Disrupting neoliberal narratives : millennial experiences of work in New Zealand : a thesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts in Sociology at Massey University, Albany, New Zealand

Thumbnail Image
Open Access Location
Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Massey University
The Author
Young New Zealanders today face a rapidly changing world of work. The continuity of capitalism and its reinvention through political-economic neoliberal reform, the introduction of the gig economy and the Fourth Industrial Revolution shape contemporary work. Situated within those shifts has been an upsurge in non-standard employment, rapid developments in technology, a globalised approach to work and an increasing onus on individuals to take sole responsibility for crafting their career and working future. For young people entering the workforce, this means they are now faced with pressures to adapt to increasingly changing contexts. This research inserts itself amongst arguments that ask how changes to the world of work have impacted young people’s experiences of employment. Growing bodies of scholarship suggest millennials (born in the 1980s and 1990s) are more likely to experience uncertain employment outcomes and that New Zealand millennials have ‘grown up neoliberal’. This research builds on a relatively underexplored area: millennial experiences of work in the New Zealand labour market. It contributes to discussions on how millennials locate themselves within – and navigate – uncertain neoliberal times. Using a multi-method approach, this research interviewed twelve Auckland-based working millennials, six of whom also attended a focus group. Despite engaging with different occupations and contract types, participants in this study had clear desires for self-development, growth and career progression. However, this was clouded by a general anxiety about stagnating or being ‘static’ in their careers. This research confirms that young people’s experiences and decisions are shaped, to an extent, by neoliberal norms and ideals. However, whilst neoliberalism depicts individuals as free and equal to access opportunities and shape their own success, my research showed a complexity within the individual experience of work. Participants often recognised the external structures that influenced their environments. Rather than internalising and individualising their experiences of work, participants used markers of identity (age, ethnicity, gender) to understand their employment experiences, indicating a tendency to both conform to and resist aspects of neoliberal governmentality.