Young Hospitality Workers and Value Creation in the Service Economy

Work in contemporary capitalist societies no longer merely requires that young people accumulate and deploy skills, but often demands that young people invest and perform particular identities as part of work. Young people’s labour is no longer only about the production of commodities, but is often about creating experiences for others and establishing social relationships between a product and an audience. This ‘affective labour’ has thereby become one of the major ways in which youth identities are constructed and one of the major sites at which ‘youthfulness’ is produced. This project explores young people’s involvement in affective labour, focusing in particular on the production of worker identities in the service sector. The project examines how gendered and classed identities are produced in the course of affective labour, and explores the personal experiences of this kind of work in the context of the contemporary economy. Discovery Project funded by the ARC, $197,433

Investigators: Dr David Farrugia (University of Newcastle); Dr Julia Coffey (University of Newcastle); Dr Steven Threadgold (University of Newcastle); Professor Lisa Adkins (University of Sydney); Professor Ros Gill (University of London).

From Subculture to Career? DIY Economies and Network Capital: 

This sociological study examines how participation in Do-it-Yourself youth subcultures can provide young people with skills and competencies to engage in forms of Do-it-Yourself careers. The project considers how young people faced with an uncertain and precarious labour market manufacture work opportunities that do not necessarily rely on formal qualifications and training. A small inter-connected DIY music scene in Newcastle, Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne will be studied through interviews and observation to investigate how young people involved in creative endeavours use subcultural and network capitals to foster and maintain mutually supporting activities that can lead to the formulation of sustainable subcultural careers. These activities rely upon national and sometimes international networks, which have social, symbolic, economic and digital elements. The project will thus generate significant new knowledge about the ways some young people negotiate the risks of an upwardly credentialised and casualised labour market.

Investigator: Dr Steven Threadgold (University of Newcastle)

Girls growing up in changing times and places:

This project investigates the everyday lives and imagined futures of young women who have left the mainstream school system before finishing Year 12. The project is a longitudinal study, interviewing the young women up to five times over around two years, and drawing on different creative methods in each of these steps. The overall aim of the study is to investigate how pathways towards adulthood take shape at the micro-level and it explores questions such as how processes of potential marginalisation unfold at the everyday level and over time amongst girls who have left mainstream education early; how girls and young women imagine and relate to their futures and future selves and which resources can they draw on in realising these futures; and how ‘the local’ plays into the girls’ sense of belonging and imagined futures?

The project focuses on three different locations; two on the Melbourne urban fringe and one in a regional area, 2.5h from Melbourne. All three locations are characterised by high (youth) unemployment, labour markets undergoing change as a result of economic restructuring and deindustrialisation, distance to tertiary education institutions, and a ‘problem’ reputation. A key aim of the project is to investigate how the ‘histories of place’ translate through to the individual level in terms of the participants’ imagined futures and imagined selves.

Investigator: Signe Ravn, (University of Melbourne)   

The Formation of Young Workers

This project explores how young people form identities as workers in regions of high youth unemployment. The project examines how notions of value and economic productivity are integrated into young people’s experiences of themselves, and how their experiences of training and workforce participation form part of the formation of youth identities. In general, the project shows that young people make expansive personal investments in work as a realm of personal discovery and self-actualisation. In this context, the project examines how classed and gendered distinctions between youth are reflected in the contemporary ‘work ethic’.

Dr David Farrugia (University of Newcastle)