The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare is a major national agency whose purpose is to help improve the health and wellbeing of all Australians.

Their latest report: “Australia’s welfare 2019: in brief” has some useful insights on a wide range of topics.

What the report covers

Australia’s welfare 2019: in brief paints a picture of the factors affecting welfare and wellbeing in Australia. The report’s chapters provide key insights and findings on housing, education and skills, employment and work, income and finance – including government payments, social support, justice and safety, and issues related to Indigenous Australians.

Factors contributing to wellbeing

A positive sense of wellbeing is associated with being comfortable, happy or healthy, the report says. Wellbeing, they suggest, is the result of many interrelated factors. The determinants include family functioning, social engagement, material resources, health status, support networks, employment and skills, secure housing, as well as personal factors and behaviours. It is also affected by housing quality and living conditions, housing status, employment status, safety and security, educational attainment and health.

In terms of welfare indicators Australia is doing well. Others are not so good. For example, the report says that one in four unemployed people are long-term unemployed, and this is up from 15% in 2009.

Our focus: education and skills and employment and work

Well, we all know that, “generally, the higher a person’s level of education, the more opportunities they have in their working life.” So, finishing school and getting some form of higher education is important, they suggest.

However, they report that the number of Australians undertaking apprenticeships and traineeships has fallen from 336,600 in 2014 to 267,400 in 2018. Female participation has also dropped from 3 in 10 to 1 in 4. The numbers starting an apprenticeship or traineeship is also the lowest since 1998 at 161,700 and is less than half the starts in 2012. The snapshot for the report suggests that the decline coincided with Australian Government changes to incentive payments for qualifications not on the National Skills Needs List and was steeper for non-trades than trades.

The devil, of course, will be in the detail and it is likely that falls in traineeship numbers in particular industry sectors have accounted for a lot of this. That is where the NCVER’s apprentice and traineeship data products come into their own to help stakeholders understand what is going on. On the upside, the report points out, is that “8 in 10 (80%) apprentices and trainees are employed after completing their training.”

Another upside is that more Australians have now have non-school qualifications, and the figures are up from 12% in 2008 to 14% in 2018. These non-school qualifications include Certificates I to IV, Diplomas and qualifications at Bachelor level or above.

“In 2018, 3 in 5 (60%, or 11 million) Australians aged 15–74 had a non-school qualification’” the report says. In addition, they report that 45% have a Bachelor degree or above and 30% have a Certificate II or IV. The snapshot on VET and higher education gives some other useful insights into the data.

What about the picture on employment and skills? Here they report that:

“Most Australians get all or at least some of their income from employment and, increasingly, that employment is part time.”

This, they suggest, suits some people, but not others who see themselves as underemployed. An upside has been the considerable increase in females in the workforce, rising from 46% in 1978 to 70% in 2018. Male levels of employment have been largely static at around the 80% mark over the period. The snapshot on employment trends provides other insights VDC News readers may find useful.