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Work is central to many people’s lives, and enhances Victoria’s society and economy. It provides people with an income and contributes to their sense of identity and wellbeing. It fosters social cohesion, helping people meet, learn from and collaborate with others from different backgrounds, offering alternative perspectives.
Many people are not securely employed and face multiple and complex barriers to work. They are more likely to face unemployment, underemployment, long-term unemployment and workforce exclusion. These can devastate people’s lives, and undermine communities, leading to loneliness and disconnection, lower standards of living, financial crisis, homelessness, declining physical and mental health and contact with the justice system.
Victoria’s unemployment rate rose from 4.8 per cent in May 2011 to 6.8 per cent in August 2014. It has since declined to 5.7 per cent at August 2016, but can go lower. Young people in Victoria still experience significantly higher unemployment rates, with the unemployment rate for 15–24 year olds at 13 per cent.
The Victorian government can help create meaningful employment opportunities, particularly for people facing disadvantage, by developing and funding a Workforce Participation Plan.
With just one job available for every four people looking for work in Victoria, a high proportion of 15–29-year-olds not in any employment, education or training, and a stubbornly high long-term unemployment level, more local job opportunities are needed to support people to find and keep work. While unemployment has fallen in Victoria over the past 18 months, more can be done to reduce the multiple and complex barriers to employment facing many young people, people with disability, long-term unemployed people (including older long-term unemployed people), Aboriginal people and single parents. The VCOSS 2014 Tackling Unemployment paper outlines four interrelated strategies for overcoming these barriers so more people can get back to work:
The Victorian government can keep young people in education and training and reduce youth unemployment by investing more in Local Learning and Employment Networks (LLENs) to develop local solutions. With high youth unemployment, LLENs play an important role in helping young people develop skills and find work.
Every year LLENs facilitate more than 850 local partnerships between schools, training organisations, employers and community agencies. Between 2011 and 2014, they helped about 250,000 young people. LLENs link schools with other education providers, health and community services, industry, local government and state government. They empower communities to design and deliver ‘joined-up’ local solutions responding to community needs and local service gaps.
LLENs can lift school reengagement rates and tackle youth unemployment by building partnerships between the education, community and employment sectors. Returning LLENs funding levels to 2014 levels of $48 million (indexed), over four years, would help expand this network.
The Victorian government can help young people facing disadvantage complete their education and find stable and secure housing and employment by investing in more Education First Youth Foyers.
The government has established Education First Youth Foyers, co-located with TAFE Colleges at Southbank, Glen Waverley, Richmond, Broadmeadows and Shepparton. These foyers are providing improved education, employment and housing outcomes for young people who are experiencing homelessness. A five-year evaluation will be completed by 2019, but they are already showing substantial improvements for young people in rates of education completion, exits to stable and secure housing, and employment.
The association between people’s failure to complete Year 12 or equivalent and poor employment and housing outcomes is well established. On any given night there are around 4000 young people homeless across Victoria and more than half these are disengaged from education and employment. The number of years people spend in school is a significant predictor of future employment and earnings. Young people with low educational attainment are more likely to be unemployed, less likely to be in full-time work and are more likely to experience lower wages.
Young people who leave school before Year 12 face many potential hardships. Early school leavers, particularly those without post-school qualifications, are at greater risk of low income, unemployment and dependency on government welfare. Education First Youth Foyers can help address these issues.
The Victorian government can lead by example and create jobs for people facing disadvantage by setting public sector employment targets for groups who are underrepresented in the workforce or experiencing high rates of unemployment.
Only 54 per cent of people with disability participate in the Victorian labour force, compared with 82 per cent of people without disability. Negative employer attitudes remain the biggest barrier to employment. The Victorian State Disability Plan 2017–2020 can help address this by including a public sector employment target.
One in five Aboriginal people are unemployed in Australia. While the public sector has had some success in employing Aboriginal people, more can be done.
At June 2015, Aboriginal employees comprised about 1 per cent of the Victorian public sector workforce, and 0.7 per cent of the Victorian population. However, the Aboriginal public sector workforce has a lower median salary than the whole public sector workforce and Aboriginal employees have shorter lengths of service. The forthcoming Victorian Public Sector Commission’s Aboriginal Employment Strategy could help address this.
The Victorian government can help young people with multiple and complex needs enter the workforce by funding services targeted to them. Many young people face multiple and complex barriers to employment, such as limited education and training, poor literacy, poor physical or mental health, inadequate or no housing, parenthood, and a lack of living skills. Wraparound services provide affordable housing, education or training, employment support, living skills training, health services and connections to community. These assist young people with complex needs build a positive future.
The Victorian government can create targeted employment opportunities by setting up purchasing arrangements that help businesses, community organisations and social enterprises to employ Victorians facing barriers.
Social procurement uses the government’s purchasing power to generate positive social outcomes while efficiently purchasing goods, services and infrastructure. They can help create apprenticeships and traineeships for unemployed young people, support social enterprise, and reach targets for Aboriginal and disability employment.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force Status, 6202.0, August 2016.
 Victorian Council of Social Service, Tackling Unemployment, 2014.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Job Vacancies Australia, 6354.0, May 2016 and Australian Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force Australia, 6202.0, May 2016.
 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, Investing in Youth: Australia, Investing in Youth, OECD Publishing, Paris, 2016, p. 46.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force Australia: Detailed – electronic delivery, 6291.0.55.001, August 2016.
 Victorian Council of Social Service, Tackling Unemployment, October 2014.
 LLEN Network, Funding cuts hit youth hard, 2014.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Disability and Labour Force Participation, 4433.0.55.006, 2012.
 National People with Disabilities and Carer Council, Shut Out: The experience of people with disabilities and their families in Australia, Australian Government, May 2012.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey 2014-15, 4714.0, 2016.
 Victorian Public Service Commission, The state of the public service in Victoria 2014-2015, p. 14.
 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Census of Population and Housing 2011.