Inclusive and Sustainable Employment for Jobseekers Experiencing Disadvantage

Workplace and Employment Barriers
by Fiona Macdonald

This report provides an overview of workplace and job-related factors found to act as barriers to sustainable and inclusive employment for people in groups likely to experience labour market disadvantage. Key findings are that job quality, working arrangements, inclusivity and opportunity for participation at work all matter for inclusive and sustainable employment, along with individual and external systemic and structural barriers to work.

Employment policy and employment assistance for jobseekers focus on individuals’ skills and job readiness, and on job placement. Less attention is given to ensuring placements are into sustainable employment in inclusive workplaces. That is, placement into jobs that people can keep, that support wellbeing and provide opportunity for long-term employment pathways, and in workplaces where people feel safe and are able to participate. Recruiting and placing people experiencing labour market disadvantage into jobs may not lead to positive outcomes if people are not able to retain jobs and benefit from their employment.

Employment can provide people with benefits that improve wellbeing in various ways, including through increasing income, providing routine and increasing social contact. However, where job quality, pay or working conditions are poor, employment can also have cumulative negative effects. Placing people experiencing disadvantage in jobs in which they are insecure, underemployed, or cannot establish daily routines; or placing them in workplaces in which they experience poor or discriminatory treatment and disempowerment, are not likely to produce sustainable employment outcomes or create social value.

This report calls for a greater focus on workplace and job-related factors, including employer knowledge, employment practices, work organisation, job quality and employment arrangements, to addressing barriers to employment for disadvantaged jobseekers. Emphasis on employment placement alone is not likely to produce sustainable employment outcomes. Action is required to tackle barriers present in workplaces and in employment arrangements.

This report was commissioned by Jobsbank, a Victorian-based not-for-profit organisation that works with business and other partners to support sustainable, inclusive employment and make social procurement work. In Victoria, the Government’s Social Procurement Framework aims to improve employment outcomes for people from groups experiencing labour market disadvantage through requiring suppliers and contractors tendering for high value government contracts to employ people from these groups. The Victorian Government’s Fair Jobs Code promotes fair labour standards, secure employment and job security, equity and diversity, and cooperative workplace relationships and workers’ representation. This report recommends that employers be encouraged to develop strategies to meet these standards through collaboration with unions and community groups as one obvious way to address workplace and employment factors that create barriers to sustainable and inclusive employment for disadvantaged jobseekers.

Full report