Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Humanities and Social Inquiry


Youth employment is one of the most pressing social issues in the Australian economy. Youth generally have greater employment difficulties than other groups in the labour market. This is particularly striking in regional Australia. The focus of this thesis is the Illawarra region of New South Wales, Australia which has experienced one of the most disadvantaged labour markets for youth over the last few decades. There have been a number of important factors that have impacted on youth employment. One of the most significant has been neoliberalism, an ideology and practice that has become ubiquitous in the developed West. The theory of hegemony developed by Antonio Gramsci is used to understand how neoliberalism operates. Hegemony can be applied to both theory and ideology, and policy and structures. The thesis argues that neoliberalism can be seen as hegemonic, and contends that it can be seen as operating successfully in its own terms in the Australian context.

This thesis specifies the nature of the local youth labour market in the Illawarra’s regional economy. The thesis poses a central research question to understand these dimensions: What are the challenges to youth employment in a neoliberal economy that operates successfully in its own terms? In order to explore this question a qualitative methodology is used that draws on youth employment experiences to understand, more specifically, how neoliberalism has impacted on youth. The findings indicate how significant neoliberal ideologies and practices impact on youth employment experiences, and youth understandings of them. In particular, the study demonstrates how precarious employment shapes the experiences and expectations of youth, contributing to new understandings of youth employment in regional Australia.