Formal qualifications are a key mechanism for skilling the Australian workforce and are underpinned by a robust framework that defines intended learning outcomes in terms of knowledge and skills, and their application. Having an overview of the stock of qualifications in the economy is therefore an important precursor to understanding the available stock of skills, which in turn informs supply- and demand-side issues, such as skills utilisation and skills gaps. Information on qualifications is often collected by labour force surveys or census data, but these statistics typically include only information on the highest level of qualification held, whereby vocational education and training (VET) qualifications are underreported.

This research project estimates and describes the stock of qualifications in the Australian economy using data from the 2018—19 Qualifications and Work survey, compiled by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The survey includes data on up to five qualifications per person. Accompanying the report is a suite of infographics summarising the key findings from the analysis, as well as six case study occupations, these highlighting the dynamics of qualifications in different employment contexts. A support document in the form of a literature review provides a broad overview of approaches to measuring the stock of skills in an economy, beyond the analysis of qualifications presented in the main report.

Key messages:

  • In 2018-19, out of an estimated population of 16.1 million working-age Australians, 10.2 million people reported holding 15.4 million qualifications, including 3.8 million people holding two or more qualifications.
  • VET qualifications outnumbered higher education qualifications by almost one million. Certificates III/IV were particularly prevalent.
  • Around three-quarters of the qualifications held by employed people were in the same field as, or were relevant to, the worker’s job. Among the 3.3 million people with two or more qualifications who were employed at the time of the survey, about a third held at least one qualification that was not at all relevant to their job; often the most relevant qualification to the worker’s job was either not their highest or their most recent qualification.
  • Different qualification profiles were evident in different occupational contexts. Some occupations have more diverse entry pathways than others, with regulation playing a role in some of these pathways.
Publication Details


License type:
Access Rights Type: