The most recent Australian Bureau of Statistics study on Indigenous people in the workforce maintains a long-term pattern of low participation. According to research findings, non-traditional recruitment agencies, additional education, and continued mentoring and support are critical to increasing the participation figures.
While the employment gap narrowed between 1994 and 2008, it appears to have stalled since then. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the labour force participation rate for Indigenous Australians was 58%, compared to 77% for non-indigenous Australians.
Indigenous males were more likely than indigenous females to be in the labour force (65% vs. 52%), as were people in non-remote areas vs. those in remote areas (61% and 49%, respectively). The survey also discovered that Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults over the age of 15 were much less likely to be employed than non-Indigenous persons.
Barriers to Indigenous people finding and sustaining employment are the cause of this employment gap. On the demand side, job location, labour market structural change, and employer prejudice all have an impact on Indigenous people’s chances of finding work. Health, education and training, work experience, and caring obligations limit participation on the supply side.
The ABS study is based on data from the 2014 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, which was recently released (NATSISS). This information explains a lot about the reasons behind the disparity in Indigenous labour participation.
The outcomes of education are a major determinant of employment and Aboriginal Support. A degree-holding Indigenous male or female has an employment rate of 85 per cent or 74 per cent, respectively. This drops to 62% and 50% for those who have completed Year 12 only, and 43% and 32% for those who have completed Year 9 or less. Education does not determine employment on its own, although it is a significant component.
Current Indigenous employment policies emphasise education but are silent on discrimination. According to the NATSISS data, 33% of adult males and 37% of adult females reported receiving some type of unjust treatment in the preceding year (excluding those who responded that they did not know). It’s worth noting that these percentages are greater for employed Indigenous Australians (35% for men and 38% for women) than for unemployed Indigenous Australians (32% and 36%).
The second most common source of unjust treatment was during employment or when applying for work. It’s understandable that some Indigenous Australians might be hesitant to enter the labour market as a result of this, given that this and other studies reveal that discrimination and unjust treatment are a very real and highly destructive part of the labour market for Indigenous Australians.
There are also significant gender and age inequalities, according to the 2014 NATSISS. Indigenous males under 40 have much greater employment rates than females, just like the rest of the population.
The gender gap narrows significantly for individuals aged 40 and up, with an Indigenous male aged 50-54 being somewhat less likely to be employed than an Indigenous female of the same age. As a result, elder Indigenous males are at the greatest danger of losing their jobs.
According to research, there are a few policies that have the potential to assist Indigenous people in finding work. These were the following:
- Increasing Indigenous Australians’ skill levels through formal education and training
- Pre-employment testing and personalised training to get Indigenous job seekers work-ready
- Recruitment and workplace rules that promote an Indigenous-friendly work environment and ensure that Indigenous people have an equal chance of landing jobs (for example, providing cultural leave)
- Employer cross-cultural training
However, recruiting is insufficient. Overly high expectations, prejudice and racism, and a lack of acknowledgement of abilities and knowledge are just a few of the challenges to Indigenous workers’ retention in the public sector.
Some solutions to retain employees includes –
- Ongoing mentoring and assistance along with indigenous procurement policy
- Flexible work arrangements that help Indigenous employees to balance work, family, and community duties
- Support for Indigenous employees’ families
- Dealing with racism in the workplace through initiatives that address the larger workplace culture
In the end, the research reveals that what is going on in the larger labour market is the most important factor influencing Indigenous workforce participation and employment. The state of the economy is critical at the national level. Changes in government funding and industry structure have a disproportionate impact on Indigenous Australians at the local and community level.
However, we lack comprehensive research on which specific interventions will have a meaningful and cost-effective impact on Indigenous employment participation. We haven’t paid attention to the evidence of what has been proved to work (and what hasn’t) in other situations.
Not only has this issue gone unnoticed, but there has also been a lack of genuine self-determination in terms of what Indigenous peoples of Aboriginal and Torres Strait think about priorities and policy solutions.