Assessing Australia’s Labour Force

Australian Jobs 2018: a vital resource of employment intermediaries

The department has released the 2018 edition of the annual Australian Jobs report. This provides information on trends in the Australian labour market, industries and occupations (identifying those where there have been new jobs created and those in which there have been job losses) as well as regional labour markets.

The 2018 edition has a strong focus on young people and the opportunities and challenges they face. Among other things it provides information on how employers recruit and the attributes they seek, data on education and training pathways, and discussion on the changing nature of the world of work. It also provides information to assist people at all stages of their working life, whether they are looking for their first job, returning to the workforce or transitioning between sectors.

Australian Jobs is a highly regarded publication. More than 100,000 copies are distributed to a wide range of users, including employment services providers, secondary schools, Centrelink, higher education and vocational education organisations, employment and careers intermediaries.

The Survey of Employers Who have Recently Advertised

The Department of Jobs and Small Business undertakes ongoing skill shortage research. To understand employers’ ability to recruit the workers they need, and to identify current and emerging shortages in skilled occupations such as professions and trades, the department spoke with more than 4,000 employers who had recently advertised and analysed a wide range of labour market indicators. The survey of employers who have recently advertised covers around 80 skilled occupations in the research program, primarily professions and trades. The results of this ongoing skill shortage research are published on the department’s website (www.jobs.gov.au/skillshortages) including reports on occupations at the state and territory and national levels, skill shortage lists, and overview reports that analyse trends in the skilled labour market.

The Survey of Employers’ Recruitment Experiences

As part of the ongoing Survey of Employers’ Recruitment Experiences, the department interviewed some 14,000 employers across Australia in 2017–18. The survey is conducted continuously throughout the year to assess recruitment conditions and to identify how job seekers can better meet the needs of employers.

The survey contains a core series of questions each year to monitor key labour market issues and trends. Examples include the difficulties employers face filling positions, the level of competition for vacancies, and employers’ methods of recruitment. Additional ad-hoc questions are included to collect insights from employers on a wide range of policy interests to the department and broader community. In 2017–18, questions were included on:

  • the value of work experience
  • employers’ use of personal and professional networks to conduct recruitment
  • the impact of seasonal work on the workforce
  • advice for prisoners and ex-offenders seeking to enter the workforce
  • considerations for mature age job seekers in today’s labour market, and
  • changes in employers’ use of part-time work arrangements.

The survey data and analyses are accessed by a wide range of users, from business and industry groups to jobactive providers, policy makers, young people, career advisors and school teachers, community groups, retrenched workers and job seekers from all walks of life.

Survey results are disseminated in a range of ways, including reports, infographics and presentations published on the Labour Market Information Portal (www.lmip.gov.au) and on the department’s website (www.jobs.gov.au/recruitment-conditions). The department also delivered more than 50 presentations in 2017–18 attended by around 6,000 people across Australia. Copies of the presentations and related information were widely distributed. Information sessions were also provided for employees of companies facing retrenchment as well as at jobs fairs run by the department.

Job Outlook

Job Outlook is the leading source of accessible and engaging careers information for people of all ages and stages in their life. It helps job seekers think about pathways into and between employment as well as access supporting resources to learn more about different careers. https://joboutlook.gov.au/ 

Job Outlook provides detailed information including:

  • Job details - job descriptions, main tasks, titles, skill levels and specialisations 
  • Labour market insights - employment trends and future growth projections, ‘skill in demand’ flags 
  • Workforce characteristics - average earnings and hours, age, gender, location and educational attainment 
  • Job requirements - skills, abilities, knowledge areas, activities, and physical and social demands, values and work styles 
  • Job pathways - links to training information and to vacancies on JobSearch.gov.au
  • Job Outlook also houses a popular career quiz. The quiz is not a vocational assessment, but rather a tool to help users to understand their work preferences and to explore career options. Career advisors like the quiz because it provides an impetus for  discussion. 

In 2017, Job Outlook reached a global audience of close to 1.2 million users (700,000 Australians). Usage of Job Outlook has grown strongly over the past year and this is expected to continue as new features are released in coming months enabling users to explore workforce characteristics and skills in demand for local regions.

Internet Vacancy Index

The monthly Internet Vacancy Index (IVI) is based on a count of online job advertisements newly lodged on SEEK, CareerOne and Australian JobSearch during the month. The IVI enables researchers to understand labour market demand across a number of different topics. Data is available for around 350 occupations by skill level and by state and territory, back to January 2006. Regional job advertisement counts are also available back to May 2010.

In trend terms, the IVI increased by 4.7% over the year to July 2018. The IVI is now 4.7% above the level recorded a year ago and 30.5% (or 42,600 advertisements) higher than the October 2013 low point.

Job advertisements rose in six of the eight occupational groups. The strongest gains were recorded for Professionals (up by 9.6%), Managers (7.6%) and Technicians and Trades Workers (7.0%). Job advertisements decreased for Sales Workers (down by 6.6%) and Labourers (4.4%).

Job advertisements increased in five states and the ACT, with Western Australia recording the strongest rise (up by 16.3%), followed by Tasmania (13.5%, albeit from a low base). Falls were recorded in South Australia (down by 2.7%) and the Northern Territory (0.3%).

Labour Market Information Portal 

The LMIP brings together data from a number of different sources to help job seekers, employment service providers and researchers understand local labour markets.

Content on LMIP is categorized into three distinct sections:

  1. Explore the data - This section contains the bulk of information available on LMIP. Users can explore two geographical classifications – SA4s and Employment Regions (regions jobactive providers are contracted to service) – using interactive mapping. Data available includes: jobactive caseloads, Centrelink beneficiary data, employment by industry and occupation data, unemployment rates and population statistics.
  2. Gain insights - Users can view a range of reports and publications produced by the Department. Information available includes: employment projections, the monthly Internet Vacancy report and state labour economics office (LEO) reports.
  3. Downloads - This section offers users data in Excel files, including SA4 and Employment Region data (as available from Explore the data), as well as Disability Employment Services data (provided by the Department of Social Services).

Over the 12 months to May 2018, the LMIP received 510,000 page views.

Labour market conditions

Labour market conditions were strong in 2017–18, with the level of employment increasing by 339,000 (or 2.8 per cent) to stand at a record high of 12,573,600 in June 2018. This is well above the annual average growth rate of 1.6 per cent over the last decade.

Full-time employment rose by 158,200 (or 1.9 per cent) in 2017–18 to a record high of 8,565,200 in June 2018, while part-time employment increased by 180,800 (or 4.7 per cent), to stand at 4,008,400.

Against the backdrop of strong employment growth, the unemployment rate fell over the period, to 5.4 per cent in June 2018, while the participation rate rose by 0.6 percentage points to 65.7 per cent in June 2018.

The youth unemployment rate decreased by 1.8 percentage points over the 2017–18 financial year to 11.3 per cent in June 2018, the lowest rate recorded since April 2012. The level of youth employment rose by 95,200 (or 5.1 per cent) over the period due primarily to a rise in part-time employment (up by 77,300 or 7.8 per cent), while full-time employment also increased by 15,400 (or 1.8 per cent) over the period.

The labour force participation rate is the proportion of the workforce-age population (15- to 64-year-olds) that is employed or actively looking for work. It is a good indicator of the total supply of labour, although it does not include those who are marginally attached to the labour force (people who want to be working but are not actively looking for work), such as discouraged job seekers.

The employment-to-population ratio is the proportion of the workforce-age population that is employed. This ratio is influenced by both labour demand and labour supply factors. It is also a good summary indicator for measuring Australia’s labour market performance relative to other countries, particularly those in the OECD.

Over the year to June 2018, Australia’s trend employment-to-population ratio for workforce-age people increased by 0.8 percentage points to 73.7 per cent. The trend workforce-age labour force participation rate increased by 0.7 percentage points over the same period to 78.1 per cent.

Figure 8. Labour force participation rate and employment-to-population ratio, people aged 15 to 64 years, trend data, February 1978 to June 2018.
Figure 8. Labour force participation rate and employment-to-population ratio, people aged 15 to 64 years, trend data, February 1978 to June 2018
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force, Australia, June 2018, Cat.no. 6202.0, Table 18.

Graph information - Figure 8.

Labour force participation showing an upward trend, starting at 68.8 per cent in February 1978 and data ending at 78.1 per cent in June 2018.

Employment-to-population ratio showing an upward trend, starting at 64.3 per cent in February 1978 and ending at 73.7 per cent in June 2018. Major dips in the graph appear in 1983 (dropping to 61.6 per cent) and then in 1993(dropping to 64.4 per cent) before consistently rising.

The gap between male and female labour force participation rates narrowed slightly over the year to April 2018 from 10.4 to 9.5 (see Program 2.2). This will help Australia to achieve the G20 goal of reducing the gap in participation rates between men and women of workforce age by 25 per cent by 2025.

The workforce-age male labour force participation rate increased by 0.2 percentage points to 82.8 per cent over the year to June 2018; the female labour force participation rate increased by 1.1 percentage points to 73.3 per cent over the same period. The notable increase in female labour force participation is partly due to the growth of industries that employ a higher proportion of women during Australia’s transition from resource-intensive to more broad-based economic growth.

Figure 9. Labour force participation rate of males and females aged 15 to 64 years, trend data, February 1978 to June 2018
Figure 9. Labour force participation rate of males and females aged 15 to 64 years, trend data, February 1978 to June 2018
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force, Australia, April 2018, Cat.no. 6202.0, Table 18.

Graph information - Figure 9.

The gap between male and female labour force participation narrowed slightly over the year to June 2018.

Male participation showing a slight downward trend, starting at 87.1 per cent in February 1978 and data ending at 82.8 per cent in June 2018.

Female participation showing an upward trend, starting at 50.2 per cent in February 1978 and data showing rates of 73.3 per cent in June 2018.

Structural adjustment

Structural change is an ongoing feature of the Australian economy as it constantly transitions to new markets, technologies, operating environments and new forms of work. In response to these challenges and new opportunities, the department has developed a number of initiatives to support workers through the transition process.

These include the introduction of employment facilitators. In 2017–18, nine facilitators provided support services in Geelong, Gippsland, north Queensland, north/north-west Tasmania, Adelaide, Port Augusta/ Whyalla, north west/west Melbourne and Mandurah. Employment facilitators are an essential component of the department’s assistance to retrenched workers and other job seekers. They work directly with affected people to connect them with training, job opportunities and other support services.

The department worked closely with car manufacturing companies, their workers and the South Australian and Victorian governments to ensure those affected by the closure of the car manufacturing industry had tailored support. This included labour market information, career advice, skills and training, and employment services to help retrenched workers transition to new jobs.

From July to September 2017, the department conducted six successful job fairs across Geelong, Melbourne and Adelaide in partnership with Toyota and the Victorian and South Australian governments. The key focus of these was on assisting automotive workers to connect with local employers and real job opportunities within their region. Over 14,000 job seekers attended the six events, with the following outcomes:

  • around 8,900 job vacancies were offered
  • employers collected over 5,500 resumes
  • nearly 2,000 follow up job interviews were scheduled, and
  • more than 900 people were offered a job.

Intensive employment assistance to retrenched workers will continue until 30 June 2019 under the extended Automotive Industry Structural Adjustment Program.

In 2018, the department developed the new Retrenchment Rapid Response Framework, which will support retrenched workers and employers by connecting them with existing services. It will be available from 1 July 2018. The department also introduced the Stronger Transitions package, which also starts on 1 July 2018. This is designed to provide practical assistance to workers who are being retrenched in five regions facing industrial change: North/West Melbourne, North/North West Tasmania, North/West Adelaide, North Queensland and Mandurah in Western Australia. The new model links companies with the Australian Government to transition retrenched workers into new jobs, particularly in emerging and growing sectors.

Regional employment

Around one third of Australians live outside the capital cities. Evidence shows that there is a disparity between how regions perform comparatively. This can be attributed to a number of factors, including a region’s industry base, its population’s access to higher education, transport networks and infrastructure, its degree of natural amenity, population size and growth, accessibility to more dynamic labour markets and the skill level of its labour force.

Research shows that the most successful programs are those that are flexible and adaptable to local conditions, allowing communities to create solutions that meet their own distinct needs, and maximising employment opportunities.

In line with this, the department will be implementing a new Regional Employment Trials program across 10 selected disadvantaged regions from 1 October 2018. In each region, a local employment facilitator will work with the Regional Development Australia committee to enable local stakeholders to address employment issues. Each region will also have access to a $1 million Local Employment Initiative Fund to support projects that prepare job seekers to take up employment opportunities.

International engagement

The department continues to participate in international forums and bilateral exchanges in accordance with its International Engagement Strategy 2016–2019. This enables the department to:

  • influence and evaluate international employment and labour market strategies
  • promote and strengthen the small business and deregulation agendas internationally
  • increase awareness of and cooperation on national and Indo–Pacific interests
  • promote an Australian Government view internationally while meeting Australia’s international obligations, and
  • identify and share international best practice policies and ideas across the department to inform policy and service delivery.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

Australia is a member of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The department, represented by a Minister-Counsellor (Employment), uses its strong relationship with the OECD to enhance Australia’s capacity to develop policy and programs in employment, workforce participation, small business and deregulation.

One of the most important achievements of our engagement with the OECD in 2017–18 was the finalisation of the new OECD Jobs Strategy. This provides policy recommendations to promote productivity, jobs growth, jobs quality, labour market stability and resilience.

The department is currently collaborating with the OECD on two projects: Boosting Local Employment and Economic Development in Indigenous Communities in Australia; and Getting Skills Right: Anticipating and Responding to Changing Skills Needs.

General engagement with the United Nations

The department works with other Australian Government agencies to ensure Australia meets its international reporting obligations to the United Nations. A major milestone in 2017 was Australia becoming a member of the UN Human Rights Council. The department supports Australian representatives to the council on matters that are relevant to our portfolio responsibilities.

International delegations

Hosting international delegations enables the department to undertake policy dialogues with other countries. The department receives visit requests from both government and non-government organisations with an interest in Australia’s public employment systems and workplace relations. In 2017–18, we hosted delegations from Singapore, Malaysia, Finland and Sweden. Through its engagement with international counterparts, the department is able to use opportunities to discuss comparable challenges and international best practice to inform domestic policy development, such as Australia’s future employment services in 2020.

The Group of Twenty (G20)

The G20 is the leading forum for international economic cooperation and an important mechanism for global governance. The department represents Australia in the G20 Employment Working Group, which discusses approaches to global employment challenges. Employment Working Group officials exchange information about strategies and best practice in shared policy interests such as structural adjustment, youth unemployment, boosting female workforce participation and enhancing employment services. The department continued to promote Australia’s commitments in these and other policy areas following the G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting held in Germany in May 2017, including development of Australia’s annual G20 Employment Plan.

G20 Employment Working Group and education officials met on a number of occasions in the first half of 2018 to work towards policy recommendations on employment, including the role of education in preparing workers for the jobs of the future. This work was performed in preparation for the first G20 Joint Education and Employment Ministerial Meeting and annual G20 Labour and Employment Ministerial Meeting (held 6–7 September 2018) in Mendoza, Argentina.

Asia–Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

APEC is a regional economic forum of 21 economies, supported by a secretariat and thematic working groups and committees. In 2017–18, the department continued its contribution to the Human Resources Development Working Group agenda, including:

  • developing the APEC Framework on Human Resources Development in the Digital Age, which sets policy priorities for the future of work, lifelong learning, social protection and support for workforce transitions
  • preparing the 2017 APEC Economic Policy Report—Structural Reform and Human Capital Development. The department and four other APEC members will coordinate implementation of the report’s recommendations in 2018–19 through further project activity, building on discussions held under Papua New Guinea’s leadership of APEC in 2018, and
  • leading development of an APEC initiative on labour mobility.

2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, Australia and other United Nations Member States adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This is a comprehensive and forward-looking global strategy for addressing recurring and emerging issues faced by the world today and into the future. The agenda has a set of 17 thematic goals and 169 targets, with goal 8 (promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment) particularly relating to the department’s portfolio responsibilities.

Member states are encouraged to take concerted actions with domestic and international stakeholders to make progress towards these goals by 2030. Australia conducted its first voluntary national review of the 2030 agenda in 2018 and presented the report to the United Nations High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development. One of the key highlights of the review is Australia’s success in achieving strong employment growth in 2017–18. As goal 8 intersects with other goals, Australia’s progress towards the 2030 agenda will largely depend on sustained economic growth, high levels of employment and labour productivity.