Produced by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and supported by the Ecstra Foundation, the ‘Faces of Unemployment 2021’ report draws on Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) and administrative data to paint a picture of unemployment and those affected.

Among the report’s key findings:

  • 80 per cent of people receiving JobSeeker payments – a record high of 826,000 people – have had to rely on income support for more than a year.
  • The current figure is more than double the previous peak of 350,000 after the 1991 recession, which prompted a billion-dollar investment in employment assistance including wage subsidies and training.
  • Among people on income support for over two years, over half (54%) have a disability and almost half (46%) are over 55 years, underscoring widespread discrimination in the labour market against people with disability and older people.
  • People’s chances of securing full-time paid employment (within the next year) falls from over 50 per cent when they are unemployed for less than three months, to less than 25 per cent once unemployed for over two years.
  • The effective unemployment rate (which accounts for people stood down and those who left the paid workforce) was 9.5 per cent in September, double the conventional unemployment measure of 4.5 per cent.
  • There are six people either seeking paid work or more paid working hours (along with many others changing jobs) for every job vacancy.
  • Two thirds of people on Jobseeker and Youth Allowance have high-school qualification only, yet the number of ‘entry-level jobs’ is declining. From August 2019 to August 2021, managerial and professional jobs rose by 405,000, while entry-level jobs (such as hospitality, personal services, sales and labouring jobs) fell by 148,000.
  • While there are more unfilled vacancies as lockdowns ease, most are in positions that require qualifications that people on Jobseeker payment don’t have, involve heavy physical work (unsuitable for many people with physical disabilities), inflexible hours for caring responsibilities or are in places they can’t afford to move to (with rents rising by 17% in the past year in regional Australia).

Download the report


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