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Australia: reporting progress towards skills and education targets

In November, the Council of Australian Governments (COAG) Reform Council reported on the progress of the government towards the COAG reform agenda. Two reports have been released, one focusing on skills and workforce development and the other on education.

Regarding the first theme, the National Agreement for Skills and Workforce Development aims to improve the skill levels of the Australian population to meet the changing needs of the economy, to provide opportunities for all Australians to develop their skills and to strengthen training as a means to deliver the skills needed for improved economic participation of the working age Australians. Under this agreement, two targets have been defined. The first is to halve the proportion of Australians aged 20-64 without higher level qualifications (includes qualifications at Certificate III level or above, and higher education) between 2009 and 2020. The second is to double the number of diploma and advanced diploma completions between 2009 and 2020.

The assessment of the COAG Reform Council shows that Australia is on the right path to achieve the second target, but the prospects for attaining the first target are not as positive. The report shows a high increase in the number of diploma and advanced diploma completions – from 12 269 in 2009 to 66 384 in 2010, stating that “based on this trend, Australia is well on track to deliver the 2020 target.” However, regarding Australia’s ambition to halve the proportion of individuals aged 20-64 without a higher level qualification (23.6% by 2020), the report shows that progress has been slow. The share of Australians aged 20-64 who do not hold higher level qualifications has only modestly decreased between 2008 and 2011 – from 48.1% to 44.7%, respectively. If this trend continues, in 2020 about one third of Australians aged 20-64 will not have a higher qualification, almost 10 percentage points above COAG’s target. The report also indicates that the proportion of Australians aged 20-64 with a higher level qualification increased from 51.9% in 2008 to 55.3% in 2011. However, part of this increase is the result of older workers, typically with lower qualification levels, leaving the working age population and being replaced by younger workers, who usually possess higher qualification levels. The report also highlights that indigenous Australians and people living in disadvantaged areas continue to face more challenges than the non-indigenous population and those living in less disadvantaged areas.

Regarding the report on education, some of the main findings include the need to improve year 12 attainment rates, since no significant progress has been registered between 2008 and 2011, and to reverse the drop in the share of 18-24 year-olds fully engaged in employment, education or training – from 76% in 2008 to 72.5% in 2011 – to which the shrinking full time employment has significantly (and negatively) contributed.

COAG Reform Council – Skills and Workforce Development COAG Reform Council - Education