Job Network was implemented in May 1998 to deliver employment services to job seekers and employers. It is a national network of about 200 private, community and government organisations. Job Network replaced publicly funded job brokerage delivered by the Commonwealth Employment Service (CES), a range of labour market programmes which delivered short-term training, wage subsidies and work experience, and a case management system.
The Job Network model represents a radical change in the way employment services are delivered, with the role of government changing from a direct provider to a purchaser and regulator of services. The model was underpinned by a focus on outcomes. While Australia is not alone among OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries in introducing market-type mechanisms in employment servicing, Job Network is the most comprehensive example of this approach.
The objectives of Job Network are to:
- deliver a better quality of assistance to unemployed people, leading to better and more sustainable employment outcomes;
- target assistance to job seekers who need it and who can best benefit from it;
- address the structural weaknesses and inefficiencies inherent in previous arrangements for labour market assistance, and put into effect the lessons learnt from international and Australian experience; and
- achieve better value for money (especially in a tight budgetary environment).
Evaluating Job Network
At the time the changes were announced there was considerable public interest in the process for reviewing such a radical shift in delivery arrangements. A comprehensive Evaluation Strategy was developed following the Budget announcement in 1996 and released publicly in April 1998. The evaluation’s purpose was to assess how well Job Network was working and to provide information for later policy adjustment. The strategy involved three reporting stages, recognising that the reforms would take several years to develop and mature.
The first two stages of the evaluation reported in May 2000 and May 2001. These reports were largely based on performance under Job Network’s first contract. Stage 1 focused on the implementation of Job Network and its early operation, while Stage 2 examined equity of access to assistance and outcomes, early indicators of the impact of assistance (on the likelihood of leaving income support) and regional performance.
This final report provides information on the lessons learnt from evaluating Job Network over the period of its operation since May 1998. In assessing effectiveness, the evaluation has examined the sustainability of employment outcomes, the impact of the major services in improving employment prospects, how well Job Network is endorsed by its clients, its responsiveness to special needs and its macro-economic impacts. The evaluation has also considered the relative contribution of factors that can explain the level of effectiveness achieved and how Job Network has progressed against its design principles.
The Evaluation Strategy also included an independent review of the policy framework underpinning Job Network, which is being conducted by the Productivity Commission. A draft report of the Commission’s review was released in March 2002 (Productivity Commission 2002). A final report was produced in September 2002.