Higher participation in education and employment

Many Victorians face challenges to participate in secure work

The Victorian labour market is characterised by near record-high labour force participation rates and very low unemployment rates. The strong labour market conditions are encouraging more Victorians into work or to actively look for work, with stronger chances of success compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Since 2019, regional Victoria has had even lower unemployment rates (3.1% compared with 3.7% in Victoria as at May 2023). However, the participation rate is also consistently lower (63.1% compared with 67.6% in Victoria).31 While this trend is consistent across most regional areas, there are disparities across the regions reflecting different levels of disadvantage across regions.

There has also been a shift in the duration of unemployment, with the proportion of long-term unemployed (defined as a duration of unemployment of 12 months or more)32 trending downwards since mid-2021.33

Despite the strong labour market, not all Victorians have been able to share the benefits that come with secure employment. Many Victorians face challenges to participate in secure work, which are often complex and multi-faceted. These barriers may include lack of appropriate skills, especially the lack of exposure to digital tools common in many workplaces, the risk of foregoing income support in return for work which may be insecure, the confidence to engage in work, lack of transport to access work, lack of housing, and ongoing caring responsibilities (or lack of flexibility in work to cater for such circumstances).

First Nations peoples as well as Victorians with disability face high unemployment rates in Victoria. First Nations peoples have an unemployment rate of 9.6%, while it is 12.2% for Victorians with disability – two to three times higher than the Victorian average (Figure 4.2). More detailed discussion on these cohorts is provided in the Victorian Skills Plan for 2023 into 2024(opens in a new window)

Figure 4.2: Unemployment and participation rates by demographic group, Victoria (May 2023) unless otherwise stated

CategoryUnemployment rateParticipation rate
Age 25–443%88%
Mature aged (45+)3%52%
Women (45+)2%47%
Postgraduate education2%88%
Completed Year 125%69%
Certificate III or IV3%73%
Bachelor's degree3%83%
Did not complete Year 127%39%
Diploma or advanced diploma3%75%
Graduate diploma or graduate certificate2%76%
Lone parents (children under 15)7%71%
Regional VIC (rest of VIC SA4)3%63%
Recent migrants (English speaking countries)7%91%
Recent migrants (other than English speaking countries)8%66%
Youth (15–24)8%70%
First Nations (2021)9.6%58.5%
Disability (2018)12.2%51.9%

Note: where seasonally adjusted data are not reported by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) a three month average is calculated. However, a 12 month average is applied for the youth (15–24 years) cohort. A six month average is applied for recent migrants (arrived in Australia within the last five years). First Nations peoples are based on data from the ABS Census 2021. Disability is for people aged 15 to 64 years that reported a disability based on ABS, Disability, Ageing and Carers, 2018. Highest level of education attainment is based on quarterly data reported by the ABS as at May 2023.

Source: ABS, Labour Force, Australia, May 2023; ABS, Labour Force, Detailed, Australia, May 2023; ABS, Disability, Ageing and Carers, Australia: Summary of Findings, 2018; ABS, Census Tablebuilder, 2021.

Women face barriers entering work as they often carry a greater share of caring and domestic responsibilities, and face a gender pay gap, lack of workplace flexibility and industrial and occupational gender segregation.


31 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, May 2023.

32 The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Long-term unemployment rate

33 The proportion of long-term unemployed is the number of long-term unemployed divided by the total unemployed. The sharp decline in the proportion of long-term unemployed in late 2020 was due to the increase in total unemployed, rather than a decline in long-term unemployed.