A recent issue of Inside Story carried a refreshing article about Australia’s young people, full of statistics to back its claims, which concluded that today’s young people score substantially better than many previous cohorts across a number of measures.
The article, which was actually an edited version of a
speech given by Andrew Leigh at the National Youth Conference (held in Canberra
during April), used Australian Bureau of Statistics figures to draw comparisons
between young people in 2015 and those from earlier years. The author, who is a
politician and economist, found that young people today are smoking less,
drinking less, better educated, using fewer drugs, having fewer babies as
teenagers, and committing fewer crimes than in the past. He points to
interesting work by Abigail Wills from Oxford University, who says that ‘the
anxiety about young people today also stems from changes in how we think about
their role in the community’. It seems that because young people are starting
work later, people are finding it hard to recognise their economic value to society
and the ways in which they contribute. Wills says that people need to ‘start thinking
about ways of improving adult perceptions of the young, rather than thinking up
panic solutions to an imaginary cataclysm of declining morals’.