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Young Aussie workers outraged over 'criminal' $75k entry-level wages

As well as the 'low' salaries, young Aussies have been calling out entry-level jobs asking for experience.

Young university graduates struggling to get a job say wages for entry-level positions are "criminal" and expectations around experience are "unrealistic" as the worth of a degree comes into question.

Kaitlyn Hill has been looking for "anything full-time" in Adelaide "on and off" for more than three months now. The 21-year-old, who is currently a casual at Coles, has a double degree and told Yahoo Finance the money on offer for roles with her qualifications simply wasn't enough to survive on. Not to mention the "couple of years' experience" required.

"I'm looking at the wages and it's literally 60-thousand dollars. $60k to live? Sorry?" she said. "Am I being unrealistic by expecting at least $75,000 as an entry-level?"

Jobseeker Kaitlyn, a blonde woman smiling with red lipstick and an inset of her in another photo standing with her back to the camera, kicking her foot up.
Job-seeker Kaitlyn has expressed her frustration over entry-level salaries after spending years studying.

Do you have a story to tell? Contact yahoo.finance.au@yahooinc.com

Kaitlyn is not alone, Maddy Basham, from Queensland, recently revealed her outrage over being offered $50,000 for a marketing coordinator role that required two years of experience and a university degree. Gold Coast jobseeker Shaikra Coldwell spoke out after she spent three years obtaining a degree in health but applied for "over 100" jobs without any luck.

What is the average entry-level salary in Australia?

These young Aussies sharing their experiences online have opened the floodgates for hundreds more to come forward with stories of how "rough" it is out there in this economy as a new-grad.

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"First-year solicitor on $67k — it’s rough out here. I foolishly thought I'd be able to afford a house when I got a law job," one person said.

"Four years of uni and I'm on $58k — same as working at my old fast food job," another revealed.

"Me, as an architecture student, I can't even find a job without them wanting two years' experience," a third added.

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The average salary in Australia, as of November 2023, was $1,888.80 per week. That's $98,217.60 yearly before tax and HECS deductions.

As an example, recruitment agency Michael Page recently stated junior employees in the digital space — like marketing coordinators or junior social media specialists — earned an average of around $50,000 to $70,000 a year.

It also said junior finance professionals, on average, earned between $55,000 and $62,000, while recent graduates in the same space were paid between $65,000 and $70,000, on average.

Two graduates stand smiling out the front of a sandstone university.
The low entry-point wages on offer have left some wondering whether university is even worth it at all. (Source: Getty)

Human resource management and remuneration expert at the University of Sydney, Professor John Shields, told Yahoo Finance this was an accurate reflection, adding the median salary for a graduate in their early career was about $10,000 more.

As costs continue to rise, a recent Finder study found the average Australian felt they needed to earn more than $345,000 to be considered doing well financially — a huge jump from the average junior salary.

Why is it so hard to find a decent-paying job?

Two years ago, jobseekers were spoiled for choice when looking for a new role because there were far more jobs than people looking. Now, the unemployment figure is rising and company pockets are getting tighter, making it harder for young professionals looking for an in.

Shields said employers were being "pickier" with who they spent their money on, and were "digging in on entry-point salaries" by starting with lower base rates and highlighting other benefits, claiming that boosted the total value of the offer.

The HR expert said salaries were a significant part of why a jobseeker would consider a role, but said that wasn't the only thing young workers wanted. Bonuses, developmental opportunities and the chance to build a network all play into the value of a role.

"Big established firms play on that," Shields told Yahoo Finance.

Is it worth getting a university degree?

The low entry-point wages on offer have left some wondering whether university is even worth it at all.

Universities helped graduates to be "critical thinkers" with good communication skills and the ability to work with complex data, Shields said.

"These are mission-critical, higher-order capabilities for a world that's going to be dominated by artificial intelligence and quantum computing," he said.

Superior People Recruitment founder and director Graham Wynn said university qualifications were not as valuable as they used to be. He said it was becoming more common for employer and employee expectations on wages to differ, particularly in younger generations.

"Realistically, it’s much easier to get into uni and get a qualification than it was 20 or 30 years ago," Wynn told Yahoo Finance. "The entry levels are much lower, the pass marks are lower and there are far more uni places than there used to be."

The Australian Universities Accord Report, released by the government last month, set a goal of doubling the number of university placements over the next 25 years.

Scott Pape, better known as The Barefoot Investor, suggested that was an "ambitious goal".

"Does it really make sense to spend $40,000 on a degree you may never use?" he wrote. "Today many people are finding their HECS-HELP debts are rising faster than they can pay them off. Last year, the debt was increased by 7.1 per cent. This year, it will jump by another 5 per cent."

Pape suggested TAFE Vocational Educational Training (VET) could be a better way forward for many young Aussies questioning their next steps.

"There are still people who see TAFE Vocational Educational Training - compared to a university degree - as the educational equivalent of Aldi. But I strongly disagree … and I have both qualifications," he said.

He argued that VET or TAFE qualifications were more practical, shorter, and generally much cheaper, making them a "very rational choice".

"After all, not only does the research say that the average person will have five careers over their lifetime, the World Economic Forum says that two-fifths of workers will be disrupted by technological change," he added.