Jobseekers need more help, says OECD

Australia faces a slowing economy that will require some fine-tuning of its labour market framework after producing one of the highest rates of employment growth in the industrialised world, a global agency says.

The Organisation of Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report released on Tuesday says labour market reforms over the past 15 years have boosted employment and cut welfare dependency.

But more effort is needed to help disadvantaged jobseekers get back to work and address the high number of people in part-time work who want full-time jobs.

The report - Activating Jobseekers: How Australia Does It - shows the nation has the second highest employment rate of the OECD Group of 20 industrialised countries at 72.5 per cent, behind Germany on 72.7 per cent.

It says the September unemployment rate of 5.4 per cent was one of the lowest in the OECD. Recent official labour force data for November released last week shows the jobless rate has subsequently fell to 5.2 per cent.

Releasing the report in Sydney with federal employment participation minister Kate Ellis, OECD director of employment, labour and social affairs John Martin said Australia had a flexible labour market with a fairly high minimum wage and high levels of casual and part-time work.

"Australia's unique approach to activating jobseekers has yielded significant gains to the economy and society," Mr Martin said.

"However, it is facing a stress test of a slowing economy and rising unemployment which may necessitate some further fine-tuning."

The OECD says Australia's system has worked well in delivering employment services for the unemployed through private and not-for-profit providers and exhibited a slow decline in the value of unemployment benefits relative to average wages.

But the Paris-based institution made a number of recommendations, including an increase in the maximum fees paid to employment service providers placing disadvantaged jobseekers in long-term stable jobs to encourage greater investment in training.

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