Karen Lomas
September 22, 2021

The latest data on Gen-Zs – Study, Jobs, Life for Young Adults during Covid-19

We are learning from research about the lives of young adults, Generation-Zs, during the covid-19 global pandemic. The research I begin by sharing here, comes from Longitudinal Surveys of Australian Youth (LSAY).

Generation Z

In a report just published, we can see the impact of Covid-19 and the several lockdowns, upon Gen-Zs. Generation Z is the demographic cohort succeeding Millennials and preceding Generation Alpha. Researchers and popular media use the mid-to-late 1990s as starting birth years and the early 2010s as ending birth years of Gen-Zs. This is therefore the group with which our coaches at Karen Your Career Coach (KYCC) mostly work.

A longitudinal Survey

What happens in longitudinal studies is that the participants in the survey are contacted over a period of time, many months, years or sometimes even over decades, to gather information about them.

The LSAY research project, regarding Australian Generation-Z individuals, was launched in 2015 and involved 15-year olds. Now at age 20, the feedback gives a good insight into how 20-year-olds were impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. This covers:

  • how many were studying  – 62%
  • of those studying, how many put their studies on hold  – 5%
  • who is working  – 79%
  • working AND studying  – 50%
  • how many employed Gen-Zs were recipients of JobKeeper  – over 20%
  • what percentage were neither working nor studying  – 9%

What do these results reveal about the lives of Generation-Z during the Covid-19 global pandemic?

I’m just going to focus on a couple of aspects of this report.

My first observation is regarding 5% of participants putting their studies on hold. This is a small proportion of students in the survey. This, to my mind, is in part a testimony to the resilience of many young adults. Some, in fact, have reported to me over the past two years, that they get more done when they are able to remain by themselves and study remotely.

That said, others really struggled with this and did not enjoy being alone and unable to interact with peers. I feel particularly sad for the extraverts, those who like to actively engage with and talk to others. Year 12 graduates, commencing their further education studies, in 2020 or 2021, will have imagined being able to be on campus for their courses, meeting new friends and joining clubs, etc. Repeated lockdowns put a stop to this, time and again, causing much disappointment and frustration.

I thought perhaps that the percentage of Gen-Zs putting their studies on hold, would be higher. It is fair to say that many 18 to 20-year olds are still living in the family home during their further education courses. This may well be part of the picture. The support of family cannot be underestimated.

What my young clients have been telling me

That said, many Gen-Zs may have found themselves alone for many hours in the day, certainly if both parents were front-line workers. I spoke to some who acknowledged that they were spending “too much time watching Netflix”, or playing computer games. Others stayed focused on their studies by establishing their own study routines, as well as organising a walk, or other exercise activities.

I partly attribute the fact that most Generation Z youth continued to study, to the agility of education institutions in pivoting quickly to online learning. Many schools have been providing digital resources to their senior secondary school students for a number of years already. So year-12s would have been relatively well supported, in the main. Plus, some higher education institutions were already offering online delivery of lectures. The others had to catch up fast.

Online Learning

Further education institutions offering mostly ‘applied’ courses, meaning practical training – alongside of some lectures, reading and writing assignments, had the biggest challenges. How do you teach practical skills virtually? Many students I spoke to both last year and this, who have been enrolled in hands-on practical courses, told me that the theory subjects continued. But they said they have missed out on a lot of their favourite subjects, because they enjoy most those hands-on learning activities.


My next observation regarding young adults, or Gen-Zs, is regarding the percentage who were receiving JobKeeper payments. Of the total survey sample of youth, in the life of young adults during the Covid-19 research project, 20% accessed JobKeeper. I suspect this number might have been higher if 20-year olds had more job security than they typically do. Indeed, youth groups are over-represented in the numbers of employees on short-term casual employment contracts. I draw upon Australian Government data here. As such, many young adults were in fact, ineligible for JobKeeper.

It is good to know that JobKeeper provided a life-raft to many 20-year olds, however the scheme was relatively short-lived and up to date figures of unemployment rates amongst youth groups, is now needed. What we can see from the LSAY study is an increase in the number of young adults working more than one job and a decrease in percentage of Generation-Zs who are employed in permanent positions.

Well Being and Mental Health amongst Generation Zs

The results of this survey, of the life of Gen-Zs during the Covid-19 pandemic, are interesting and timely. What we need to be paying particular attention to is the mental welfare of this group. The Australian Government Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) has revealed that; between January and 16 June 2021, there were 187 cases (of Covid-19) among young people aged 15 to 24, making up 9.7% of the total”. This is frightening for young adults. Add to this the fact that compared to 2017, psychological distress has increased in this group, in part due to a drop in “social connectedness“. There have been reports of increases in numbers of emergency department admissions of young adults, due to self-harm. This is of extreme concern.

Professional Support & Helplines

By being watchful of news and accumulated research data around the impact upon children, youth, Gen-Zs and Millennials we can be putting some safeguards in place.

At Karen Your Career Coach we offer kind, mindful, holistic, client-centred support. We are qualified professionals in the career development and career education space. Many of our clients are referred to us and some of those referrals come from general practitioners and psychologists.

We work as part of your professional “circle of support”. This might be as part of the team that your NDIS agency has brought together. We are part of this arrangement for several clients of all ages and for a range of disability issues and circumstances. the career development theories that we use in our work come from the field of psychological research. We know the limits of our expertise and refer to other agencies when appropriate and have connections with multiple support services and psychologists. For more on how we work, please refer to this recent blog-post.

Meanwhile, at Karen Your Career Coach, we engender HOPE. We Help Other People Evolve! This is our mission.

If you are looking for support for yourself or your young adult, contact us at www.karenyourcareercoach.com.au/contact/

Please Note

The information I have shared is intended to help all parents, teachers, academics, employers, community groups. The opinions I have shared are my own and are current at the time of publication.

If you are the parent of a young adult who is suffering from the multiple impacts of the lockdowns in Australia, please refer to this links below.

LifeLine  – https://www.lifeline.org.au/get-help/information-and-support/self-harm/

Headspace  – https://headspace.org.au/eheadspace/

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