently conducting analysis of longitudinal data collected between 1991 and 2016 by the Life Patterns project. Her research interests focus on transitions between education and employment throughout the life course, inequality in educational attainment and social stratification and social mobility.