Programme 1.1 Employment services

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Job Services Australia

Job Services Australia provides job seekers with flexible and tailored support to assist them into sustainable employment. Since Job Services Australia began on 1 July 2009, more than 1.95 million job placements have been recorded.

The department contracts, monitors and supports the 81 Job Services Australia providers—a mix of large, medium and small for-profit and not-for-profit  organisations—to deliver services in more than 1700 locations throughout the country. Providers connect job seekers to a wide range of initiatives, including training programmes that will help them find and keep a job. During 2013–14, the government spent $1.24 billion on the programme.

The department signalled its intent to move towards introducing industry standards in the 2012–13 request for tender for Job Services Australia. The department piloted the Job Services Australia quality standards to test the draft quality assurance framework. The pilot ran for 12 months from 1 January 2013 and involved an independent assessment of providers’ quality practices by third-party accredited auditors. The evaluation of the pilot will be used to finalise the details of the framework before its implementation in the new employment services contract.

Working with sectors experiencing recruitment issues: New South Wales— Lila and the Young@Heart project

Attracting young people to work at local aged care facilities in the Illawarra has been a challenge for the sector. Young@Heart is working to overcome that challenge by facilitating greater employment of youth in aged care.

The project was developed in conjunction with Illawarra Retirement Trust, the biggest aged care provider in the area. Its success is largely attributed to the mentoring provided to participants throughout their training—six Certificate III modules—work experience and initial employment.

Lila is among the 60-plus participants whose lives were transformed through the project. She secured employment at Marco Polo Nursing Home in Wollongong through Young@Heart. Marco Polo is an aged care facility catering for elderly people from non-English-speaking backgrounds and Lila’s multi-lingual skills have proven to be a real asset.

Lila regularly meets up with another employee from Young@Heart’s round one intake who is also employed at Marco Polo and acts as a mentor to Lila.

The experience has been transformative for Lila—she is now the family breadwinner and dreams of getting a place of her own.

Lila outside the Marco Polo Nursing Home

Lila outside the Marco Polo Nursing Home.

Bringing local job seekers and local business together: Queensland—MiHaven

MiHaven participants pose for a photo after graduating with a Certificate II in Construction

MiHaven participants pose for a photo after graduating with a Certificate II in Construction.

Following the devastation caused by Cyclone Yasi in 2011, MiHaven, an innovative housing construction company that specialises in remote building solutions and training, began operations in Cairns. As part of its efforts towards rebuilding housing in Far North Queensland over the past three years, MiHaven worked with Indigenous job seekers—with excellent outcomes. The mentor project in 2012 had

15 participants, eight of whom are still working with their original employers, and two of whom are in apprenticeships. Since that time, the programme model has been refined and five people from the most recent cohort are already engaged with the growing network of employers in the programme.

The MiHaven training and employment model has been developed to support long-term unemployed (with a particular focus on Indigenous job seekers) into sustainable jobs in the building and construction industry in Cairns and Far North Queensland. The training and employment programmes in Cairns have been successfully delivered in partnership with employment services provider NEATO Employment Services.

The model incorporates training, mentoring, literacy and numeracy support, life skills and job matching from both the participant and the employer perspectives. A key component of this model is that employers are involved before the beginning of the project and follow through with their pre-selected participants. The employers provide structured work experience and placement alongside accredited training, which gives a job-related context to the training as participants progress.

MiHaven now has a cluster of 35 local businesses that have signed on to support the programme. Owners and supervisors are involved during recruitment and throughout the programme. MiHaven continues the journey after the programme through follow-up visits with the individuals and their new employers, encouragement and mentoring.

MiHaven has evolved over the past three years from being a construction company to developing an employment and training programme within the company for long-term unemployed Stream 3 and 4 job seekers, with a focus on Indigenous job seekers.

The latest iteration, the MiLife Change programme, has recognised the need for multi-skilled workers not only in the construction sector but also in its supply and manufacture-related enterprises. For example, many businesses supporting the programme require forklift drivers, so by assisting job seekers to get a forklift licence the programme increases participants’ prospects of entering the industry or business of choice. Gaining skill sets that can be used immediately gives tangible value to the training process and provides job seekers with a sense of achievement at an early stage in the project.

With multiple parties investing in the model, MiHaven is an example of collaboration between state and federal departments and local communities and businesses.

Tasmanian Jobs Programme

In 2013–14 the department began implementing the two-year trial of the Tasmanian Jobs Programme. The programme provides a one-off $3250 payment to any Tasmanian business that employs eligible job seekers for at least six months.

The department was able to use existing employment services arrangements for the programme, which enabled it to be delivered six months ahead of schedule.

The Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz, launched the programme on 17 December 2013 and it began on 1 January 2014.

The department consulted with key stakeholders at short notice, particularly Job Services Australia and Disability Employment Services providers, before the programme started. At 30 June 2014, 63 job seekers had started in the Tasmanian Jobs Programme (59 under Job Services Australia and four under Disability Employment Services) and 18 paid 13-week outcomes had been claimed. The achievement of 13 weeks in employment is a positive indication that a participant is on track to achieve a full 26 weeks in employment.

Move 2 Work

In 2013–14 the department implemented the Move 2 Work programme. Move 2 Work assists participants to relocate to take up ongoing jobs or apprenticeships. Participants who relocated to start new jobs could be reimbursed up to $6500 if they had dependents or $4500 with no dependents. In 2013–14,

780 participants (681 from Job Services Australia and 99 from Disability Employment Services) relocated for ongoing employment.

Move 2 Work closed to new participants on 30 June 2014. It has been replaced by the Relocation Assistance to Take Up a Job programme.

Indigenous Mentoring Pilot

In 2013–14 the department oversaw the Indigenous Mentoring Pilot, which provides intensive mentoring support, both before and during employment, to volunteer Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander job seekers. The department monitors and provides policy advice to the 12 Job Services Australia providers in the 21 non-remote Employment Service Areas in which the pilot is delivered. Priority is given to job seekers in Streams 3 and 4. At 30 June 2014, 1099 Indigenous job seekers were participating in the pilot.

Early observations (for the period July 2012 to December 2013) indicate that job seekers assisted through the pilot achieved better employment outcomes.

Western Australia— HALO for Girls

The department worked with local stakeholders to develop HALO for Girls, a support service for young Aboriginal families.

A partnership was formed between HALO and the Cockburn Gateway Shopping Centre to provide work experience opportunities in retail and administration for young Aboriginal women in the lead-up to Christmas and the post-Christmas shopping period.

The programme assisted 10 young Aboriginal women, aged 15 to 25, to transition into employment in retail, business administration and other areas of customer service. It finished on 31 January 2014.

Some of the young women came from very challenging personal situations, and the project demonstrated the importance of supporting not only the young women but also their families. The 10 young women were motivated and determined, and all participants completed two units of the nationally accredited Certificate II in Community Services. Most of the young women have gained their learners’ permits and have completed work experience.

The stories of these young women are inspiring. One participant began a traineeship and has been attending training off site. With appropriate support from HALO, she has achieved outstanding outcomes given circumstances which had significant impacts on both her personally and her family.

Another participant enrolled in a beauty course which seeks to develop leadership skills. She has also been undertaking part-time work in the industry with the possibility of obtaining an apprenticeship. She too had many barriers to overcome but was determined to work through them.

Harvest Labour Services

The department contracts providers of Harvest Labour Services to help growers supplement local labour with out-of-area workers. Harvest Labour Services providers filled more than 22,600 harvest labour positions in 16 harvest areas throughout Australia in 2013–14.

New Enterprise Incentive Scheme

Through the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme, the department contracts job services providers to deliver accredited small business training, business advice and mentoring to eligible job seekers who are interested in starting and running a small business. Once their business has started, these job seekers are eligible for an allowance (equivalent to Newstart) to support them into sustainable self-employment. The scheme supported the establishment of 6345 businesses in 2013–14.

South Australia—Farmer Darcy’s Travelling Farm

A young job seeker realised her small business potential with help from the New Enterprise Incentive Scheme. Darcy, a 22-year-old job seeker from South Australia, entered the programme after an extended period of unemployment. After completing her Certificate III in Micro Business Operations, she started a business, Farmer Darcy’s Travelling Farm—an educational mobile farm and petting zoo—in June 2013. While she was in the programme, Darcy visited children’s parties, family days, festivals and aged care facilities. She successfully completed the programme in June 2014, and her business had a healthy turnover in its first year of operation.

Wage Connect

The department administers Wage Connect, which provides a wage subsidy to support job seekers who are very long-term unemployed in their transition to sustainable ongoing paid work. It is designed to increase employment opportunities, provide an incentive for employers to offer jobs to job seekers with minimal or no work experience, and reduce the number of very long-term unemployed job seekers on income support. Due to the strong take-up of Wage Connect, new applications for the programme were paused from 1 February 2013. Following the restart of Wage Connect on 1 July 2013, take-up of the programme continued to be very strong. Wage Connect was again paused on 6 December 2013 and remains paused to new applications.

At 30 June 2014 Wage Connect had resulted in 24,173 job placements (14,022 from Job Services Australia and 10,151 from Disability Employment Services), and 9841 paid 13-week outcomes and 6978 paid 26-week outcomes were achieved for Job Services Australia.

Priority Employment Area initiative

The Priority Employment Area initiative was introduced in 2009 as part of the government’s response to the global financial crisis. Initially the measure was to run for two years (2009–10 to 2010–11); however, it has been extended twice, first to 2012–13, and then to 2013–14.

The initiative involved engaging local employment coordinators in 21 priority employment areas to help drive local responses to local labour market needs. Each coordinator had access to a flexible funding pool that it could use to fund local projects.

Over the duration of the programme, a total of 95 jobs and skills expos were delivered across Australia to help connect over 31,000 people with employment and training opportunities, and more than 500 projects and activities were supported by the flexible funding pool.

The flexible funding pool projects and activities resulted in over 4000 employment commencements, over 3500 accredited training commencements and over 1800 work experience placements.

Seasonal Worker Programme

The department leads the whole-of-government implementation of the Seasonal Worker Programme. The department’s role includes coordinating advice from other government agencies, managing agreements with participating employers, engaging with industry, and managing relationships with officials from nine partner country governments.

The Seasonal Worker Programme started on 1 July 2012. It contributes to the economic development of participating countries through employment experience, skills and knowledge transfer and remittances. The programme is ongoing for the horticulture sector, and involves nine partner countries—Kiribati, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. A small-scale, three-year trial is also taking place in the accommodation, aquaculture, cane and cotton sectors in selected regions.

Since the start of the programme seasonal workers have been recruited from all participating countries and have worked in all states and the Northern Territory. Only employers that are unable to find enough local Australian workers to meet seasonal demand can recruit workers under the programme.

The programme provides 10,450 places for the horticulture sector over four years (to 30 June 2016) and 1550 places for the trial over three years (to 30 June 2015). Of the 2000 places available for the horticulture sector in 2013–14, 99 per cent were granted to seasonal workers. The programme currently has 50 approved participating employers, and seasonal workers have been placed with 92 businesses.

The programme’s Add-on Skills Training component gives seasonal workers access to basic training opportunities to increase their skills. Courses include English literacy and numeracy, information technology (computer skills) and first aid. Returning workers also have access to an assessment for recognition of prior learning. In 2013–14, 168 seasonal workers participated in Add-on Skills Training.

Regional Education, Skills and Jobs Plans

The Regional Education, Skills and Jobs Plans initiative was developed, implemented and evaluated by the department. As part of the three-year programme, 34 departmental employees took up positions as coordinators and were deployed across 46 non-metropolitan regions to strengthen links between community stakeholders and a wide range of Australian Government programmes. Coordinators worked with communities to develop specific regional plans focused on increasing job, training and education opportunities in each of the regions. Projects included an initiative to increase Indigenous labour market participation in the Kimberley region in Western Australia, and a programme to better prepare job seekers for agricultural jobs in the Lodden Mallee region in Victoria. The programme ceased on 30 June 2014.

Mature-age employment

The 2013–14 Budget included support for mature-age job seekers. The Experience+ initiatives were aimed at keeping mature-age Australians engaged in the workforce. The Experience+ programmes were delivered and managed by the department within a broader context of promotion and support for employers.

On 30 June 2014, the Experience+ Jobs Bonus, Experience+ Work Ready and Experience+ Career Advice programmes closed. From 1 July 2014, the department will be focused on implementing the government’s new mature-age employment wage subsidy, Restart, while continuing to provide support to employers through the Corporate Champions programme until 30 June 2016.

Experience+ Corporate Champions

The department manages the Corporate Champions programme and the contracted providers who support employers that commit to moving towards best practice in the recruitment and retention of mature-age staff. These providers delivered business mentoring services to small, medium-sized and large businesses to help them develop their mature-age better practice strategies. During 2013–14, approximately 280 employers committed to better practice in employing mature-age people through the programme. Twenty-two seminars were delivered to employers in both metropolitan and regional areas across Australia, which increased awareness among employers of the benefits of employing and retaining mature-age people in the workforce. Contracts with providers to deliver services to small and medium-sized employers ceased on 30 June 2014. Five providers will continue to deliver services to large employers until 30 June 2016.

Experience+ Jobs Bonus

The department managed the Experience+ Jobs Bonus programme, which provided payments of $1000 each financial year to up to 2500 employers that employed an eligible mature-age job seeker in an ongoing position. In 2013–14 the department paid around 150 Experience+ Jobs Bonus payments to employers.

Experience+ Work Ready

The department managed the Experience+ Work Ready programme’s contracted providers to deliver location-based projects in which eligible job seekers aged 50 years and over could develop their IT skills, undertake job-specific training and participate in paid work placements in a peer-based environment.

More than 800 mature-age job seekers participated in 19 projects in 17 locations across Australia in 2013–14. The projects achieved 351 paid work placements and 203 sustainable 13-week employment outcomes of more than eight hours a week.

Experience+ Career Advice

The department managed the Experience+ Career Advice service and the contracted provider.

The programme provided career advice sessions to mature-age job seekers and workers aged 45 years and over to identify transferable skills, explore career options and develop a plan of action to help them achieve their employment goals. More than 3500 career advice sessions, including résumé appraisals, were provided through the service in 2013–14.

Experience+ Training

The department managed the Experience+ Training programme, which provided training grants of $4950 to increase the capacity of workers aged 50 years and over to supervise or mentor Australian apprentices or trainees. The department paid 18 start-up payments and just over 200 completion payments to employers in 2013–14.

State network

The department’s state network is responsible for managing service delivery, with a primary focus on contract management, stakeholder engagement and local labour market intelligence gathering. Network employees maintain strong connections with employment service providers and other stakeholders, including community organisations, state and local governments, non-government entities, industry and training bodies. During the year, the state offices worked with other Australian Government agencies to ensure a streamlined approach to service delivery in areas of mutual interest, such as Indigenous employment.

In New South Wales, National Youth Week formed the backdrop to a cross-agency focus on youth employment and training. Employees from the departments of Employment, Education, Social Services, and the Prime Minister and Cabinet and the Daystar Foundation met to discuss what was needed to successfully support young people in southwest Sydney into employment, education or training. The Daystar Foundation ran a successful iCareer project, supported by the department, to assist disadvantaged young people in the Fairfield area into work, training or further education.

The Queensland state office worked closely with Logan City Council on a new approach to coordinating employment service providers and employers to better match local job seekers to sustainable work. The council is acting as a broker between employers and providers as part of a broader strategy to attract new industries and business to the region.

Programme performance

In 2013–14, the department met or exceeded eight of the 19 targets for the deliverables and key performance indicators for programme 1.1. A weak labour market has limited the number of job opportunities for job seekers assisted through Job Services Australia. In 2013–14, 337,632 job placements were recorded, 25 per cent below the annual target. The decline in the labour market started to become evident in 2011–12—only 421,859 job placements were recorded that year, and in 2012–13 just 356,439 placements were recorded.

Fully eligible job seekers are assisted in one of four streams, based on their level of disadvantage in the labour market. The most job-ready job seekers are assisted in Stream 1, while job seekers with severe barriers to employment are assisted in Stream 4. The programme’s effectiveness is measured by monitoring the proportion of job seekers in employment, education and training and movements off benefit (Newstart Allowance or Youth Allowance (other)) following assistance from Job Services Australia. The cost efficiency of moving job seekers into work is also measured. Some results have also been impacted by programme changes. Stream 2 employment and off-benefit targets were increased in previous years to reflect the impact of the Compact with Retrenched Workers initiative. After this initiative ceased, Stream 2 outcomes returned to previous levels and therefore did not meet the targets. Stream 2 performance indicator targets have been adjusted for 2014–15.

The result for the proportion of job seekers in education or training three months following participation in employment services was above the estimate.

Table 1 Programme 1.1 deliverable

Job Services Australia deliverables
Job Services Australia deliverables 2013–14 estimate 2013–14 actual
Total job placements achieved 450,000 337,632

Programme 1.1 key performance indicators

Table 2 Cost per employment outcome for employment services delivered by Job Services Australia

Cost per employment outcome for employment services delivered by Job Services Australia
Key performance indicator 2013–14 estimate 2013–14 actual
Streams 1–3 $3,000 $1,890
Stream 4 $12,000 $6,971

Note: The cost per employment outcome for Job Services Australia is calculated as the cost of job seekers assisted divided by the number of job seekers employed (as measured through the department’s Post-Programme Monitoring Survey) in the reporting period.

Table 3 Proportion of job seekers in employment three months following participation in employment services

Proportion of job seekers in employment three months following participation in employment services
Key performance indicaton 2013–14 estimate 2013–14 actual
Stream 1 55% 55.1%
Stream 2 50% 41.2%
Stream 3 30% 33.4%
Stream 4 25% 23.6%

Table 4 Proportion of job seekers in education or training three months following participation in employment services

Proportion of job seekers in education or training three months following participation in employment services
Key performance indicator 2013–14 estimate 2013–14 actual
Stream 1 15% 22.5%
Stream 2 15% 24.8%
Stream 3 15% 22.6%
Stream 4 15% 20.2%

Table 5 Proportion of job seekers off benefit three months following participation in employment services

Proportion of job seekers off benefit three months following participation in employment services
Key performance indicator 2013–14 estimate 2013–14 actual
Stream 1 55% 50.1%
Stream 2 50% 34.9%
Stream 3 35% 21.9%
Stream 4 30% 24.7%

Table 6 Proportion of job seekers off benefit 12 months following participation in employment services

Proportion of job seekers off benefit 12 months following participation in employment services
Key performance indicator 2013–14 estimate 2013–14 actual
Stream 1 65% 63.5%
Stream 2 60% 48.5%
Stream 3 40% 32.9%
Stream 4 35% 34.0%

The deliverable and key performance indicators presented in Tables 1–6 are based on departmental administrative and programme monitoring data. The department also measures the effectiveness of employment services through the following broad indicators:

  • unemployment rates for disadvantaged groups
  • the labour force participation rate and the employment-to-population ratio for people of workforce age (15–64 years)
  • the average duration of unemployment per labour force member.

These broad indicators are based on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data and so provide externally available indicators of performance. In addition to the effectiveness of employment services, the outcomes for these broad indicators also depend on economic and labour market conditions, so those two factors are described first, before the broad indicators are discussed.

Economic conditions

Both the global and Australian economies expanded at a moderate pace over the past year. In seasonally adjusted terms, real gross domestic product grew by 3.1 per cent over the year to the June quarter 2014 (latest available data), which is higher than in Japan and the United States, but lower than in China, India and the United Kingdom.

The Australian economy is in the midst of a major economic transformation—away from growth led mainly by resources investment to the broader-based drivers of activity in the non-resources sectors. Over the past year, the volume of mining and agricultural exports surged, while commodity prices and the terms of trade (the ratio of the export price to the import price) fell. Resources investment was in decline, and there were emerging signs of a revival in investment in the non-resources sectors. Profits grew by 3.6 per cent over the year to the June quarter 2014, and total compensation to employees (wages, salaries and supplements) rose by around 3 per cent over the same period. Overall, labour market conditions remained soft, with the unemployment rate elevated and real wages falling.

Labour market conditions

Against the backdrop of below-trend global growth, labour market conditions in Australia were weak in the first half of 2013–14. Between June 2013 and December 2013, employment fell by 10,400 (an annualised rate of decline of 0.2 per cent). Since then, however, the Australian labour market has strengthened slightly, with employment increasing by 110,700 in the second half of the financial year (an annualised rate of 1.9 per cent).

Overall, employment increased by a fairly modest 100,300 (or 0.9 per cent) in 2013–14, although it rose to a record high of 11,578,200 in June 2014. The pace of employment growth remains well below the long-term trend rate of 2 per cent recorded over the last decade.

The increase in employment in 2013–14 was due, principally, to a rise in part-time employment. The number of part-time workers increased by 57,300 (or 1.7 per cent) to 3,515,700, while full-time employment increased by just 43,000 (or 0.5 per cent) to 8,062,500.

Employment growth has been mixed across industries over the past year—employment increased in 12 industries and declined in seven. Employment continued to grow strongly (up by 43,200) in health care and social assistance, Australia’s largest employing industry. Solid increases were also recorded in other services1 (46,800), rental, hiring and real estate services (25,700) and education and training (22,300). While employment rose in agriculture, forestry and fishing (up by 33,400) and manufacturing (19,100), the outlook for both industries remains subdued, in line with the long-term decline in their employment shares. Employment growth in mining also continued to slow (up by 4000), as the industry transitions from the construction phase to a less labour-intensive production and export phase. Substantial falls in employment were recorded in wholesale trade (down by 51,100) and accommodation and food services (33,300).

The level of unemployment increased by 49,800 (or 7.2 per cent) in 2013–14. The unemployment rate rose by 0.3 of a percentage point to 6.0 per cent in June 2014. Despite this increase, Australia’s unemployment rate remains one of the lowest among the major advanced economies. That said, the unemployment rate in Australia would be somewhat higher if the labour force participation rate were not in decline. The labour force participation rate fell by 0.4 of a percentage point in 2013–14, to stand at 64.7 per cent, well below the peak of 65.8 per cent in November 2010. The lower rate reflects the relatively soft labour market conditions that are continuing to prevail and the ongoing ageing of the population.

The level of long-term unemployment (people unemployed for 52 weeks or more) increased substantially in 2013–14, up by 39,400 (or 29.7 per cent). Youth labour market conditions also remained weak. The seasonally adjusted youth unemployment rate rose from 11.9 per cent in June 2013 to 13.5 per cent in June 2014, the highest rate recorded since January 2002.

Labour market conditions, while firming in the early months of 2014, are expected to remained reasonably soft. The latest Treasury budget forecasts are for employment to increase by 1.5 per cent in 2014–15 and 2015–16, and for the unemployment rate to rise to 6.25 per cent by mid-2015 and remain at that level in the June quarter 2016.

1 Other services includes a broad range of personal services; religious, civic, professional and other interest group services; selected repair and maintenance services; and services provided by staff in private households. Services provided include hair, beauty, diet and weight management, death care, religious events promotion and administration, and repair and maintenance of equipment and machinery.

Unemployment rates vary across the labour market

Unemployment rates vary across segments of the labour force (see Table 7). The youth unemployment rate, for example, remains well above the national figure of 6.0 per cent. The unemployment rate for Indigenous Australians rose by around 5 percentage points between  2007–08 and 2012–13.

Table 7 Unemployment rates for disadvantaged groups, 2007–08 to 2013–14

Unemployment rates for disadvantaged groups, 2007–08 to 2013–14
Population group 2007–08 2008–09 2009–10 2010–11 2011–12 2012–13 2013–14
People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds (15 years and older) 5.2 6.6 7.1 5.7 5.7 6.3 6.7
Lone parents (with children aged under 15 years) 8.5 8.5 8.4 8.5 9.0 9.2 9.1
People with disability (15–64 years, 2009 and 2012)1 na 7.8 na na 9.4 na na
Youth (15–24 years) 9.1 10.2 11.5 11.5 11.5 11.9 12.7
Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians (15–64 years, 2008 and 2012-13)1 16.6 na na na na 21.6 na

na = not available.

Note: Data are in original terms unless otherwise stated. Due to the infrequent occurrence of surveys, figures for people with a disability and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians are not available for all years. Figures for people from culturally and linguistic  diverse backgrounds  (15 years and older), lone parents (with children  aged under 15 years) and youth  (15–24 years) are annual averages.

Sources: ABS 2014, Labour force, Australia, detailed—electronic delivery, April 2014, cat. no. 6291.0.55.001, rows 1 and 2; ABS 2014, Disability, ageing and carers, Australia: summary of findings, 2012, cat. no. 4430.0, row 3; ABS 2014, Labour force, Australia, April 2014, cat. no. 6202.0, row 4; ABS 2013, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health  Survey, 2012–13, customised report; COAG Reform Council 2014, Indigenous  reform 2012–13: five years of performance, p. 68.

Labour force participation rate and employment-to-population ratio

The labour force participation rate refers to the proportion of the workforce-age population (people aged 15–64 years) that is either employed or looking for work. It is used to determine whether an increasing proportion of the population is working or looking for work and is a good indicator of the total supply of labour. However, it does not include those who are marginally attached to the labour force, such as discouraged job seekers.

The employment-to-population ratio refers to the proportion of the workforce-age population that is employed. The ratio is influenced by both labour demand and effective labour supply factors. It is also a good summary indicator for measuring labour market performance relative to comparative countries, particularly those in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

The trend employment-to-population ratio for workforce-age people decreased by 0.4 percentage point in 2013–14 to 71.7 per cent at 30 June 2014 (Chart 1). The decrease is a consequence of Australia’s subdued rate of employment growth for people of workforce age (0.9 per cent over the year to June 2014 in trend terms) combined with a higher growth rate for the workforce-age population (1.4 per cent over the year to June 2014 in trend terms).

Australia’s trend labour force participation rate decreased by 0.2 percentage point in 2013–14 to 76.3 per cent at 30 June 2014 (Chart 1). This partly reflects a discouraged worker effect: reductions in employment opportunities, relative to the size of the workforce-age population, led some people to leave the labour force (for example, by retiring early) or to decide not to join it (for example, by remaining in school or university for longer).

Chart 1  Labour force participation rate and employment-to-population ratio, people aged 15–64 years, trend data, June 1978 to June 2014

Labour force participation rate and employment-to-population ratio, people aged 15–64 years, trend data, June 1978 to June 2014

Source: ABS 2014, Labour force, Australia, June 2014, cat. no. 6202.0, Table 18.

Average duration of unemployment

Changes in the average duration of unemployment per labour force member indicate the ability of unemployed people to find work. The department  reports the average duration per labour force member instead of the more usually quoted average duration per unemployed  person because the latter measure tends to:

  • decline when there is a labour market downturn (at these times the number of unemployed people rises but the newly unemployed have a low duration of unemployment)
  • rise when the labour market recovers (longer term unemployment tends to be persistent).

Chart 2 provides a time series for the average duration of unemployment per labour force member in trend terms for the last 23 years. In the 12 months to June 2014, this measure increased from 2.2 weeks to 2.7 weeks.

Chart 2  Average duration of unemployment per labour force member, June 1991 to June 2014

Average duration of unemployment per labour force member, June 1991 to June 2014

Source: Based on data from SuperTABLE Data Cube UM1 and Spreadsheet Table 01 in ABS 2014, Labour force, Australia, detailed—electronic delivery, June 2014, cat. no. 6291.0.55.001. These statistics were seasonally adjusted and trended by the department.

Industry and cross-agency engagement

Responding to community and industry needs

During 2013–14, the department responded to industry needs with respect to both growth and contraction in labour markets.

In response to the restructuring occurring within the automotive industry, the department’s Victorian and South Australian state offices conducted redundancy sessions and facilitated career expos specifically targeting people who will need to manage a workforce transition.

The Northern Territory state office worked closely with a range of stakeholders to support the community on the Gove Peninsula through the impending closure of Rio Tinto’s alumina refinery. While Rio Tinto will continue to mine and export bauxite from the site, with the closure of the refinery the workforce is transitioning from 1400 to 350 jobs.

The Western Australian office helped manage the demand for labour in facilities servicing employees in the resources industry. For example, the Gorgon Entry and Skill Training Course—Hospitality Project provided preparation workshops and mentoring support to 15 Aboriginal people being trained for hospitality jobs at sites where the Compass Group operates.

Focusing on collaboration

The department continued to focus on critical interactions, partnerships and client groups across Australia. All state offices made further improvements in the partnership with the Department of Human Services (DHS). For example, following stakeholder feedback and consultations, the Victorian state office worked with DHS to refocus meetings to provide more control over strategic and planning aspects of the relationship and tighten the handling of operational and service delivery issues.

Workforce participation policy initiatives

To support jobs growth and labour force participation, the department analyses developments in the Australian economy and provides advice to ministers and other stakeholders on a broad range of issues.

The department also continues to support the work of policymakers and stakeholders by producing regular publications, including the Monthly leading indicator of employment and the Weekly economic fact sheet.

The department actively engages with other government agencies to ensure programmes in the employment portfolio contribute to the government’s priorities for Indigenous affairs—getting kids to school, getting adults into work and building community safety. For example, the department participates in the Secretaries’ Committee on Indigenous Reform and works closely with the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet, which has primary responsibility for Indigenous policies and programmes.

The department continued to focus on improving the employment participation rates for people with disability and mental health conditions, as set out in whole-of-government strategies such as the National Disability Strategy (2010–2020), the Fourth National Mental Health Plan 2009–2014 and the Roadmap for National Mental Health Reform 2012–2022. The department also provided input to the development of the Council of Australian Governments’ response to the National Mental Health Commission’s first national report card on mental health and suicide prevention.

The department continued its partnership with the Department of Social Services on the OECD Mental Health and Work Project. The Australia country report is expected to be released in late 2014 and the cross-nation synthesis report is scheduled for release in 2015.

The department provided advice to the government on portfolio interests in migration programmes and free trade agreements (including temporary entry commitments, labour market, workplace rights and government procurement) and other bilateral and multilateral international agreements and forums.

In May 2014, the department made a submission to the independent review of the Temporary Work (Skilled) (subclass 457) visa programme that addressed labour market and workplace relations issues.

Research and evaluation

Targeted research, analysis and evaluation activities underpin the department’s policy development and programme management work and help to drive continuous improvement in employment policy. These activities combine in-house expertise in administrative data systems with research and surveys conducted by external consultants.

Data from the department’s research and evaluation database and employment services system was used extensively to inform policies to achieve the objectives of the department. Most notably in 2013–14, monitoring and evaluation of Job Services Australia helped to inform the development of the next employment services model and new tables were developed  to support research into the labour force potential of Disability Support Pension recipients.

Major evaluations of the Helping Young Parents and Supporting Jobless Families trials and the Family Centred Employment Project also progressed during the year. The findings will enhance our understanding of what works when encouraging disadvantaged groups to prepare for work.

The department’s ongoing survey programme continued in 2013–14. New internet-based solutions to improve the Post-Programme Monitoring Survey of job seekers assisted through employment services were implemented in late 2013. In addition  to the traditional paper-based and telephone surveys, job seekers are now also contacted by email and text message for this important  survey used in annual key performance indicators, quarterly published reports and programme evaluation. The annual surveys of employment service providers conducted in March 2014 surveyed over 900 sites that delivered the Job Services Australia programme providing the department with information on providers’ experiences of interacting with the department and their approaches to servicing job seekers and employers.

Highlights for 2013–14 included:

  • analysis of employment and workforce data for the automotive manufacturing sector to support the government’s response to the announced withdrawal from Australian manufacturing of Ford, Holden and Toyota
  • analysis of regional demand for labour to inform the design of the new employment regions for the 2015 employment services arrangements.

Planning and design work began for evaluations of the Tasmanian Jobs Programme, Relocation Assistance, Restart wage subsidy, and Job Commitment Bonus, highlighting a full research and evaluation agenda to support the government’s election commitments.

Surveys of employers’ recruitment experiences

In 2013–14 the department surveyed around 13,200 employers from 34 regions across Australia about their recent recruitment experiences.

The survey collects information on employer demand for labour and skills by looking at employers’ recent recruitment experiences and future recruitment intentions.

The survey programme has focused on the priority employment areas that were identified as likely to be adversely affected by the global financial crisis, as well a number of other regions where recruitment activity is strong, particularly those with prominent resources sectors.

The survey findings, together with other labour market information, are used to develop strategies to better match job seekers with job opportunities. The 2013–14 survey results showed that, regardless of the strength of the labour market in regional areas, there are still opportunities for job seekers across all skill levels. The survey also provided insights into what employers are looking for in job applicants and how job seekers can better connect with employment opportunities.

The department uses the results of the surveys in reports and presentations for a wide range of events including:

  • whole-of-government forums attended by stakeholders such as Job Services Australia providers, training organisations, federal and state departments and local councils, to develop local solutions to regional employment challenges
  • youth transitions, pathways from school to work and careers events aimed at teachers and career advisers
  • business breakfasts for employers.

In 2013–14, the department delivered 59 presentations across the country to more than 2500 stakeholders. The presentations provide participants with targeted information on their local labour market. Feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and copies of the presentations and related information are distributed widely across the regions.

The reports and presentations are published on the Department of Employment's website and on the Labour Market Information Portal.

Engagement with international organisations

The department’s strategic investment in international engagement spans various areas of the organisation. The three main goals of the department’s international engagement are building the evidence base for domestic policy development and programme delivery; extending Australia’s influence internationally

in relation to workplace relations and employment, including sharing policy and programme experience with other countries and international organisations; and meeting Australia’s international obligations.

On 1 December 2013, Australia took over the G20 presidency from Russia. The department represented Australia at the concluding task force meeting of Russia’s G20 presidency. In 2014, the department hosted a series of task force meetings to discuss employment strategies ahead of the G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting in September 2014.

In 2013–14, the department hosted a number of visiting international delegations from both government and non-government organisations, particularly those with an interest in Australia’s best practice public employment system and policies. The delegations included an OECD team conducting a review of social policies for youth in Australia.

Customer service statistics

Since 1 July 2013, the department’s Employment Services Information Line and Customer Service Line collectively handled more than 158,000 calls from the public about employment support services. These calls related to all government-funded employment services, including Job Services Australia, Disability Employment Services and the Remote Jobs and Communities Programme.

The Customer Service Line managed 30,744 Job Services Australia feedback items, including 8563 complaints, 4658 requests for information and 14,501 transfers of job seekers between employment services providers (Table 8).

Table 8 Breakdown of feedback by type, 2013–14

Breakdown of feedback by type, 2013–14
Feedback type Percentage of total Number
Complaints 27.85 8563
Requests for information 15.15 4658
Transfers of job seekers 47.17 14,501
Other (e.g. compliments and suggestions) 9.83 3022
Total 100 30,744