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How Australia compares

Australia's skills snapshot

Australia performs well in preparing its youth with the foundation skills they need for today’s modern economies, but more could be done to ensure that there is a closer match between the skills obtained by Australian youth in initial education and those required in the labour market.

Key findings

Developing the relevant skills

  • How well does Australia’s education system perform? In the 2009 PISA tests of 15-year-olds, Australia is among the top performing OECD countries in reading (rank 9), mathematics (rank 15) and science (rank 10).1
  • Does Australia invest enough in education and training? Australia spent 6% of its annual income on education in 2009, compared to the OECD average of 6.2%.2
  • How much are Australian citizens undertaking further education? In 2008, 30% of Australian citizens participated in countinuing non-formal education compared to the OECD average of 34%.3
  • How equal is access to opportunities for further training in Australia? In 2007, 53% of people aged 25-64 with a tertiary-level education participated in formal and/or non-formal education, compared with 23% for people in the same age group with below upper secondary education.4 
  • Should more be done to prevent skills shortages? Partly reflecting the rise in unemployment between 2007 and 2011,5 the proportion of Australian employers reporting recruitment difficulties fell from 61%  to 54% over the same period.6,7

Supplying skills

  • Is there scope to improve skill utilisation in Australia through strengthening labour force participation? In 2011, 83% of people aged between 25 and 54 were in the labour force, compared to an OECD average of 81%.8 The participation rate for prime-age women (aged 25-54) is above the OECD average at 76% in 2011 (OECD average 71%).9
  • To what extent are Australia’s older workers supplying their skills to the labour market? In 2011, 63.2% of people aged 55 to 64 were in the labour force, compared to an OECD average of 57.8%.10

Using skills

  • How smooth is the transition from school to work for Australia’s youth? The employment rate of Australia’s youth in 2011 was 60.7%, compared with the OECD average of 39.3%.11 In 2011, the unemployment rate of Australia’s youth was 11.3%, a relatively low rate compared with the OECD average of 16.2%.12
  • Are the qualifications of Australia’s workers well matched with the requirements of their jobs? In 2005, 40% of Australia’s workers were over-qualified for their jobs (against the OECD average of 25%), and 25.5% were under-qualified (against the OECD average of 22%).13 Over-qualified (under-qualified) workers are those who have a higher (lower) qualification than the most common qualification of all other workers in the same occupation.

Key recommendations from the OECD Skills Strategy

A country can develop the relevant skills by encouraging and enabling people to learn throughout life; fostering international mobility of skilled people to fill skills gaps; and promoting cross-border skills policies.

A country can activate the supply of skills by encouraging people to offer their skills to the labour market and retaining skilled people in the labour market.

A country can put skills to effective use by creating a better match between people’s skills and the requirements of their job and increasing the demand for high-level skills.

For more information, see the:

OECD Policy Map on Skills | OECD Skills Strategy | Skills Strategy: Overview

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