Side-Hustles: Young People and Employment- Adjacent Entrepreneurship

This project aims to understand new working biographies created by young people that combine employment with entrepreneurial activities, and how youth entrepreneurship can support young people’s engagement with the labour market.

The project explores how young people with ‘side-hustles’ combine entrepreneurship and work, the relationship between enterprise skills and the labour market, and the outcomes of side-hustles for young people’s working biographies.

This project employs a longitudinal, mixed-methods design which follows young people pursuing employment-adjacent entrepreneurial activities for three years. This longitudinal component will provide evidence on the relationship between pathways into entrepreneurialism, entrepreneurial practices, and outcomes for young people.

The research is organised into two components:

Component one is quantitative and surveys a cohort of Australian young people aged 18-35 years (n=1000) with side-hustles every year for three years. This component captures the structuring of side-hustle biographies in relation to social inequalities and labour market situations.

Component two is qualitative, based on biographical interviews with young people aged 18-35, focusing on the practices, motivations, and identities formed through side-hustles. Participants will be interviewed in three waves starting with 90 in year 1 and a subset of 60 participants in years 2 and 3.  Interviews will explore the personal investments made in work and in side-hustle activities, allowing for the different investments made in ‘side’ activities and a ‘main’ occupation to be posed as a question that is answered in terms of participants’ aspirations and employment situations as they evolve over time.

The evidence base will support efforts to address youth unemployment, underemployment, and regional disadvantage via entrepreneurship. It will benefit policymakers, entrepreneurship educators and employers aiming to engage and enhance the working lives of young people.

Outcomes include policy papers and reports, a policy forum, academic outputs, and a project website, offering benefit to policymakers, educators and employers.

Project aims

The project seeks to address the following research questions:

  1. Who are the young people who engage in side-hustles (gender, ethnicity, social class, labour-market experience and employment situation), and what do their side-hustles consist of (e.g. industry, type of work)?
  2. What are the motivations (e.g. income, inability to secure ‘standard’ employment) and aspirations (e.g. career progression, eventual full-time entrepreneurship) of side-hustlers and how do they attempt to actualise these in their engagement with entrepreneurship and employment? How do these vary in relation to labour market inequalities?
  3. What skills and dispositions do young people accumulate in their side-hustles and in their jobs, and how do these relate to one another?
  4. How practically do young people combine entrepreneurship with paid employment and other responsibilities? What resources are required to do this, and how do these vary in relation to labour market inequalities?
  5. What are the consequences of side-hustling for young people’s working biographies, including their employment conditions or the outcomes of their entrepreneurial practices? How do these vary in relation to labour market inequalities?

The evidence created by this project will support efforts to facilitate youth entrepreneurship and address youth unemployment.

By creating a longitudinal dataset about the motivations for side-hustles and the resources mobilised in their actualisation, this project will create evidence that can support young people’s business activities and help them make the most of the energy and creativity they bring to their work.

This evidence will be made available to young people considering or engaged in side-hustles through public-facing reports and a website containing accessible summaries of project findings and recommendations. The project will also suggest ways that workplaces can incorporate and support young people with side-hustles.

Project website