There are 26 jobseekers for every entry-level position in Australia, report finds

<span>Photograph: Sergey Nazarov/Alamy</span>
Photograph: Sergey Nazarov/Alamy

A lack of suitable jobs and a trend towards insecure work is locking hundreds of thousands of people in poverty, according to a new report that finds there are 26 jobseekers for every entry-level position in Australia.

Anglicare’s annual Jobs Snapshot found that of the 26 people out of work for each entry-level position, 18 are technically “long-term” unemployed, meaning they have been out of the workforce for more than 12 months.

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By comparing data on the number of people with barriers to work with the number of suitable job advertisements in the sample month of August, the report found the odds heavily stacked against those who haven’t finished year 12, older workers trying to stay in employment after losing their jobs, people with disability or mothers short on skills after raising their kids.

“Our snapshot shows that almost 560,000 Australians in this situation are looking for work,” Anglicare’s executive director, Kasy Chambers, said. “They are long-term unemployed, and they are being left behind each year.

“They need entry-level jobs to get their feet on the ladder, but there aren’t enough to meet demand in any part of the country.

“For each entry-level role, 26 people are looking for work. People with barriers to work barely stand a chance.”

Since June 2022, Australia’s unemployment rate has hovered between a low of 3.4% and 3.7%, with under-employment sitting around 6.4%, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

While unemployment has fallen, the number of Australians with barriers to work has barely shifted in eight years, the report found. The number of people on the jobseeker payment declined by 7.4% in the past year, from 875,490 to 811,020, but the proportion of recipients on income support for more than five years increased from 9% in August 2013 to 24% in August this year.

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The average duration of receiving jobseeker payments almost doubled within a decade, from 99 weeks in August 2013 to 185 weeks in August 2023.

Australia already had the third-highest proportion of non-standard workers among the advanced economies, the report said, with as many as 2.1 million workers – or 20.4% of employees – not guaranteed a minimum number of hours each week. About a third of all workers did not have access to paid sick leave.

Justin, who did not want his real name used because he works for the government as a teacher’s aide, is one of them. He started on jobseeker during the pandemic when he was working casually and studying.

“I’m currently working at two schools,” he said. “And still receiving jobseeker, still navigating a fairly confusing system, still getting recommended [jobs] by [my employment services provider], sometimes aggressively, that [are] totally irrelevant to my experiences and education.”

He has had three different providers who suggested he take casual jobs in warehousing or call centres, or jobs far away from his home, despite already working in an industry.

He said that with the cost-of-living crisis, the only way he had survived was by staying in a five-bedroom share house with cheaper rent.

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Last week, a damming report into the government’s flagship employment services scheme, Workforce Australia, found full privatisation had failed and called to re-establish a commonwealth job agency and implement a watchdog.

Anglicare suggested the government go further, by abolishing mutual obligations, the policy that forces jobseekers to complete tasks such as applying for jobs or attend training to receive payments. It also called for an increase in payments to above the Henderson poverty line and establishing stricter minimum standards across entry-level positions and the gig economy.

Chambers said the Anglicare report showed the need create entry-level positions in growing sectors such as aged and disability care.

She said Workforce Australia also needed to be overhauled. “This system props up private employment providers and costs taxpayers millions each year, but it is failing at getting people into work.”