• Three-part documentary series The Employables premieres Wednesday, 22 August at 8.30pm on SBS (Supplied )Source: Supplied
Eight minority groups are facing a disproportionate number of challenges when it comes to landing a job in the Aussie work place.
Nicola Heath

21 Aug 2018 - 10:29 AM  UPDATED 24 Aug 2018 - 1:40 PM

Right now, in 2018, Australia's unemployment rate sits at 5.4 per cent. This might not seem alarming, but for the fact that disadvantaged minority groups form a solid portion of those unemployed in Australia and facing significant challenges when it comes to landing a job.

Indigenous Australians, immigrants and refugees, the LGBTIQ+ community, people with disabilities, youth, the elderly, single parents and former prisoners all face a significantly higher incidence of prejudice or discrimination and a greater chance of being denied employment opportunities.

Indigenous Australians

In 2016, the unemployment rate for Indigenous Australians was 18.4 per cent, 2.4 times the non-indigenous rate (then 6.8 per cent). Unemployment is more pronounced in the remote and rural communities where Indigenous unemployment rates are in excess of 28 percent.

According to data collected in the 2014 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey (NATSISS), labour force participation was lower for women and people living in remote areas.

An article published at The Conversation by a group of ANU researchers outline some of the many barriers that make it difficult for Indigenous people to find and maintain employment. “On the demand side, the location of jobs, structural changes in the labour market and employer discrimination impact the employment opportunities available to Indigenous people,” states the article. “On the supply side - health, education and training, work experience and caring responsibilities limit the participation of Indigenous people in the workforce.”


According to the 2016 Census, 48 per cent of humanitarian migrants over the age of 15 who received their permanent visa between 2000 and 2016 were in the labour workforce. Of those, 20.3 per cent were unemployed. 

Despite many new arrivals being highly skilled and university educated, the struggle to secure new employment is exacerbated by language barriers, transport challenges and workplace prejudices.

The latest Australian Bureau of Statistics data reveals migrants from the Middle East experience more challenges finding jobs than any other immigrants.

The unemployment rate for job seekers from North Africa and Middle East in 2016 was 9.2 per cent, almost four points higher than the national rate of 5.6 per cent,


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People with disabilities 

In 2015, 83 per cent of people without a disability in Australia are in the workforce, compared to only 53 per cent of those who have disabilities. For people with a severe or profound limitation, workforce participation has dropped from 30 per cent in 2003 to 25 per cent in 2015.

The Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission had 8,278 inquiries raising 11,210 issues in the 2016/17 financial year. Almost 1800 issues related to disability, making it the most commonly reported form of discrimination.

LGBTIQ+ people

The unemployment plight of the transgender community is evident in their disproportionately high representation in the country’s homeless shelters. According to a news article published in BuzzFeed in 2015, one Sydney crisis housing centre estimated that 12 per cent of its clients were transgender women. The 2014 General Social Survey, carried out by the ABS, found that gay or lesbian people and people with other sexual orientations were more likely to have experienced homelessness than people who identify as heterosexual.

While the climate for the LGBTQI community is improving, a 2016 report found that nearly half of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex Australians choose to hide their sexual identity at work, while sixty percent of LGBTI people in Australia have reported experiencing verbal homophobic abuse in the workplace.

Former prisoners

University of Melbourne study published in 2014 revealed that the majority of ex-prisoners in Australia are unemployed and/or homeless within six months after their release. The prisoner population is Australia is growing: in March 2018, the number of prisoners in Australia exceeded 42,000, a 3.8 per cent increase from March 2017.

Single parents

In 2015, one in three Australian single parents were unemployed, accounting for 302,900 families.

Balancing parenting with workplace responsibilities is a constant struggle for single mums and dads who often face reluctance from employers to provide flexible workplace arrangements. 

Rural youth

Youth unemployment (15-24 years) in Australia is currently sitting at 12.2 per cent, more than twice the rate for the broader population.

According to a 2018 Brotherhood of St Laurence report compiled using ABS data, outback Queensland has the highest level of youth unemployment in Australia, with 67.1 per cent of 15 to 24-year-olds without work.

Recently redundant elderly workers

It takes older job seekers longer to find a job – the average length of unemployment for workers aged 55 to 64 is 116 weeks, far exceeding the national average of 46 weeks.

A survey by the Australian Human Rights Commission in 2015 revealed that 27 per cent of people over the age of 50 had experience age discrimination in the workplace. One third of those who had experienced discrimination gave up looking for work completely.

This has a significant negative impact not only on individuals, but also the economy and society more broadly, with elderly Australians living longer than ever before and forced to rely on government support in their old age. 

'The Employables' premieres Wednesday 22 August at 8.30pm on SBS. Episodes will be available after broadcast anytime, anywhere via SBS On Demand. 

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