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Creating jobs, creating opportunity: tackling long-term unemployment in Australia

Skilled workforce 21st Century work skills Job searching Long-term unemployment Vocational education and training Australia

Over the past year, much attention has been devoted to the ‘boom’ in jobs across Australia. Both the Australian government and Opposition have committed to full employment, and work has become a key indicator of how we are rebounding after a tough few years. The narrative has been one of success. In spite of our economic challenges, many have been pointing to our strong jobs recovery and low unemployment rate.

Yet there’s something missing from this story. Most employment statistics assume that each person can compete for every job , that it is a simple equation of job vacancies and people looking for work. We know this isn’t true. Many Australians face major barriers to work, and struggle to compete in a job market that demands advanced skills more than ever before.

There has never been a more crucial time to explore the impact on these Australians as the nation’s workforce changes, becoming more advanced and skilled. People without advanced skills and qualifications, looking for entry-level jobs, are bearing the brunt of these changes. These are people who are looking for work, but who might not have had an advanced education or recent work experience.

The trends in long-term unemployment in Australia show that those out of work for long stretches are overwhelmingly in this cohort, and are seeking entry-level roles. The largest group in this category are mature-age job seekers, many of whom lost blue-collar work and are struggling to re-establish themselves. At the time of writing just one in ten of all vacancies were low-skilled jobs at the entry-level, compared to one in four fifteen years ago. This means that the jobs they need simply are not there.

This dichotomy is the central focus of this paper. The analysis is divided into three parts. The first section presents the trends in job market and shows how entry-level roles are declining, while the number of people who need them remains unchanged.

The second section looks at demand-side interventions, designed to create work opportunities for people who need them. The final section looks at supply-side interventions, designed to assist people to become job-ready. The recommendations call for overhauling supply-side interventions, which have been failing to deliver outcomes for years. Anglicare Australia also calls for a renewed focus on demand-side programs, which have been neglected by governments for years.

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