Younger Australians helped propel the Labor Party and Anthony Albanese into power at the last election, but new research shows Generation Z and Millennials have lost faith in the government.
A survey conducted by youth advocacy group Think Forward found younger generations see the tax system as being “rigged” against them and want urgent change.
Released on Thursday, the Bridging the Generational Gap report shows 87 per cent of survey respondents don’t believe the Federal Government is doing enough to help young people achieve their goals.
A further 69 per cent believe older generations don’t contribute a fair share and 75 per cent want stage three tax cuts to be scrapped.
Some 73 per cent of respondents believe removing negative gearing provisions and capital gains concessions for property investors would make the tax system fairer.
Melbourne student Kira Todd has seen governments make countless decisions that leave young people behind and “reinforce a system that prioritises wealthier and mostly older Australians”.
“Those people get the lion’s share of policy focus at the expense of young people, students and low-income workers,” Ms Todd, 24, said.
“The stage three tax cuts are a perfect example of that. The $25 billion a year spent delivering those tax cuts, which will flow mostly to people earning $180,000 a year, will have to be paid for somehow.
“It will inevitably mean spending on services will be cut, and it’s probably services that people who are less wealthy rely on.”
Ms Todd, who is completing her Masters full-time and works casually in the public service, said the “status quo” of politicians ignoring the needs of younger Australians should end.
“A demographic shift is happening, and it’s happening fast,” she said.
“We see it reflected year after year in election results. The approach of governments has been to ignore young people and treat their interests as less important than older and wealthier people.
“To continue with that will be to the government’s detriment. I think we’re already seeing that shift.”
Thomas Walker, an economist and chief executive of Think Forward, said many young people are being squeezed right as they’re trying to establish their lives.
Generational inequality has made milestones enjoyed by older Aussies in years gone by, like getting an education, having a family, starting a business or buying a home, extremely difficult.
“Our tax system makes these goals harder,” Mr Walker said.
“The unprecedented affluence of millions of older Australians contrasts with younger generations struggling to afford the basics, let alone get ahead.
“But younger generations aren’t looking for tax cuts or handouts, just an even playing field so they can get started in life.”
Big issue that could sink Albo
Mr Walker said the report provides a mandate for Treasurer Jim Chalmers to abandon or dramatically rework the stage three tax cuts, which come into effect on 1 July next year.
Even though about half of Aussies aged 20 to 29 and some 69 per cent of those aged 30 to 39 would financially benefit, he said the survey showed that “the social equity values of younger generations override any desire for individual financial benefit”.
That result mirrors the findings of Australia Institute research, which last year found the majority of young Aussies want the cuts repealed.
Conversely, the research found 63 per cent of people aged 60 and older support the tax cuts.
One respondent to the Think Forward survey – identified as a full-time worker aged between 30 and 34 who resides in Victoria – said they don’t want the extra money in their pocket.
“I can think of so many ways this money is better spent,” they said.
Another respondent, identified as a full-time worker in NSW aged between 25 and 29, said stage three tax cuts would only worsen inequality.
“These funds would go back (hopefully) into the budget to fund Medicare, dental, more mental health services, social and affordable housing, [and] assist bringing people out of poverty rather than contributing to widening the gap.”
Ms Todd said the expenditure required for the tax cuts could be better directed to a range of areas, but she conceded scrapping the measure would require “political bravery”.
“There seems to be a bit more willingness to listen to young people since the change of government, but I think there’s still a lot of vested interest that’s being catered to,” she said.
“Tax reform isn’t something governments want to touch because there tends to be scare campaigns launched in response. But given the situation we’re in, I think the right thing to do is reconsider.
“The government should take leadership, look at all of the evidence they’re being presented with, including a long list of economists who say it’s not a good idea, and they should listen.”
Mr Walker urged the government to take note of growing discontent among younger Australians, given Millennials and Gen Z will make up 40 per cent of voters at the next election.
He called on the government to invest in young people and “not the already wealthy”.
Last year, research by the Australian National University found more than a third of young voters who supported the Coalition at the 2019 Federal Election voted for another party in 2022.
Young voters were more likely to vote for Labor, and substantially more like to vote for the Greens, the research found.
Those aged under 55 and highly educated voters largely propelled the government to victory, the analysis concluded.
The growing generational divide
Data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the net worth of older Australians has skyrocketed over the past decade.
Baby Boomers are now the wealthiest generation in Australia’s history.
At the same time, the net financial positions of Millennials and Gen Z has gone backwards and they are poorer than younger people were at the same age just a decade ago.
According to the Grattan Institute, Millennials are now on track to be the first generation since Federation to have worse economic outcomes than the generation before them.
The Think Forward survey revealed more than 100 policy areas the government could focus on to better support younger generations.
They include free or cheaper tertiary education, higher taxes on wealth, a greater investment in public housing, the introduction of rent caps or freezes, and more support for first-home buyers.