Is Australia’s Risk-Averse Younger Generation Impeding Australia’s Innovation System?

August 1st, 2016

The young generation, often seen adorned with iPod earphones and the latest smartphone or tablet in tote, have grown up in a world where the Internet has become enmeshed into daily existence. Indeed, there is a sociological portrait of young people as being effortlessly tech savvy. However, a new report reveals that young Australians are less prepared for the digital revolution than comparable countries.

The report, Amplifying Human Potential: Education and Skills for the Fourth Industrial Revolution, was based on a survey of 9000 young people, aged between 16 and 25, in nine countries. Australia ranked last out of the countries and the younger generation was observed as being more risk-averse, more pessimistic about their job prospects and having less confidence in their skills.

To elucidate, the comparison of other countries paints a somewhat bleak view of the younger generation’s outlook on the digital revolution. For instance, 43 per cent of Chinese respondents were “very optimistic” regarding their job prospects compared to just 13 per cent of Australians. In addition, merely 16 per cent of Australians have a firm interest in computer coding or developing mobile apps – amongst the lowest of any country surveyed. Likewise, Australians had the lowest level of confidence in their job skills, with just half saying they are confident they have the necessary skills compared to 75 per cent in Brazil and India.

Perhaps most notably, less than 4 per cent of Australian respondents said they want to work for start-ups – this was the lowest of any country and is the focus sector of many of the government’s innovation initiatives. Instead, majority would rather work for time-honoured businesses with a strong corporate past. Lastly, Australia had a high gap in technological competence between men and women – with 48 per cent of men rated as highly competent, compared to 28 per cent of women.

Undeniably, the report emphasises the dilemma the Turnbull government faces in its proposal to spur a more risk-taking economy with its innovation policies. The findings presented here strengthen broader trend research, which reinforces a conservative mindset and risk-aversion among young people today. Regardless of the public discourse and anticipation around start-ups and a cohort of efficacious self-starting entrepreneurs – the reality is that young people gravitate towards established companies that are believed to propose increased stability and better prospects for advancement.

Ultimately, a strong culture of innovation in industry is a valuable asset in building global brand recognition of Australia’s capabilities.  This was identified by the Chairs of Councils when they included ‘Innovative Australia’ in their shared strategic outcomes, noting that, ‘Australia needs to be and needs to be seen to be innovative.’ Indeed, Australia’s desire to be a world leader in knowledge and innovation is well documented and is an ambition that has the support of both government and business. Significant reviews of Australia’s innovation performance have led to a raft of recommendations for performance improvement, and many already have been addressed to some extent by government policy. The question, however, is whether Australia’s ambitions can be satisfied in the context of a system that encourages a culture of innovation, collaboration and risk-taking.

Are you interested in discussing innovation further?

InnovationCAFE 2016 is approaching and will aim to explore the importance of innovation in Australia’s economic future. It will offer forecasts, strategies, opportunities and practices to help transform your organisation as Australia transitions to an innovation-led economy. Three key interrelated topics will be discussed: Productivity, Culture and Commercialisation.

This is a rare opportunity to learn, connect and share ideas across sectors with some of Australia’s most influential thinkers and leaders under one roof. Don’t miss out on the innovation event of 2016 – book and secure your ticket today for your relevant state below:



Where When


Melbourne Convention & Exhibition Centre  

7:30am – 10:00am

Friday, 12th August


Stamford Plaza Hotel

7:30am – 10:00am

Friday, 19th August


Hilton Sydney Hotel

7:30am – 10:00am

Friday, 26th August

Perth Parmelia Hilton Perth

7:30am – 10:00am

Tuesday, 30th August