Discussion paper

Reforming employment assistance: a blueprint for the future

Employment Policy

Executive summary: Australia’s employment service system delivers unemployment-related assistance to approximately 1.6m Australians annually. These services are delivered through Jobs Services Australia (JSA) by more than 100 contracted providers at more than 2,000 sites across Australia. This crucial support is enabled through the large investment made by the federal government, approximately $1.3b per annum.

Despite this significant investment, many Australians remain unemployed - approximately 700,000 at any given time. Almost one-third of these are considered Very Long Term Unemployed (VLTU), i.e. unemployed for more than two years. Less than 20% of the most disadvantaged job seekers have been able to find a job that has lasted for more than 26 weeks. While the system has helped to place over 1.4 million Australians into employment since 2009, a significant gap remains between the system’s expectations and its actual performance. Much more needs to be done to get more Australians back into sustainable employment.

The employment services system itself faces a number of challenges that go to the core of its structure and organisation. There is widespread criticism that it does not reflect the principles it set out to implement. It has largely failed to deliver a truly competitive market for providers, and job seeker choice is limited. The system also lacks the flexibility required to be better able to tailor service offerings to the individual needs of job seekers. The system has become too constrained by its own rules to function at its best.

The Australian economy is in transition, with the rise of Asia, new technology and an ageing population having a significant and sustained effect. It is essential that the employment services system be at its best, or we risk leaving more and more people behind. Failure to act will serve only to exacerbate the current problems.

In this paper we explore what a modern employment services system would look like. We advocate for a comprehensive re-design of the system. Current contracts expire in 2015. Our proposed reforms are designed to be implemented from 1 July, 2015, with phased transition to a truly competitive market over time. These reforms aim to drive more relational-based conduct between providers, employers and job seekers. This will ultimately lift the performance of the system.

Jobs Australia is now seeking further feedback from providers and others with an interest in the employment services system, before making further representations to government.

To have your say, you can contact Jobs Australia for further information about upcoming meetings and events.

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