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Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - Summary report 2023


The employment rate – the number of employed people as a proportion of the working age population – remains much lower among Indigenous Australians than non-Indigenous Australians. Increasing levels of educational attainment have not translated into higher employment rates for Indigenous Australians, partly due to large declines in employment rates in remote areas, regardless of education level (Venn & Biddle 2018).

In 2018–19, 49% (243,800) of Indigenous Australians aged 15–64 were employed, compared with 76% of non-Indigenous Australians in the same age group.

The employment rate gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians is largest among those aged 25–54 and those living in more remote areas (Figure 5.3).

Figure 5.3: Employment rate (people aged 15–64), by Indigenous status, 2017–19

Employment rate, by age groupEmployment rate by remoteness

Sources: Measure 2.07, Table D2.07.3 and Table D2.07.6 – AIHW and ABS analysis of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Survey 2018–19 and National Health Survey 2017–18.

For many Indigenous Australians, there is a conflict between family responsibilities and finding and keeping a job (Venn & Biddle 2018). A recent study found that education, disability, and having spent time in prison were the most important factors underlying labour force participation (Dinku & Hunt 2021).

Nearly 2 in 5 (38%) Indigenous Australians in remote areas who were unemployed reported a lack of any jobs as a barrier to finding work, compared with 1 in 5 (22%) unemployed Indigenous Australians in non-remote areas. Among Indigenous Australians in non-remote areas who were unemployed, 1 in 3 (33%) reported not having a driver’s licence as a barrier to finding work (Table 5.1).

Table 5.1: Top 5 difficulties finding work, unemployed Indigenous Australians aged 15–64, 2014–15



No jobs in local area or line of work 44% (5,700)

No jobs in local area or line of work 38% (15,500)

No jobs at all 38% (4,900)

Don't have driver's licence 33% (13,500)

Transport problems/distance 27% (3,500)

Transport problems/distance 33% (13,300)

Insufficient education, training, skills 22% (2,800)

Insufficient education, training, skills 32% (13,000)

Don't have driver's licence 19% (2,400)

No jobs at all 22% (8,800)

Source: Measure 2.07, Table D2.07.10 – AIHW and ABS analysis of National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey 2014–15.

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