Young people being paid under the minimum national standards at their casual or part-time jobs is a major contributor to the mental health epidemic of Generation Z.

With a heavy schedule and many things to juggle such as study, bills, social life, family, and the pressures of social media in addition to work, young people are now more than ever struggling to keep their head above water.

“Basically I had to sacrifice work or study. I needed money to go to uni so I had to sacrifice time where I’d usually not be working to work extra shifts,” says Kable, who was underpaid at work during his time as a university student.

“It restricted me from going out and doing things that people my age usually do.”

Kable says he was paid less than the legal minimum for four years and was forced to use the Government’s safety net to keep his dream of finishing university alive.

“It was difficult. I definitely wasn’t earning enough to keep me going if I was outside of home. I had to rely on Centrelink.

“It was quite deflating. I was earning $11 an hour when other people were earning upwards of $18 at the time.”

Like many people in hospitality, he received no penalty rates and was expected to be free to work on all public holidays or face the possibility of reduced shifts.

“I didn’t confront him because I thought he would just tell me to leave if I didn’t want to work for that much.

“I couldn’t afford to be unemployed.”

One in five young Victorian workers are currently paid below the national minimum wage while less than half of young Victorians who work unsocial hours get paid penalty rates, according to the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria.

In addition, almost 40 per cent of Australian tertiary students experience significant financial hardship.

Kable says one of the biggest challenges was how to pay to get to university, given the car-oriented nature of the campus.

“I had to save for at least a month before [car registration] and put away almost all my pay. It took a while to accumulate the money. I had to think about it well in advance.

“It affected my worth as an employee there. I thought the shit pay meant I wasn’t one of the better staff members there.”

Kable now has a job in retail where he works part-time, earning above industry-standard pay and penalty rates, while studying for a Masters degree. He says as much as he’s happy, he still thinks about that period of time.

“It was a huge relief to get out of there. I don’t have to worry as much about how much I’m getting paid or when to start saving for car registration.

“But I do think about the superannuation I missed out on all the time. As soon as I hear the word I think about those four years and how much more I would have if I was paid properly.”

One third of Australians are currently being underpaid superannuation.

Underpayment isn’t the only issue facing the youth. The current unemployment rate for young Victorians not studying full-time is 11.3 per cent, which is almost twice the rate of the community as a whole.

Emily is currently looking for work as she has not yet decided which career, and thus university course, she would like to undertake. Money is already a big player in her decisions.

“I have to stop myself from going out on weekends sometimes because I just can’t afford it. It’s fun spending time with friends so it’s really disappointing when I can’t,” she says.

“If university was free, I’d pick a course, but I can’t justify spending so much on something I might not like.

“I’ve applied for some free TAFE courses. Hopefully that gets me somewhere in the meantime while job hunting.”

The introduction of free TAFE course to Victoria in areas of need are hoped to strengthen the skills of young people and make them more employable in the future.

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