Do Young Australians Need A Digital Culture Change?

January 19th, 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.student-849828_960_720

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.

However, one of the major barriers for the young generation is the perceived lack of funding for start-ups. Certainly, the government is on track with policies to improve the teaching of digital literacy and expand opportunities for women in STEM. However, in relation to innovation, research and development (R&D) can greatly assist young companies in researching and developing new products, processes, apps and software. With this in mind, when it comes to government incentives for companies, you can’t undervalue the worth of the R&D Tax Incentive for young businesses. If eligible, the tax incentive allows business owners to offset some of the costs of doing R&D, consequently increasing cash flow back into the business. To find out more about the scheme, read our blog post ‘Pointers for Start-Ups on Claiming the R&D Tax Incentive’ or contact Swanson Reed to speak to a R&D tax specialist.