Chapter 1 - Genesis and context for this inquiry

  1. Genesis and context for this inquiry

Overview of the employment services system

1.1Australia has an international commitment to maintain a free employment service and has policies designed to promote full, productive, and freely chosen employment.[1]

1.2Workforce Australia is the Australian Government’s headline employment service. Itcommenced on 4 July 2022—replacing jobactive—and is administered by the Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR) and is one of three key programs within the broader national employment services system. The other programs are:

  • Disability Employment Services (DES), which includes Employment Support Services (DES-ESS) and Disability Management Services (DES-DMS), administered by the Department of Social Services (DSS); and
  • Community Development Program (CDP), administered by the National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA).
    1. Workforce Australia represents the fifth generation of contracted out employment services in Australia. It was introduced by the previous Government following a review of jobactive by the Employment Services Expert Advisory Panel and the release of the I Want to Work report. The stated intent of Workforce Australia is to provide a simple, supported, connected and respectful service that helps eligible participants into jobs, and supports businesses to recruit candidates with the skills they need.[2]
    2. The core services delivered under Workforce Australia are:
  • Workforce Australia Online: for participants assessed as job-ready, digitally literate, and capable of self-managing and finding work online;
  • Workforce Australia Services: case management assistance from a contracted provider for participants assessed at higher risk of long-term unemployment or who opted to receive face-to-face assistance; and
  • Transition to Work (TtW)—a time-limited employment specialist service (of up to 24months) that helps disadvantaged youth into work or education and training.[3]
    1. Additional support is also available through complementary programs. This ranges from foundation and employability skills development, work experience, and support for individuals seeking to start or grow a business. Other complementary programs are designed to support employers, including to enable changes to recruitment and work practices and to match candidates to jobs.[4]
    2. As of 30 September 2023, there were 624,655 individuals in Workforce Australia (Workforce Australia Online and Workforce Australia Services). Of those individuals:
  • 90,525 (14.5 per cent) were First Nations peoples;
  • 172,380 (27.7 per cent) were people with disability;
  • 115,185 (18.4 per cent) were from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds;
  • 28,745 (4.6 per cent) were from refugee backgrounds; and
  • 154,290 (24.7 per cent) had been in employment services for at least five years.[5]
    1. Acommon theme in evidence was that there are high numbers of jobseekers on the caseload who are facing disadvantage or present with complex and often multiple barriers to work.[6]
    2. Over four years from 2022–23 to 2025–26, over $7 billion is forecast to be spent on Workforce Australia, complementary programs, and other labour market programs. This includes:
  • $517 million for Workforce Australia Online;
  • $4.3 billion for Workforce Australia Services;
  • $1.3 billion for TtW; and
  • $996 million for Self-Employment Assistance (S-EA), Local Jobs Program, Harvest Trail Services, Launch into Work and a range of targeted bespoke programs.[7]
    1. Over that same period, $494million is expected to be spent on ParentsNext and its replacement, with $50.8 million expected to be spent on the Pacific Australia Labour Mobility program. Other departmental expenses within Outcome 1 (labour market policies and programs) are anticipated to be over $1.9 billion.[8]

Core elements of Workforce Australia

Jobseeker eligibility

1.10Eligibility for Workforce Australia is linked to receipt of activity-tested income support payments such as Jobseeker or Youth Allowance (Other). Whether a jobseeker is referred to provider-led or online services is based on a Job Seeker Classification Instrument (JSCI) score, which considers several factors relating to risks of long-term unemployment. Where a jobseeker receives a lower JSCI score, they are typically allocated to Workforce Australia Online, while jobseekers with higher scores are allocated to provider-led services.[9]

1.11There are a small number of cohorts, such as retrenched workers and their partners or vulnerable youth, who may register for assistance without being on an activity-tested income support payment.[10]

1.12TtW is restricted to young people aged between 15 and 24 years, with eligibility defined by reference to two groups of participants:

  • For Group 1: a person is eligible if they are in receipt of activity-tested income support and assessed as high risk of not successfully transitioning from school to work.
  • For Group 2: a person is eligible if they are not in receipt of activity-tested income support, not accessing provider-led employment services, and either disengaged from education or employment for a specified period based on their level of education. First Nations peoples and ParentsNext participants may also be eligible under Group 2 criteria.[11]
    1. Once in employment services, a participant may selfrefer, or be referred by their provider, to targeted assistance under complementary programs such as S-EA, Employability Skills Training (EST), or Career Transition Assistance (CTA).[12]

Jobseeker assessment

1.14The first time a person lodges an income support claim for unemployment benefits they must complete the Job Seeker Snapshot (JSS) online, at their Participation Interview, or through the Digital Services Contact Centre (DSCC). The JSS is underpinned by the JSCI. The JSCI is a statistical assessment that weighs numerous factors to determine the likelihood of a person leaving income support within 12months. The JSCI score is central to determining if a person is referred to Workforce Australia Online, Workforce Australia Services, or TtW.[13]

1.15Employment Services Assessments (ESAts) are conducted by health and allied health professionals engaged by Services Australia to determine work capability. The ESAt is a comprehensive assessment used to confirm vocational and non-vocational barriers to employment, work capacity and ongoing support needs. It makes a recommendation as to the most appropriate employment service—which may be Workforce Australia Online, Workforce Australia Services, DESESS, or DESDMS.[14]

1.16Capability Interviews and Capability Assessments are intended as key safeguards within the compliance framework. Their purpose is to determine if a Job Plan is suitable and if the participant is able to meet their mutual obligation requirements. Capability Interviews are undertaken over the phone by the DSCC for participants in online services or face-to-face by the provider for participants in provider-led services. Capability Assessments are undertaken over the phone by Centrelink.[15]

1.17Digital Services Reviews are conducted online after fourand eight months in Workforce Australia Online. Based off responses to the questionnaire, participants may be encouraged to move to provider-led services. However, a jobseeker cannot be required to under the current arrangements until 12 months have elapsed.[16]

Funding arrangements

1.18The provider payment model for Workforce Australia Services comprises four key payment types:

  • Upfront payments. These are automatically paid to providers when a participant commences. A provider will be paid $1,200 when a new participant commences in Workforce Australia services—including participants moving from Workforce Australia Online. A payment of $600 was made when a jobactive or New Employment Services Trial (NEST) participant transitioned to Workforce Australia Services. $600 is also payable for Workforce Australia participants who transfer between providers.
  • Progress payments. Claimable for demonstrable improvement in a participant’s employment prospects. $750 is claimable each 24 months during a jobseeker’s period of service.
  • Outcome payments. Claimable when a participant remains in work for 4, 12, and 26weeks. Payments vary from $240 to $5,000 depending on the duration of employment, whether a full or a partial employment outcome is achieved (whether the participant remained on income support while in work), and the jobseeker’s level of disadvantage.
  • Very long-term unemployment bonus. This is automatically paid in addition to 12 and 26week outcome payments for participants who have been unemployed for over 24 months when they commenced employment. Payments range from $1,000 to $4,000, depending on the duration of the employment and whether a full or partial employment outcome was achieved.[17]
    1. For TtW, a service fee of $1,507 is paid for each participant, each quarter. Noting that participants may remain in TtW for up to 24 months, providers may ultimately receive up to $12,000. Providers may also receive up to $7,961 in total outcome payments if a jobseeker achieves a 26-week outcome.[18]
    2. Separate payment arrangements apply to complementary programs. For example, some EST courses are funded directly by referring Workforce Australia, TtW and DES providers, while others are funded by DEWR.[19]

Performance management

1.21The Provider Performance Framework (PPF) defines DEWR’s expectations as to providers’ delivery of services, indicates measures of success, and is used to inform decisions on the extension of provider licenses. The PPF incorporates elements of the former jobactive star rating system but was adapted for Workforce Australia, based on feedback that the previous performance management system was not sufficiently transparent, did not adequately measure quality, and was dominated by outcome weightings. The PPF—as it applies to providers in Workforce Australia Services—includes five modules:

  • Sustained employment, which assesses provider success in achieving paid 12- and 26-week employment outcomes for jobseekers.
  • Progress to employment, which assesses provider success in supporting participants on their caseload to improve their employability, based on progress payments, participant feedback, and analysis of administrative data.
  • Quality of Service to Participants, which assesses the provider’s success in delivering high quality services, based on participant feedback, assessments conducted by contract managers, and assessment by DEWR’s assurance team.
  • Quality of Service to Employers, which assesses provider success in delivering high quality services, based on assessment by contract managers and by DEWR’s assurance team.
  • Licensing Standards, which measures the extent to which providers comply with the contract and aims to ensure providers continue to display expected values and behaviours.[20]
    1. These modules are supported by a total of 13 underpinning measures, which assess provider performance in greater detail. For example, ‘sustained employment’ considers the number of participants who achieve 12- and 26-week outcomes, while ‘progress to employment’ considers progress payments and servicing rates.[21]
    2. Providers in Workforce Australia Services are subject to an Annual License Review. A review determines whether a provider’s performance warrants a license extension based on overall performance according to the PPF. Providers that achieve a ‘High’ or ‘Moderate’ rating may be granted an extension. ‘Low’ performing licenses will not be extended and will cease at their license end date.[22]
    3. The TtW program includes a similar performance framework, with five modules and 13 underpinning measures. There are minor differences in how the modules are structured for TtW and Workforce Australia Services.[23]

Mutual obligations and compliance

1.25Jobseekers in Workforce Australia are required to complete specified activities to receive income support. These are referred to as mutual obligation requirements. These requirements are outlined in an Employment Pathway Plan (known as a Job Plan or Participation Plan depending on program). Individuals must report completion of obligations on a regular basis, unless exempt.

1.26Mutual obligation requirements vary by program but generally include agreeing to a Job Plan, attending appointments with a provider, and completing activities set out in the Job Plan.[24] DEWR noted that:

In legislation there is little restriction on how individuals can meet mutual obligation requirements, although the Social Security (Administion) Act 1999 requires that a number of factors must be considered when a provider enters a Job Plan with a person.[25]

1.27There are also differences in the ways in which individuals can meet their obligations if they are principal carer parents, mature age, or unable to work due to a stabilised, ongoing disability, injury, or health condition.[26]

1.28The Points Based Activation System (PBAS) creates a monthly point target that participants must meet to fulfill their mutual obligations. Participants are required to accrue a maximum of 100 points per month to meet mutual obligation requirements. Points are accrued by participating in activities which increase a jobseeker’s chances of finding, obtaining, and keeping work. The value of activities varies from 5points (for example, making a job application), to 50 points (for example, starting a job).[27]

1.29Points may be automatically reduced by DEWR’s IT systems and may be individually adjusted by providers or the DSCC. Reductions or adjustments may be to recognise partial capacity to work, caring responsibilities, or difficult labour market conditions.[28] Moreover, where a participant exceeds their points target they may ‘bank’ up to 50points towards the next reporting period.[29]

1.30Jobseekers are also required to complete a minimum number of job applications per month (currently four), with each job search contributing to the PBAS score.[30]

1.31Workforce Australia participants also have a periodic requirement to complete mandatory activities in addition to other mutual obligation requirements. Jobseekers in online services have an activation point at four months. Jobseekers referred to provider-led services after 12months of online assistance have an activation point three months after the transfer. Jobseekers in provider-led services have a recurring activation point every six months.[31]

1.32If a jobseeker does not satisfy their activation requirements by the activation point (for example by participating in training or paid work, or by accessing certain allied health services), they will be referred to a ‘default’ mandatory activity. For online participants, the activity is EST. For participants in provider-led services, the activity is Work for the Dole (WfD).[32]

1.33TtW participants are not subject to PBAS or to a compliance framework. TtW participants are required to participate in activities set out in a Job Plan for 25 hours per week. Where a TtW participant fails to meet this requirement, they may be exited from TtW and transferred to a Workforce Australia Services provider.[33]

Targeted Compliance Framework

1.34The Targeted Compliance Framework (TCF) was introduced in 2018. It applies to all Workforce Australia Online and Workforce Australia Services participants (as well as DES participants) who have mutual obligation requirements and sets out consequences for compliance failure. Three ‘zones’ (Green, Warning and Penalty Zones) are used as a communication tool to show participants whether they are meeting their obligations.

1.35Providers are responsible for monitoring and reporting on participants’ compliance with mutual obligations and reporting mutual obligation failures. Suspensions (discussed below) are typically applied automatically by IT systems when a report is made (provider-led services), or when a participant has not fully recorded their activities (online services). Services Australia is responsible for conducting Capability Assessments and ultimately for reduction and cancellation of income support.[34]

1.36Under the TCF, where a participant fails to comply with their obligations (referred to as a mutual obligation failure in the social security law) they will be notified of this and informed that they must contact their provider (or the DSCC, for the digital caseload) within two business days. If they fail to do so within that timeframe, payments will be suspended until the participant reconnects. If the participant fails to reconnect within 28 days, payments will be cancelled. Payment suspensions are unique to the Australian employment services system.[35]

1.37Over the last 12 months of jobactive, 54.7 per cent of participants experienced a payment suspension (they committed a mutual obligation failure and did not reconnect in two business days). However, 90.1 per cent of all suspensions resulted in no delay to payments, because the jobseeker took action and had payment reinstated before the payment fell due.[36]

1.38If a participant commits a mutual obligation failure, they also receive a demerit. Accrual of three demerits in a six-month period results in a participant being required to attend a Capability Interview with their provider or with the DSCC. If the interview determines that the participant’s mutual obligation requirements are appropriate, the participant will move to the Warning Zone. Otherwise, the participant will return to the Green Zone with demerits reset.[37]

1.39If a participant commits a mutual obligation failure while in the Penalty Zone, they will lose one week of income support. A second mutual obligation failure results in the loss of two weeks’ payment, and a third results in the cancellation of payments and the requirement to wait for four weeks before re-applying.[38]

1.40Where a participant refuses or fails to accept an offer of suitable employment or becomes unemployed as a result of a voluntary act or misconduct, they will be referred to Services Australia. If Services Australia then determines that the action was not reasonable, the participant’s income support payments may be cancelled. This is irrespective of the number of demerits the participant has accrued.[39]

1.41In the last 12 months of jobactive, less than oneper cent of participants incurred a financial penalty (had their payments reduced or cancelled).[40] Data for Workforce Australia shows that, as at 30 September2023:

  • 24,700 Workforce Australia Online participants (equating to 27.9 per cent of online participants) were in the Warning Zone; and
  • 121,275 Workforce Australia Services participants (or 43.8 per cent) were in the Warning Zone and 2,830 (or 1.0 per cent) were in the Penalty Zone.[41]
    1. Rates of suspensions and financial penalties were also higher for certain cohorts, including First Nations peoples, ex-offenders, and people in housing insecurity.[42]

Procurement and contract management

1.43Workforce Australia providers are engaged via an open tender process. A panel of organisations was established at the national level, with sub-panels established in regions. Licences were issued to panel members for an initial period of three years. High performing providers receive licence extensions, while poor performers will not have licences renewed. Current licensing arrangements are a new feature of the employment services system introduced under Workforce Australia and respond to recommendations of the Employment Services Expert Advisory Panel.[43]

1.44DEWR stated that the procurement and commissioning framework for Workforce Australia aims to reduce red tape and to enable providers to enter the market with minimal administrative burden. DEWR noted that the framework intends to strengthen government’s capacity to respond to rapidly changing markets and to enable greater market diversity. DEWR also suggested that procuring providers via licencing arrangements limits friction associated with providers entering or exiting the market during contract periods.[44]

1.45Procurement was subject to the Australian Government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy. However, no contracts were awarded to Indigenous organisations listed on Supply Nation in the most recent procurement process.[45]

1.46The Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) conducted a performance audit into the effectiveness of the establishment of the Workforce Australia Services according to the following criteria:

  • Was the design of the procurement consistent with policy objectives and achieving value for money?
  • Was the procurement conducted in accordance with the published process?
  • Did the results of the evaluation process appropriately inform the establishment of the panel?[46]
    1. The audit report was tabled on 27November2023. Given the timing, the Committee was unable to consider the audit report during its inquiry. However, the Committee does not anticipate that the audit report would impact the Committee’s findings or recommendations.

Unemployment and underemployment

1.48As of October 2023, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reported there were 547,800 unemployed persons in Australia. The rate of unemployment was 3.7percent. The unemployment rate has been consistently low in the post-COVID period—remaining under 4.0 per cent. This reflects a tighter labour market.[47] The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) predicts that unemployment rates will increase slightly in the coming two years, to around 4.25 per cent in December 2025.[48] The review of jobactive leading to the I Want toWork report and the development of Workforce Australia took place in a very different labour market. During that period, the unemployment rate was consistently above 5.0 per cent.[49]

1.49Figure 1.1 below shows the count of unemployed people and the unemployment rate have fluctuated since outsourcing of employment services. Jumps in unemployment in 2009 and 2020 reflect, respectively, exogenous shocks associated with the Global Financial Crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic.

1.50Unemployment rates are similarly low across jurisdictions, ranging from 3.4per cent in New South Wales to 4.3per cent in Queensland.[50]

1.51As of October 2023, rates of labour force participation (number of people working and seeking work, as a proportion of the working age population) was 67.0percent. The participation rate for men was 71.3 per cent, while for women it was 62.8percent.[51]

1.52In addition, approximately 18 per cent of unemployed people (around 97,000) were long-term unemployed (LTU), that is unemployed for 12 months or more. This is similar to the lead up to the COVID-19 pandemic. By contrast, the number of LTU was around 250,000 in April 2021, at the peak of the pandemic.[52]

Figure 1.1Unemployed persons and unemployment rate, 1998–2023

A graph showing the number of unemployed persons and unemployment rate over the time series October 1998 to October 2023

Source: ABS (2023), Labour Force, Australia, October 2023, seasonally adjusted data

Underemployment and precarious employment

1.53As of October 2023, 6.3 per cent of the labour force was recorded as underemployed. The underutilisation rate (the sum of unemployed and underemployed people as a proportion of the labour force) was 10.0 per cent.[53] Thisis set out in Figure 1.2 below.

1.54A person will be classified as underemployed where they want and are available for more hours than they currently have. This includes people in part-time work, as well as people in full-time work who worked part-time hours during a reference period.[54]

1.55In February 2023, 20 per cent of part-time workers reporting wanted to work more hours. Of that cohort, 45percent reported wanting to work full-time hours. More than one in three underemployed people in part-time work (37 per cent) reported spending more than one year working in a job with insufficient hours.[55]

Figure 1.2Underemployment and underutilisation rates, 2013–2023

A time series of the underemployment rate and underutilisation rate from 2013 to 2023.

Source: ABS (2023), Labour Force, Australia, October 2023, trend and seasonally adjusted data

1.56The Treasury identified that over the last decade, job security has changed relatively little. The Treasury noted that metrics of job security showed between 2014 and 2023:

  • the proportion of workers who expect to not remain in the same job 12 months later due to involuntary reasons varied between 1.5 and 2.1 per cent;
  • the proportion of workers with irregular working arrangements varied between 27and 29 per cent; and
  • the proportion of workers without access to paid leave entitlements varied between 22 and 26 per cent.[56]
    1. This is broadly supported by ABS data on the share of casual employment.[57]
    2. However, 2021 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey data indicates that while the proportion of Australians in casual employment may have remained relatively unchanged, there are more people employed on a casual basis who previously would have been employed fulltime. Moreover, casual employment may no longer reflect a temporary or transitional work arrangement. Forexample:
  • over half of people who were employed as casuals in one HILDA survey year were still employed as casuals in the following year;
  • the rate of movement of casuals into permanent employment has been lower between 2010 and 2020 than between 2000 and 2010;
  • there has been a slight rise in the proportion of casual employees exiting to fixed-term employment (as opposed to permanent employment); and
  • the majority of people who were casual employees in any one HILDA survey year were still not in permanent employment five years later.[58]
    1. Trends towards casual, part-time, and short-term contracts were also reflected in evidence to this inquiry.[59] An increasing prevalence of part-time work reflects supply-side factors such people combining employment with other activities such as education and raising a family, as well as demand-side drivers such as employers using part time working arrangements to increase operational flexibility.[60] These trends can impact on the relative competitiveness of long-term unemployed people, who may increasingly be competing with those who are already in work and have accordingly demonstrated the capacity to perform in a job.[61]
    2. The Select Committee on Job Security also noted a gradual increase in casual work arrangements as employers seek to reduce costs and overheads and to transfer risk from employers to workers. According to that Committee, employers have also used a range of other mechanisms including engaging part-time employees in a similar manner to casuals, outsourcing, and using labour hire services. While difficult to quantify, these mechanisms have had a range of negative impacts on job security. Evidence to that inquiry also indicated that, in 2018, the proportion of Australians in full-time paid jobs with leave entitlements fell below 50 per cent.[62]
    3. The Employment White Paper review similarly identified an increase in casual and ‘gig’-type work, with around 19 per cent of workers in casual work as of 2023. The review recognised that casual arrangements align with the preferences of some workers but noted that an increase in casual and ‘gig’-type work arrangements means a significant proportion of the labour force does not have the guarantee of regular work patterns, entitlement to paid leave, or compensation if retrenched. The evidence to the Employment White Paper further indicated that women, young people, and migrants are disproportionately likely to be in casual or insecure work, asserting that the concentration of these cohorts in insecure work arrangements reinforces the importance of strong protections, as well as mechanisms to convert these arrangements into secure employment.[63]

Impacts of unemployment

1.62There are numerous and varied negative impacts associated with unemployment. These compound and intensify the longer a person is disconnected from the workforce.[64] Anglicare WA drew attention to the 100 Families research project, which found that unemployed people experience a profound sense of disillusionment, disempowerment and indignity—particularly when they are obliged to navigate the human services ecosystem. The project observed in this regard that unemployed people confront anti-poverty bias, including an entrenched belief that unemployment is a matter of personal choice rather than systemic disadvantage.[65]

1.63These experiences were reflected in testimony from one submitter, who emphasised that the majority of unemployed people want to work but are prevented from doing so due to structural barriers:

Welfare is given because people need it, not because people need to do something for it. No-one wants to be unemployed, there is so much stigma attached. When asked what do you do for a living, no one wants to say, l am unemployed, l love living in poverty, feeling bad about myself and being treated like a criminal, simply because l do not have a job.[66]

1.64Other stakeholders highlighted a range of challenges faced by unemployed people, including the costs of health services,[67] accessing suitable housing,[68] the rising cost of food and other basic necessities,[69] lower confidence and increased anxiety,[70] and difficulty meeting caring responsibilities.[71] One submitter summarised these concerns as follows:

Unemployment is … a traumatic life event in itself. It deprives us immediately of every means of preserving our own sense of worth, our validation as human beings, [and] the material means of preserving a liveable, dignified, and autonomous standard of living and quality of life …

Societies stigmatise and discriminate against their members for many reasons; one of those reasons is being unemployed. Government in Australia makes this worse by the punitive manner in which the unemployed are mistreated, by the poverty in which they are forced to live, by the complete inadequacy of supports and medical and dental and mental health care, and by the rhetoric that claims that the unemployed are potential criminals and social parasites. This situation is inhumane, it is a situation not paralleled in any social democracy.[72]

1.65Challenges associated with unemployment and poverty are exacerbated by low rates of income support. This is a particular concern for people who are LTU.[73] The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) observed:

[Income support payments] no longer protect people from poverty. [They] are $175 a week less than the frugal pension rate, and they continue to fall further behind community living standards since they are only indexed to consumer price inflation, not wage movements.

People cannot cover their basic living costs and search for employment on an income support payment of $43 a day.[74]

1.66ACOSS recommended that rates of payment should be lifted to the same rate as the single pension ($513 per week, including pension supplement) and be indexed twice a year in line with the Consumer Price Index and wage movements. ACOSS asserted that payment supplements must also be adequate to meet additional living costs, stating that this should include lifting the threshold for Rent Assistance and establishing a Disability and Illness Supplement and a Single Parent Supplement.[75]

1.67The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) observed that Australia’s income support payments represent on average around 50 per cent of a recipient’s previous net earnings. This is the second lowest among OECD member countries. According to the OECD, this means that the payment rate is unlikely on its own to act as a disincentive to searching for work.[76]

1.68Stakeholders also raised concern that the employment services and income support systems are not adapted to the needs of unemployed people—not least because they demand significant activity from people who are typically time poor, energy depleted, and typically fully occupied with the basic tasks needed for survival.[77]

1.69One stakeholder indicated that a key issue with the current employment services system is that few genuine attempts are made to empathise with jobseekers, with employment consultants often desensitised to the realities of unemployment.[78] This was reflected in testimony during the Committee’s visit to the Brotherhood of StLaurence’s (BSL) Sustaining Economic Empowerment and Dignity (SEED) project for women. Several participants stated that frontline staff in the Commonwealth system are often impersonal in their treatment of jobseekers, and there is little recognition that the difference between the jobseeker and their caseworker is often entirely a matter of circumstance.

Barriers to employment

1.70It is very clear from the evidence and engagement at site visits that most people want to work. However, unemployed people face a range of barriers to labour market participation. These were identified by many submitters, and included:

  • vocational barriers such as lack of skills, education, or work experience;
  • practical barriers such as the lack of a driver license or access to a vehicle, lack of reliable internet access, and caring responsibilities—including childcare;
  • disability and mental and physical health challenges;
  • social barriers such as anxiety and lack of confidence;
  • employer-related barriers such as unconscious bias, discrimination, and non-inclusive recruitment and workplace practices including lack of part-time or flexible work options, and cultural barriers (especially for First Nations jobseekers); and
  • structural barriers such as discrimination and lack of access to education, training, and work opportunities.[79]
    1. The Employment White Paper found that the most common barriers for Workforce Australia participants were not having a Year 12 education (37 per cent), nopaid work in the past two years (36 per cent), disability (28 per cent), and intergenerational disadvantage (16 per cent).[80]
    2. Certain cohorts are disproportionately impacted by barriers to social and economic participation. These barriers often differ by gender. ABS data indicates that the most common reason for women being unavailable to begin a job or work more hours is caring responsibilities, while for men the most common reasons are disability and long-term sickness.[81] The data also indicated that the most important incentives for people to seek a job or more hours were the ability to work part-time hours and finding a job that matches skills and experience.[82]
    3. Other cohorts particularly affected by barriers to employment include First Nations peoples; people with disability; people from CALD and refugee backgrounds; people experiencing mental health challenges; and people in housing insecurity.[83]
    4. Several stakeholders emphasised that despite a high number of available jobs, many jobseekers are failing to find employment due to a mismatch between their skills and qualifications and the requirements of the position.[84] Jobseekers on the employment services caseload also compete with a range of often better-qualified applicants for most vacancies, including entry-level positions.[85]
    5. Per Capita indicated that the current employment services system is not adapted to the demands of future work, noting that the underpinning model for the system was designed 25 years ago, and assumed full-time, ongoing employment opportunities, more entry level jobs without formal skill requirements, and a younger working age population.[86]

Different experiences for different jobseekers

1.76There are significant differences across cohorts in terms of rates of unemployment and underemployment, and in terms of key barriers to labour market participation.

1.77The rate of youth unemployment as of October 2023 was 9.2 per cent—more than double the rate across all cohorts.[87] Several stakeholders observed that youth unemployment has remained higher than the average unemployment rate across Australia for a significant amount of time.[88] Witnesses argued that failure to support young people will have immediate ramifications for the current skills and labour crisis, as well as long-term impacts on Australia’s productivity.[89]

1.78Youth underemployment is also significantly higher than average, with the youth underemployment rate at 14.2 per cent in October 2023.[90] Youth are also disproportionately impacted by economic downturns due to various factors including lack of work available, a lower demand for young workers, and a greater prevalence of casual and insecure work.[91]

1.79Mental health, perceived academic ability, and financial difficulty are key barriers to young people’s engagement with education, training, and employment. For young people from disadvantaged backgrounds, these barriers are compounded by issues such as limited access to information about training and employment and the need to find work quickly to contribute to family income.[92]

1.80Mature age jobseekers are at higher risk of long-term unemployment. Research indicates that this cohort experiences significantly longer periods of unemployment than other age groups (76 weeks for those aged 55 and over, compared to 54 weeks for those between 25 and 54 years and 33 weeks for those aged 24 years and under).[93]

1.81Mature age jobseekers face a range of barriers to finding and keeping employment, including the persistent and pernicious view that older people are less productive than their younger counterparts.[94] The cohort is also more likely to report physical limitations on certain kinds of work, the need to re-skill or upskill (particularly to improve digital literacy), and difficulties accessing training. Mature aged jobseekers also report that frontline staff do not understand their unique circumstances and support needs.[95]

1.82Unemployment rates among First Nations communities are also higher than national averages. According to Census data, the unemployment rate for First Nations peoples was 12.0 per cent in 2021, compared to a maximum unemployment rate of 6.3 (January 2021) for all cohorts. There was also variation in unemployment rates between jurisdictions, and between metropolitan, regional, and remote areas.[96] First Nations peoples are also overrepresented in the employment services system. In June 2023, First Nations peoples represented around 12 per cent of the jobactive caseload, while making up 3.2 per cent of the Australian population.[97]

1.83Key barriers to workforce participation for First Nations peoples include low access to education and training opportunities; limited support for transitions from school to work and between secondary and tertiary education; discrimination in hiring and work practices; and a lack of services in remote communities.[98] First Nations peoples also experience disproportionate rates of incarceration, which may impact on the ability and desire to participate in work, education, and training. The Justice Reform Initiative (JRI) noted that First Nations peoples are 15.8 times more likely to be incarcerated that their non-First Nations counterparts.[99]

1.84During site visits, stakeholders explained that taking up employment (and especially sustained or full-time employment) can be perceived as abandoning cultural or family responsibilities in some First Nations communities. Moreover, as money and property are often viewed as belonging to a community rather than an individual, there may be reluctant to take up employment due to the increased financial responsibility this may carry. First Nations jobseekers and organisations noted that individuals may see less personal incentive to work if they conclude that they will not keep the income they acquire due to family and community pressures and responsibilities. Many First Nations peoples—especially young people—also view income support as a ‘safety net’ and may be reluctant to take up employment, and especially ongoing or full-time work, due to the fear that payments will be reduced or lost altogether.

1.85People from CALD, migrant and refugee backgrounds are another cohort that experience multiple and often unique barriers to employment. These include:

  • language and literacy barriers;
  • visa restrictions;
  • lack of Australian work experience, and limited understanding of the Australian jobs market and workplace culture;
  • lack of local networks and contacts;
  • challenges with skill, qualification, and experience recognition;
  • lack of access to culturally appropriate employment support; and
  • racism, discrimination, and workplace bullying.[100]
    1. Several of these barriers can also restrict engagement with employment services by CALD and refugee jobseekers, and accordingly reduce the extent to which services enable greater economic and social participation by people in these cohorts.[101]
    2. Finally, the Committee heard that there are specific challenges experienced by jobseekers in regional and remote areas. Stakeholders observed that these challenges include a lack of driver licenses and more generally lack of access to reliable transport; lower literacy, numeracy, and digital literacy; limited employability skills and work experience; and a lack of employment and training opportunities.[102]

Interaction with the income support system

1.88Several income support payments are conditional on participation in employment services, and there is a strong correlation between the size of the employment services caseload and the number of people in receipt of income support. Changes to income support policy also impact the delivery of employment services and the composition of caseloads, as well as individuals’ motivation to find and keep work (discussed below).[103]

1.89The proportion of individuals who remain on income support has increased over time,[104] with factors contributing to longer periods of income support including lower educational attainment, language barriers, and previous unemployment.[105]

1.90Not all recipients of income support or participants in employment services are unemployed according to ABS definitions. In July 2023, 23 per cent of the Workforce Australia caseload reported earnings from employment.[106] At the same time, 23percent of JobSeeker recipients and 18 per cent of Youth Allowance (Other) recipients reported earnings.[107]

1.91The Employment White Paper found that many people who are in employment while also receiving income support are in part-time work and not earning enough to move fully off income support. Further, around one-third of people in receipt of income support do not meet the definition of unemployed for various reasons, including illness and caring responsibilities.[108]

1.92Assets test thresholds (liquid assets and waiting periods) can also delay access to employment services. This disproportionally impacts older people who might have a small amount of savings built up at the time of their job loss.[109]

Disincentives to study and work

1.93Discussion had by the Committee confirmed that unemployed or underemployed Australians often make rational choices not to seek work, not to increase working hours, or to reject full-time employment. These choices are often driven by significant and interrelated disincentives to work in the income support system.

1.94A key disincentive to seeking employment or increasing work hours is the loss or reduction of income support when a person earns above the income free threshold. Recipients of JobSeeker will typically lose at least half of every dollar they earn beyond that threshold through a combination of taxes and payment reduction. Up to 80 cents on the dollar may be lost in certain circumstances. Different thresholds and rates of reduction will apply for other payment types, such as Parenting Payment.[110]

1.95Research also indicates that the interaction between employment, income support and associated benefits, and tax arrangements will have different impacts on levels of labour market attachment for different cohorts. For example, labour market attachment for men has been found to be relatively inelastic; that is, men do not typically significantly change the number of hours they work or level of participation in in the labour market. By contrast, women with young children—particularly single mothers—are quite sensitive to changes. This is notwithstanding that levels of elasticity for married women have fallen substantially in recent decades.[111] Evidence from the USA also shows that lower income earners are more sensitive to changes to income support and tax arrangements,[112] while impacts are lower for people earning higher incomes.[113]

1.96Analysis in the Netherlands found targeted policies such as tax credits and subsidies for the ‘working poor’ are relatively effective in raising labour market participation, whereas more general reductions in marginal tax rates were not.[114] A further analysis observed that permanent tax changes have larger effects than transitory ones for workers under 35 years of age (for whom returns to work experience are large).[115]

1.97These concerns are exacerbated by the perceived risk of incurring debts, including where a person misreports their income or there is an error made by a Centrelink officer or automated process. In a 2022 survey of employment services participants by Anglicare Australia, 47 per cent of respondents who reported incurring a debt in the past indicated that the debt was due to an error by Centrelink or their service provider.[116] The human and economic impacts of poor program administration and computerised error came into sharp focus during the Robodebt Royal Commission, with the Commissioner stating:

The effect on a largely disadvantaged, vulnerable population of suddenly making demands on them for payment of debts, often in the thousands of dollars, seems not to have been the subject of any behavioural insight at all.[117]

1.98Eligibility for income support also provides ongoing access to health care cards and concessions. Health care cards enable access to cheaper medicines under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme and access to bulk billing and refunds via the Medicare Safety Net. Concession card holders have access to discounted public transport, vehicle registration and licences, dental and eye care, electricity and gas, council rates, water and sewerage, and emergency services. These benefits are particularly valued by people with disability who often face significant health care costs. The loss of these benefits is a significant disincentive to moving off income support and into employment.[118]

1.99In addition, income support recipients may qualify for the Child Care Subsidy. The lack of access to affordable childcare can be a significant disincentive to seeking employment or increasing work hours. Access to childcare is a particularly important determinant of women’s workforce participation.[119]

1.100Those who lose access to income support can also face significant challenges in reconnecting with Centrelink and the income support system, with the Employment White Paper observing that the process can be complicated, time-consuming, and can carry a degree of anxiety around less secure job opportunities.[120] Submitters to the this inquiry similarly indicated that there are significant challenges in navigating the income support system.[121] One detailed the following experience of applying for JobSeeker:

The application process was tortuous. Hours (literally) spent on hold waiting for a Centrelink employee to speak with, often to ask a question or clarify something that was not clear on their website. Many were unfamiliar with the rules that applied and most needed to leave me on hold and seek advice…

I cried many times during this process, it should not be so hard. English is my first language; I am articulate and well educated. I’m also reasonably IT savvy having used the net for research and work for many years. It must be much harder for someone who doesn’t have my advantages. Every time I had to contact Centrelink I felt very anxious and knew it meant a few hours of holding on the line until I could speak with someone.[122]

1.101Losing income support may mean loss of access to public housing or withdrawal of rent assistance in some jurisdictions.[123] For example, in Western Australia a gross income of as little as $502 per week may make a person ineligible for public housing.[124] This issue was also raised by stakeholders in several regional communities during the Committee’s site visits, with employers and others noting access to public housing was a significant and increasing concern in their jurisdiction.

1.102DEWR indicated that income support policy settings and payment rates negatively impact decisions to take up education and training opportunities, noting that it is only courses of 12 months or less for which participation will count towards meeting a person’s mutual obligation requirements.[125]

1.103A person for whom income support is not payable due to their receiving employment income may qualify for an employment income nil rate period. A nil rate period may last for up to six or seven fortnights. During this period, the person does not receive income support payments, but is considered to be receiving income support for the purposes of benefits such as the childcare subsidy and health care card.[126]

1.104Government proposes to address disincentives to work in the income support system by extending the nil rate period up to 12 fortnights so that people can retain access to benefits for a longer period when they first return to work. Access to the nil rate period is also being expanded to recipients who take up full-time opportunities and no longer meet the definition of unemployed under the Social Security Act 1991. These changes recognise the transition into employment can be difficult, and that there are disincentives in the system.[127]

Report structure

1.105The inquiry is a first principles review of the employment services system and examines the majority of the system’s component parts.

1.106The chapters can be considered as divided into five parts as outlined below.

Part 1: Context

1.107Chapter 1 (this chapter) provides a summary of the Workforce Australia employment services system, and insights relating to unemployed people in Australia. It also sets out the structure of the report.

1.108Chapter 2 provides the case for reform to the employment services system. It details key issues with the current system, capturing views of policy experts and those with lived experience. This foreshadows an outline of the core principles to underpin a new employment services system in Chapters 4 and 5, and more detailed proposals for reform set out in Chapters 6 to 15.

1.109Chapter 3 provides an overview of key State, and international employment programs from which lessons may be drawn in reforming Australia’s national system.

Part 2: Principles of what employment services should look like

1.110Chapter 4 outlines the core principles that should underpin the design of a rebuilt employment services system, including core objectives, measures to support a single, national, coordinated employment service system and the role of government as steward and co-producer of employment services.

1.111Chapter 5 outlines principles that should underpin a typology of services that responds to the diverse needs of jobseekers and employers.

Part 3: Governance and service capability

1.112Chapter 6 considers issues related to service capability, including qualifications and skills for frontline staff, and strategies to attract and retain a suitably qualified workforce.

1.113Chapter 7 considers issues associated with administration of employment services, including accreditation, audit, and assurance requirements, administrative burden, and the role of an independent regulator.

1.114Chapter 8 considers issues associated with innovation and experimentation, data sharing, and monitoring and evaluation.

Part 4: Design features

1.115Chapter 9 examines the features of an effective service gateway, including contact with clients and assessment and referral processes.

1.116Chapter 10 examines the design and delivery of digital-hybrid services, including measures to ensure jobseekers are equipped to engage with digital services and key features of a hybrid, digitalbased employment service for jobseekers and employers.

1.117Chapter 11 examines the design and delivery of person-centred case management services for jobseekers, with a focus on enabling greater choice and control over engagement with services, supporting long-term career planning, and ensuring services meet the needs of individuals over their pathway to employment.

1.118Chapter 12 examines the design and delivery of services to employers, with a focus to improving engagement with the system, improving recruitment and work practices, and reducing perceived risks associated with hiring jobseekers from the employment services caseload.

1.119Chapter 13 examines Active Labour Market Programs (ALMPs), which includes access to education and training, community employment programs, paid work experience, existing complementary programs and wage subsidies, and the role that ALMPs and complementary programs may have in the employment services system.

1.120Chapter 14 examines mutual obligation, compliance, and enforcement, with a focus on designing a system which supports rather than punishes jobseekers.

1.121Chapter 15 examines commissioning, funding, and regulatory culture, including measures to ensure the system is able to continually improve and respond to changes in the labour market.

Part 5: Roadmap to a rebuilt system

1.122Chapter 16 provides for transitional arrangements, including indicative timeframes for implementing the Committee’s recommendations.

Notes on terminology

1.123All references to Committee Hansard are to official transcripts unless otherwise indicated. Page numbers may vary between proof and official transcripts.

1.124The Committee acknowledges that there are a variety of terms to reflect the diversity of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures and identities.[128] In this report, the term ‘First Nations peoples’ is used generally, with respect.

1.125The term CALD is also used, with respect, to refer to people not born in Australia and for whom English is not a first language. This broadly accords with terminology used by DEWR.[129] However, as there is no universal definition for CALD, the term may have other meanings when used by submitters and witnesses. The Committee also acknowledges that the term CALD is contested, and that there are various terms with which people from individual racial, cultural, and linguistic groups may identify.

1.126The Committee uses the term ‘people with disability’ (or equivalent terms such as ‘jobseekers with disability’) throughout the report. The Committee acknowledges that some people with disability may identify with a particular community or characteristic. Accordingly, where a particular characteristic or community is identified in evidence, the Committee has endeavoured to reflect this in the report. Further, and in line with evidence received, the Committee has focused on barriers to social and economic participation, consistent with a social model of disability.[130]

1.127It is acknowledged that there will be some discrepancies between definitions of ‘mature aged’ across different organisations. For example, DEWR defines ‘mature age’ to include persons over 45 years,[131] while the ABS does not expressly define ‘mature age’ but provides information according to defined age brackets.[132]

1.128The Committee uses the terms metropolitan and regional to refer to classifications that are Workforce Australia. In some cases, these may not align with the Australian Statistical Geographic Standard.[133]

1.129In this report, ‘workforce participation’ refers to those who are engaged in work, while labour market participation refers to those who are working or willing to work.

1.130The Committee has broadly adopted ABS definitions of employed, unemployed, LTU and underemployed.[134] Most evidence received during the inquiry used or was consistent with these definitions.

1.131The names ‘Centrelink’ and ‘Services Australia’ are often used interchangeably. Centrelink sits within Services Australia and is responsible for the administration of income support payments, as well as for assessing income support recipients and referring them to employment services. Services Australia is responsible for the administration of a range of additional programs, including Medicare and Child Support. The Committee has been careful to distinguish Centrelink from Services Australia for the purposes of this report. This distinction is critical to several recommendations for reform.

1.132Employment services staff who directly engage with jobseekers are referred to by a variety of terms including ‘frontline staff’; ‘case managers’; ‘advisors’; ‘employment consultants’; ‘employment officers’; ‘job coaches’; and jobmentors. The Committee has generally adopted the term ‘frontline staff’ for the purposes of this report.

1.133There are various terms used to describe people who access employment services and receive income support, including ‘jobseekers’, ‘clients’ ‘unemployed workers’, ‘participants’, and ‘unemployed people’. There was no consensus as to the preferred terminology, notwithstanding the preference of some stakeholders for a particular term.[135] A variety of terms are used throughout the report depending on the context, with terms such as ‘jobseeker’ and ‘participant’ the most common. These terms are used without prejudice, and do not indicate any specific view on the nature of unemployed people or the nature of unemployment in Australia.

1.134The Committee considers that as reforms are progressed, the longestablished language of ‘participants’ should change to refer to ‘clients’, and the language of ‘providers’ should change to ‘service partners’. This is consistent with a rebuilt Commonwealth Employment Services System which aims to accord more respect to and improving the experience of people using employment services, and which sees organisations delivering services working in partnership with government. However, there is no doubt that multiple terms will continue to be used interchangeably.


1.135The Committee thanks organisations and individuals who contributed to this inquiry through submissions, oral testimony, and by engaging with the Committee during meetings and site visits.

1.136The Committee acknowledges that sharing lived experience can be challenging, and thanks individuals—including current and former employment services participants—for sharing their experiences and suggesting improvements.

1.137The Committee acknowledges the hardworking and dedicated staff who support jobseekers. Frontline staff are central to the delivery of employment services, and critique of the system is not and should not be taken as a reflection on individuals working to support people into work.

1.138The Committee also acknowledges the professional commitment of the numerous fine public servants we heard from and met throughout the inquiry, in public hearings, private round tables and site visits and thanks them greatly.


[1]Australia has ratified the International Labour Organization’s (ILO) Employment Service Convention, 1948(No. 88) and Employment Policy Convention, 1964 (No. 122).

[2]Department of Employment and Workplace Relations (DEWR), Submission 254, p. 7.

[3]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 7.

[4]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 8–10.

[5]DEWR (2023), Workforce Australia and ParentsNext Caseload by Selected Cohorts,September 2023,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[6]See, for example, CoAct, Submission 151, p. 3; SYC Ltd (SYC), Submission 189, p. 3; National Employment Services Association (NESA), Submission 260, p. 29.

[7]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 5. It is noted that there may be slight discrepancies between the DEWR submission and the DEWR Portfolio Budget Statements for the 2023–24 financial year. This may be explained by the fact that the DEWR submission was prepared in March 2023, ahead of the Budget.

[8]DEWR (2023), Portfolio Budget Statements 2023–24: Budget Related Paper No. 1.6, pages 32–33. Departmental expenses include new appropriations and expenses for which an appropriation is not required.

[9]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 49, 56–57, 68.

[10]See, for example, DEWR, Submission 254, p. 59; DEWR, Workforce Australia Guideline – Part B: Workforce Australia Services pages 13–17. Copies of all Workforce Australia Deeds and guidelines are available via, viewed 20November2023.

[11]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 180.

[12]Some complementary programs are not limited to individuals who are on income support. See DEWR, Submission 254, pages 150, 170, 173; Navitas, Submission 262, pages 10–11.

[13]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 56; DEWR, Submission 254.1, p. [26].

[14]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 54-55.

[15]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 115.

[16]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 66.

[17]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 32–36. See also Workforce Australia Services Deed of Standing Offer 2022–2028, pages 143–158.

[18]DEWR, Submission 254, p.37. See also Workforce Australia – Transition to Work Deed 2022–2027, pages112–119.

[19]DEWR, Workforce Australia Guidelines – Part B Employability Skills Training, pages 16–17, 19–20.

[20]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 122. See also DEWR, Workforce Australia Guidelines – Part B Workforce Australia Services, pages 328–334.

[21]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 123.

[22]DEWR, Submission 254, p.123.

[23]DEWR, Workforce Australia Guidelines – Part B Transition to Work, pages154–161. The performance framework for TtW measures both the quality of services for participants and the quality of services for employers. However, both measures are evaluated using a single module (‘Quality of Service’).

[24]Department of Social Services (DSS), Social Security Guide: 3.11 Mutual obligation requirements,, viewed 20November2023. A demonstration of agreeing to the Job Plan for a Workforce Australia Online participant was presented to the Committee by Ms Nicolle Johnston, Assistant Secretary—Digital Experience and Services, DEWR on 3November 2022.

[25]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 218.

[26]DEWR, Submission 254.2, p. [20].

[27]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 102, 207. Points values are in Appendix 9 of the submission.

[28]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 102–103.

[29]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 103.

[30]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 102–103, 207–208.

[31]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 104.

[32]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 104–106, 212.

[33]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 179.

[34]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 114–115.

[35]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 112. See also DEWR, Workforce Australia Guidelines – Part B Workforce Australia Services, pages 171–172.

[36]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 112–113.

[37]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 109–110.

[38]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 110.

[39]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 110.

[40]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 113.

[41]DEWR (2023), Job seeker compliance data, 1 July 2023 to 30 September 2023, Table 1 and 2,, viewed 20 November2023.

[42]DEWR, Submission 254, p. 113. See also DEWR (2023), Job seeker compliance data, 1 July 2023 to 30September 2023, Table 8 and 9.

[43]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 22–24.

[44]DEWR, Submission 254, p.23. In contrast, DES is funded under a grant funding arrangement. See MsRobyn Shannon, Deputy Secretary—Disability and Carers, Department of Social Services (DSS), Committee Hansard, 26 May 2026, p. 12.

[45]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 24–25.

[46]Australian National Audit Office (ANAO), Establishment of the Workforce Australia Services Panel,, viewed 20November2023.

[47]Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) (2023), Labour Force, Australia, October 2023, seasonally adjusted data. All employment and unemployment related data available via employment-and-unemployment, viewed 20 November 2023. Seealso DEWR, Submission 254, p. 11.

[48]Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) (2023), Economic Outlook, November 2023, economic-outlook.html, viewed 20 November 2023.

[49]ABS (2023), Labour Force, Australia, October 2023, seasonally adjusted data.

[50]ABS (2023), Labour Force, Australia, October 2023, seasonally adjusted data.

[51]ABS (2023), Labour Force, Australia, October 2023, seasonally adjusted data. See also DEWR, Submission 254, p. 137.

[52]ABS (2023), Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, October 2023. See also RBA (2020), ‘Long-term unemployment in Australia’, Bulletin December 2020,, viewed 20November 2023.

[53]ABS (2023), Labour Force, Australia, October 2023, seasonally adjusted data. With regard to the time series, large changes during the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in multiple trend breaks.

[54]ABS (2023), Labour Force, Australia, Methodology,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[55]ABS (2023), Underemployed workers, May2023,, viewed 20November2023.

[56]The Treasury (2023), Secure Jobs,, viewed 20 November2023.

[57]ABS (2022), Working arrangements, August 2022,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[58]Melbourne Institute—University of Melbourne (UniMelb) (2021), Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey: Selected Findings from Waves 1 to 19, p. 75, hilda/publications/hilda-statistical-reports/past-reports, viewed 20 November 2023.

[59]See, for example, Anglicare WA, Submission 127, p.[5]; National Youth Commission Australia (NYCA), Submission 166, p. [6]; Community Leaders Gathering (CLG) and the Future Leaders Advocacy Group (FLAG), Submission 173, p. 5; Social Ventures Australia (SVA), Submission 232, p.10.

[60]Productivity Commission (2008), Part Time Employment: The Australian Experience, Staff Working Paper, p.xvi,, viewed 20November2023.

[61]Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) (2020), Faces of Unemployment 2020, faces-of-unemployment-2020/, viewed 20November2023.

[62]Senate Select Committee on Job Security (2022), The job insecurity report, pages 16, 40–41.

[63]Commonwealth of Australia (2023), Working Future: The Australian Government's White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities, pages 49–50.

[64]RBA (2020), ‘Long-term unemployment in Australia’, Bulletin December 2020.

[65]Anglicare WA, Submission 127, p. [4].

[66]Name Withheld, Submission 125, p. [2].

[67]Success Works, Submission 139, p. [3].

[68]See, for example, Name Withheld, Submission 93, p. 2; Professor Leila Green, Dr Kylie Stevenson, Dr Kelly Jaunzems, Ms Claire Hanlon and MrArthur Hanlon (Professor Green et al), Submission 120, p. [5]; Success Works, Submission 139, p. [3].

[69]Anglicare WA, Submission 127, p. [8].

[70]See, for example, Mr Trenton Plummer, Submission 113, p. [1]; Name Withheld, Submission 223, p. [1]; Western Australian Association for Mental Health (WAAMH), Submission 248, p. 18.

[71]See, for example, Mrs Kerry Hynes, Submission 138, p. 1; Dr Katherine Curchin, Submission 197, pages1–2.

[72]Name Withheld, Submission 92, p. 48.

[73]See, for example, Name Withheld, Submission 104, p. [3]; Ms Juliet Vrakas, Submission 91, p. 6; Name Withheld, Submission 92, p.51; Name Withheld, Submission 137, p. [1]; Name Withheld, Submission 160, p.4; Centre for Excellence in Child and Family Welfare (CECFW), Submission 200, p. 2; Name Withheld, Submission 230, p. [2]; Antipoverty Centre, Submission 276, p. [5].

[74]ACOSS, Submission 203, p. 15.

[75]ACOSS, Submission 203, p, 7, 15-16.

[76]Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) (2023), Income support for jobseekers: Trade-offs and current reforms, Policy Brief, pages 2–3,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[77]See, for example, Mr Dan Ehlers, Submission 90, p.1; Professor Green et al, Submission 120, p. [1].

[78]Name Withheld, Submission 125, p. [2].

[79]See, for example, MAX Solutions (MAX), Submission 146, p. 25; Centre for Policy Futures—University of Queensland (CFP–UQ), Submission 217, p. 6; Antipoverty Centre, Submission 276, p. [9]; Dr Shae Garwood, Manager—Research, Advocacy, and Prevention, Anglicare WA, Committee Hansard, 1 February 2023, p. 4.

[80]Commonwealth of Australia (2023), Working Future: The Australian Government's White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities, p. 151.

[81]ABS (2022), Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation, Australia, 2022–23 financial year,, viewed 20November2023.

[82]ABS (2022), Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation, Australia, 2022–23 financial year.

[83]Relationships Australia, Submission 280, pages 4, 5–6.

[84]See, for example, DEWR, Submission 254, p. 12; NESA, Submission 260, pages 16–17; Antipoverty Centre, Submission 276, p. [9].

[85]See, for example, Anglicare Australia, Submission 215, p. 4; Government of Victoria, Submission 278, p.15.

[86]Per Capita, Submission 252, p. [24].

[87]ABS (2023), Labour Force, Australia, October 2023, seasonally adjusted data. Youth are aged 15–24.

[88]See, for example, yourtown, Submission 198, p. 4; Australian Youth Affairs Coalition (AYAC), Submission 238, p.1; See also DEWR, Submission 254, pages 137–138.

[89]Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI), Submission 236, p. 5.

[90]ABS (2023), Labour Force, Australia, October 2023, seasonally adjusted data.

[91]See, for example, NYCA, Submission 166, pages [2, 6], SVA, Submission 232, p. 10; DEWR, Submission254, pages 137–138; Productivity Commission (2020), Why did young people’s incomes decline?,, viewed 20November 2023; The Treasury (2020), The career effects of labour market conditions at entry, publication/p2020-85098, viewed 20 November 2023.

[92]Mission Australia, Submission 190, pages 3–4. See also SVA, Submission 232, p. 10.

[93]National Skills Commission (2021), The state of Australia’s Skills 2021: now and into the future, p.30,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[94]See, for example, Ms Natalie James, Secretary, DEWR, Committee Hansard, 3 November 2022, p. 13; Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL) (2015), Too old to work, too young to retire, p. [2],, viewed 20 November 2023; Department of Education, Skills and Employment (2021), Research into employment barriers for mature age Australians: Final Report, pages 4–5,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[95]See, for example, Name Withheld, Submission 1, p. [1];Name Withheld, Submission 118, p. [1]; Name Withheld, Submission184, p. [1]; Name Withheld, Submission 229, p. [1].

[96]Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) (2023), Employment of First Nations people,, viewed 20November 2023.

[97]Minderoo Foundation Trust - Generation One, Submission 222, pages 3–4.

[98]Management Governance Australia (MGA), Submission 183, p. 2. See also, AIHW (2023), Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework—Measures: Employment, measures/2-07-employment, viewed 20 November 2023.

[99]Justice Reform Initiative (JRI), Submission 178, pages 5–6. See alsoTribal Warrior Talent (TWT), Submission 233, p. [2].

[100]See, for example, Multicultural Australia, Submission 182, p. 23; Host International (HOST), Submission 188, pages3–4; Ethnic Communities Council of Queensland (ECCQ), Submission206, p. 2.

[101]Mr Elijah Buol OAM, Chairperson, ECCQ, Committee Hansard, 16 June 2023, p. 3.

[102]See Regional Development Australia (RDA) Kimberley, Submission 105, p. [3]; MGA, Submission 183, p. 2.

[103]See DEWR, Submission 254, p. 13.

[104]Getting Welfare to Work Research Team, Submission 191, p.9.

[105]DSS, Submission 192, p.5.

[106]DEWR (2023), Workforce Australia and ParentsNext Caseload by Selected Cohorts,July 2023. Data on declared earnings for later months is not available.

[107]DSS (2023), DSS Expanded Benefit and Payment Recipient Demographics, June 2023 quarter, ds-dga-cff2ae8a-55e4-47db-a66d-e177fe0ac6a0/details, viewed 20 November 2023.

[108]Commonwealth of Australia (2023), Working Future: The Australian Government's White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities, p. 146.

[109]Mr Corey Irlam, Acting CEO, COTA Australia, Committee Hansard, 19 September 2023, p. 40. See also Julie, private capacity, Committee Hansard, 20 September 2023, p. 35.

[110]Commonwealth of Australia (2023) ,Working Future: The Australian Government's White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities, p. 159. See also CECFW, Submission 200, pages 4-5; atWork Australia (atWork), Submission 210, p. 8.

[111]C Meghir, and D Phillips (2010), ‘Labour supply and taxes, in S Adam et al (eds) Dimensions of Tax Design: Volume one of the Mirrlees Review, Institute for Fiscal Studies, p. 252.

[112]E Saez (2002), ‘Optimal Income Transfer Programs: Intensive versus Extensive Labor Supply Responses’, The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 117(3), p. 1039-1073.

[113]Meghir and Phillips (2010), ‘Labour supply and taxes, in S Adam et al (eds) Dimensions of Tax Design: Volume one of the Mirrlees Review, p. 252.

[114]M Mastrogiacomo, N Bosch, M Gielen and E Jongen (2017), ‘Heterogeneity in labour supply responses: evidence from a major tax reform’, Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, 79(5), p. 769.

[116]Anglicare Australia, Submission 215, pages 8–9.

[117]Robodebt Royal Commission (2023), Report of the Royal Commission into the Robodebt Scheme, p. xxvi.

[118]Commonwealth of Australia (2023), Working Future: The Australian Government's White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities, p. 160. See also CVGT Employment (CVGT), Submission 106, p. 19; MAX, Submission 146, p. 40; WISE Employment, Submission 169, p. 17; Workskil Australia (Workskil), Submission 196, p.22.

[119]Commonwealth of Australia (2023), Working Future: The Australian Government's White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities, p. 160. See also CVGT, Submission 106, p. 19; National Foundation for Australian Women (NFAW), Submission 135, p. [8]; MAX, Submission 146, p. 40; WISE Employment, Submission 169, p. 17.

[120]Commonwealth of Australia (2023), Working Future: The Australian Government's White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities, p. 160.

[121]See, for example, Ms Karen Zaskolny, Submission 131, p. [1]; The Salvation Army Employment Plus (SAEP), Submission 199, p. 48. MatchWorks, Submission 263, p. 29; Antipoverty Centre, Submission 276, p.[4].

[122]Name Withheld, Submission 116, p. 1.

[123]See, for example, CoAct, Submission 151, pages 14-15; WISE Employment, Submission 169, p. 17; SSI,Submission 193, p. 12.

[124]Government of Western Australia: Department of Communities (2023), Income Limits,, viewed 20 November2023.

[125]DEWR, Submission 254, pages 15, 106.

[126]DSS, Social Security Guide: 3.1.12 Employment income nil rate period, social-security-guide/3/1/12, viewed 20 November 2023.

[127]Commonwealth of Australia (2023), Working Future: The Australian Government's White Paper on Jobs and Opportunities, p. 229.

[128]See Reconciliation Australia (2021), Demonstrating inclusive and respectful language, www.reconciliation., viewed 20 November2023.

[129]See DEWR, Additional information 5, p. 3. DEWR typically uses ‘CALD’ to classify participants based on country of birth, regardless of cultural or language background.

[130]See People with Disability Australia (2021), Language Guide: A guide to language about disability,, viewed 20 November2023.

[131]DEWR, Mature Age Hub,, viewed 20 November 2023.

[132]ABS (2014), Age Standard,, viewed 20November2023.

[133]See ABS (2021), Remoteness structure,, viewed 20November2023. Forexample, Workforce Australia considers Alice Springs to be regional while the ABS standard would classify that area as remote.

[134]See ABS (2023), Labour Force, Australia methodology.

[135]For example, the Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union (AUWU) stated that ‘unemployed worker’ should be used instead of ‘jobseeker’, to emphasise that unemployment is not only an individual issue but also a structural concern. See AUWU, Submission 253, p. [2].