Research and evaluation

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Targeted research, analysis and evaluation activities underpin the department’s policy development and programme management work. These activities combine in-house expertise in administrative data systems and research and evaluation with the expertise and independence of external consultants.

In 2014–15, data from the department’s research and evaluation database and employment services system were used extensively in the development of jobactive, the next employment services model. The department’s ongoing survey programme continued in 2014–15.

Survey of Employment Services Providers

The department conducted the annual Survey of Employment Services Providers in February and March 2015 and invited the managers of all sites in the Job Services Australia programme to participate in an online survey. A random sample of providers was also invited to participate in qualitative interviews. This information gives the department an insight into providers’ attitudes, perceptions and experiences of interacting with the department, working with employers, servicing job seekers, the governance model, and the administration of government-funded incentives.

Survey of Employers

The department also ran the Survey of Employers in 2014–15. This survey is conducted every two years and seeks to better understand employers’:

  • recruitment experiences and servicing requirements
  • drivers of satisfaction and dissatisfaction with using government-funded employment services providers and programmes
  • barriers to using government-funded employment services
  • attitudes towards specific job seeker target groups.

Employers from across Australia are invited by the department to participate in the study, which has both qualitative and quantitative components.

Post-Programme Monitoring Survey

The Post-Programme Monitoring Survey of job seekers assisted through employment services is a longstanding survey conducted by the department. Improvements to the survey will be implemented to support the monitoring of jobactive. In early 2015, a specialist statistical consultant provided advice on various aspects of the survey to maximise its robustness and cost-effectiveness. An external consultant also undertook cognitive testing of the survey with job seekers to ensure that the questions asked are relevant and meaningful to participants and effective in obtaining a response.

Planning and design work also began for the evaluation of jobactive.

Survey of Employers’ Recruitment Experiences

In 2014–15 the department surveyed more than 11,000 employers from 37 regions across Australia to identify how job seekers can better meet the needs of employers and connect with local opportunities. The Survey of Employers’ Recruitment Experiences collects information on employer demand for labour and skills, particularly looking at employers’ recent recruitment experiences and future recruitment intentions.

The survey regions included capital cities, the 18 Work for the Dole trial sites, northern Australia and other employment service areas where there has been strong interest in recruitment activity.

The survey findings, together with other labour market information, inform the development of strategies to better match job seekers with job opportunities. In 2014–15, as in 2013–14, the survey results show that, regardless of the strength of the local labour market, there are still opportunities for job seekers across all skill levels. The survey also provides insights into recruitment and identifies what employers are looking for in job applicants and how job seekers, including young, Indigenous and mature-age people, can better connect with employment opportunities.

The department used the results of the surveys in reports and presentations at a wide range of events during the year, including:

  • whole-of-government events attended by stakeholders such as employment services providers, training organisations, federal and state departments and local councils to develop local solutions to regional employment challenges
  • careers seminars aimed at teachers, career advisers and students, which identify pathways from school to work
  • information sessions for employees of companies with large announced redundancies, including Electrolux and Holden
  • events for employers and industry such as business breakfasts.

In 2014–15, the department delivered 66 presentations across the country. These presentations were attended by more than 4600 stakeholders who received targeted information on their local labour market and potential opportunities. Feedback from presentations was overwhelmingly positive and copies of the presentations and related information were widely distributed.

The Survey of Employers’ Recruitment Experiences reports and presentations are published on the department’s website and on the Labour Market Information Portal.

Survey of Employers Who Have Recently Advertised

To gain an understanding of employers’ ability to recruit the workers they need, and to identify current and emerging skill shortages, during 2014–15 the department spoke with more than 5000 employers and assessed a range of labour market indicators. The Survey of Employers Who Have Recently Advertised assesses the labour market for around 100 skilled occupations, focusing mainly on professions and trades but also including a small number of management, technician and other occupations. The findings informed the department’s submission to the annual review of the Skilled Occupation List, which is used to guide Australia’s independent skilled migration programme.

The results of this ongoing research are published on the department’s website as analytical and statistical reports and listings of occupational shortages.

Australian Jobs 2015

Australian Jobs is the department’s annual report on trends in the Australian labour market. The 2015 edition was released in April 2015.

The report helps job seekers to understand where the jobs are and what employers look for when recruiting. It provides information to support people at all stages of their working lives, whether they are looking for their first job, returning to the workforce or transitioning between sectors.

Recognising the challenges that young and mature-age people seeking employment can face, the 2015 report includes an analysis of the labour market for these groups, identifying key employing industries and providing useful tips on looking for a job. It also highlights the importance of non-technical skills, like communication and teamwork, in gaining and keeping a job.

Around 90,000 copies have been distributed, providing a vital resource for secondary schools, Centrelink offices, tertiary education institutions and employment intermediaries, including newly announced jobactive organisations.

Australian Jobs is a highly regarded publication and feedback on the 2015 edition has been overwhelmingly positive.

Monthly Leading Indicator of Employment

The Leading Indicator of Employment, produced monthly by the department, provides advance warnings of whether employment is likely to grow faster or slower than its long-term trend rate of growth. The report anticipates movements through the use of a composite index of series that have been shown to lead employment over the last two decades. For example, when the leading indicator is rising following a trough, employment may grow above its long-term trend rate of growth.

The indicator is designed to give advance warning of ‘turning points’ in employment trends. The average lead time of the indicator—or the time between a peak or trough in the indicator and the corresponding peak or trough in cyclical employment—is slightly over a year. A turning point in the indicator is said to be confirmed when there are six consecutive monthly movements in the same direction after the turning point. A rise or fall in the indicator does not necessarily mean that the level of employment will immediately rise or fall—rather, it implies that after a lag, the growth rate of employment may rise above or fall below its centred six-year trend rate of about 1.3 per cent a year.

In response to the effects of the global recession and structural economic changes on the Australian labour market, the department reviewed the components of the indicator, releasing the final results in November 2014. The department launched an improved version in January 2015, which should enable improvement in the predictive performance of the indicator while allowing a reasonable degree of continuity with the former version.

Engagement with international organisations

The department makes a strategic investment in its international engagement. The three main goals are building the evidence base for domestic policy development and programme delivery, promoting an Australian Government view internationally and meeting our international obligations.

Australia holds membership in the OECD and the department is represented by a Minister-Counsellor (Employment). During 2014–15, the department participated in major OECD projects on social policies for youth, displaced workers, and mental health and work. The department’s contribution to the last project was in partnership with the Department of Social Services, with an international synthesis report published in March 2015. An Australia-specific report is expected in late 2015.

In 2014–15, the department was active in the Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, participating in a variety of projects to build employment and living standards. The 6th APEC Human Resources Development Ministerial Meeting, held in Vietnam in September 2014, focused on promoting quality employment and strengthening people-to-people connectivity in the region through human resource development. At the meeting, APEC members agreed on a new action plan for 2015‑2018. The department also continued to chair the APEC Labour and Social Protection Network and participated in a high-level policy dialogue on human capacity development hosted by Papua New Guinea.

The department hosted visiting international delegations from both government and non-government organisations with an interest in Australia’s best-practice public employment system and policies. Delegations in 2014–15 included officials from the UK Department for Work and Pensions, the New Zealand Productivity Commission, the Singapore Ministry of Social and Family Development, and the Timor-Leste National Petroleum Authority and Secretariat of State for Vocational Training and Employment.

G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting

Photo of the Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz, with the Secretary of the Department of Employment, Renée Leon, and the co-chair of the G20 Taskforce on Employment, Margaret Kidd, at the G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting, September 2014The Minister for Employment, Senator the Hon. Eric Abetz, with the Secretary of the Department of Employment, Renée Leon (right), and the co-chair of the G20 Taskforce on Employment, Margaret Kidd, at the G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting, September 2014.

As G20 president in 2014, Australia steered a global agenda to strengthen economic growth and job creation. The department played an important role in ensuring employment was central to the agenda. During the year, the department hosted a series of G20 Taskforce on Employment meetings, which provided the foundation for a strong G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting in September. The department led discussions with international counterparts on key global employment challenges, exchanging policy strategies and best practice in areas ranging from local job creation and skills mismatching, to safer workplaces and gender equity.

G20 Labour and Employment Ministers made progress on a number of key global issues, agreeing on strategies to prevent structural unemployment, create better jobs and boost participation. Ministers laid the groundwork for the G20 Leaders’ Summit in November 2015, at which there was agreement on a goal to substantially reduce the gender gap in labour force participation by 2025, and to take action to ensure young people are in education, training or employment.

‘We agree to the goal of reducing the gap in participation rates between men and women in our countries by 25 per cent by 2025, taking into account national circumstances, to bring more than 100 million women into the labour force, significantly increase global growth and reduce poverty and inequality.’ Extract from the G20 Leaders’ Communiqué, Brisbane Summit, November 2014

First for 2014 was the creation of G20 Employment Plans. Each G20 member outlined the challenges their labour markets face and the steps they will take to address those challenges across a range of policy areas. The plans are living documents—members will continue to develop and implement their employment plans in the years to come.

Hosting the G20 was a significant body of work, drawing in more than 200 staff from across the department and other agencies to advise on global issues and host ministerial delegations from more than 24 countries and the heads of international organisations.

Customer service statistics

In 2014–15, the department’s Employment Services Information Line and National Customer Service Line collectively handled more than 186,000 calls from the public about employment support services.

The Customer Service Line managed 39,501 Job Services Australia feedback items, including 12,222 complaints, 6491 requests for information and 16,692 transfers of job seekers between employment services providers (Table 8).

Feedback type Percentage of total Number
Table 8 Breakdown of feedback by type, 2014–15
Complaints 30.94 12,222
Requests for information 17.57 6,941
Transfers of job seekers 42.94 16,962
Other (e.g. compliments and suggestions) 8.55 3,376
Total 100 39,501
Performance indicator 2014–15 estimate 2014–15 actual
Table 9 Outcome 1 departmental outputs—client satisfaction
Level of satisfaction of service providers with contracted information and support 80% 89.4%

Outcome 1 cross-outcome work

Each year, various areas of the department combine to provide input to the Australian Government’s submission to the Fair Work Commission’s annual wage review. The department’s contribution to the 2014–15 review included analysis of the current state of the labour market as well as developments for key groups including youth, the long-term unemployed, lone parents, jobless families, and regional labour markets. See page 46 for more information on the review.

The department advised the government on portfolio interests related to the industry innovation and competitiveness agenda and the ongoing Tax White Paper process.

To support higher labour force participation, the department undertook economic research and analyses into a broad range of issues affecting the Australian labour market, and particularly disadvantaged job seekers.

The department has been active in developing its capability to apply behavioural economics approaches to support policy and programme design and implementation. By using behavioural economics as part of a broader evidence-based approach, the department can drive continued improvement in outcomes for Australian job seekers, employers, jobactive providers and employees.

Innovation through collaboration

Ex-offenders have one of the lowest employment outcome rates of all cohorts serviced by employment services providers. Ex-offenders often face more complex hurdles than any other job seekers because of the long periods of time they spent out of the workforce and real or perceived stigma associated with their criminal record.

Most pre-release prisoners are not currently eligible for services from an employment services provider—a complex situation that prompted the department to develop an innovative strategy. During 2014–15 two areas within the department—the Job Seeker Programmes Branch and the Evaluation, Research and Evidence Branch—partnered with the Victorian State Department of Justice to trial a new approach. The trial investigated new ways to assist ex-offenders, by extending basic jobactive servicing to participating prisoners in Victoria, to achieve two ambitious and worthwhile outcomes: increase employment opportunities post-release and reduce recidivism.

Over the longer term, it is hoped that the trial will generate an effective approach that could be integrated into jobactive and rolled out nationally.


The department will ensure that jobactive services are operating and job seekers are connected quickly and effectively to jobactive providers once the programme starts on 1 July 2015. The department will provide comprehensive training to jobactive providers to assist them to understand the requirements for achieving certification under the quality assurance framework.

Successful implementation of an expanded national Work for the Dole programme is a focus for the department, as well as ensuring eligible job seekers are in Work for the Dole places from 1 July 2015.

The department will implement the employment-related measures of the Growing Jobs and Small Business package. This includes a range of new employment measures that provide incentives for employers to take on unemployed job seekers, build employability skills (particularly for young people) and strengthen job seeker obligations. A further three employment services programmes are scheduled for procurement during 2015–16.

In 2015–16 the department will be implementing the $1.2 billion national wage subsidy pool as part of the Growing Jobs and Small Business package. Wage subsidies will be available for young people, mature-age people, parents and Indigenous Australians after six months of unemployment and for all other job seekers after 12 months of unemployment.

The Department of Social Services and the department will work collaboratively to develop the investment approach to welfare to inform future policy advice. The new approach will use actuarial valuations of lifetime costs of welfare and services to identify the groups of people most at risk of welfare dependency and then to determine the impact of policy and operation change on future welfare costs.

The department will continue to monitor labour market conditions in Australia and provide policy advice to the government to enable employment services to respond to emerging labour market and economic developments, and to bolster workforce participation and Australia’s productive capacity.

As co-chair of the G20 Employment Working Group, the department will work with Turkey to support the implementation of G20 employment-related commitments.

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