The purpose of employment services is to provide assistance to help people find employment and/or acquire the skills necessary to find and maintain work. Many also provide support services during the early stages of employment. In Australia, employment services may be delivered by for-profit or not-for-profit organisations (Nevile 2013).

Employment services primarily provide support to recipients of specific income support payments for unemployed individuals, such as the Newstart Allowance. For an individual to continue to receive income support payments, they may be required to meet ‘mutual obligation’ requirements. For more information on types of income support and eligibility, see Unemployment and parenting income support payments

Mutual obligation requirements

Income-support recipients subject to mutual obligation requirements include unemployed people on Newstart Allowance, Youth Allowance, and some receiving Parenting Payment and Special Benefit.

Mutual obligation requirements are tailored to an individual’s circumstance, but often involve:

  • agreeing to a job plan with a provider or the Australian Government Department of Human Services
  • applying for up to 20 jobs per month
  • attending regular appointments with a provider or periodic appointments with Human Services
  • undertaking activities to increase skills and employability, which may include part-time work, study, language training or voluntary work.

The Australian Government provides funding for participatory programs to help unemployed individuals meet these requirements, including Work for the Dole, Youth Jobs PaTH, and the National Work Experience Program. For more information, see the Australian Government Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business website.


The jobactive program funds employment services to support individuals receiving unemployment benefits. Under the program, service providers assist individuals to access relevant training needs, apply for and find employment in suitable jobs. The program also provides financial incentives for qualifying businesses that employ eligible individuals. In 2018, there were 1,700 jobactive service providers in Australia (DJB 2018b).

More than 364,000 job placements were recorded in jobactive during the period April 2017 and March 2018 (DJB 2018a). An individual generally leaves jobactive if they have reduced their reliance on income support to zero. In the 12 months to March 2018, 64% who exited the program during this time reported being employed 3 months after exiting, 21% were unemployed, and 16% had left the labour force (DJB 2018a). For all individuals who exited or remained in the program in the same period, 49% were employed 3 months after exiting, 34% were unemployed and 17% had left the labour force (DJB 2018a).    

Disability Employment Services

The Disability Employment Services (DES) program assists individuals with a disability, injury or health condition to prepare for, find and maintain employment. An individual may receive different services depending on their needs. Services can include resume development and employment-related training. They can also include in-workplace support for employers such as wage subsidies and workplace modifications (DSS 2018b). In 2016–17, 118 service providers were contracted or receiving funding under the program (DSS 2017).

Between 2014–15 and 2017–18, the number of people starting with DES dropped by approximately 6.6%, from around 96,900 to 90,500 (DSS 2017, 2018a). In 2017–18, 49,328 employment placements were recorded. Of these, 32% of individuals were in employment 3 months after DES participation (DSS 2018a).

Community Development Program

The Community Development Program (CDP) is an employment and community development program operating in more than 60 remote regions and more than 1,000 communities across Australia since mid-2015 (PM&C 2018a). About 80% of participants identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Australians (PM&C 2019). As of September 2018, participants had been supported into approximately 27,600 jobs since the CDP began (PM&C 2018b).

Transition to Work

The Transition to Work program provides pre-employment support to improve the work-readiness of young people and help them into work (including apprenticeships and traineeships) or education (DJB 2018d). From February 2016, when the program was introduced, to 31 January 2019, a total of 74,856 young people have started and 31,253 have had a job placement (DJB 2019b).


The ParentsNext program provides parents of young children with services to enable them to plan and prepare for employment by the time their children reach school age (DJB 2019c). Eligible participants receive services including education, training, mentoring, work experience and job opportunities (DJB 2019c). ParentsNext aims to help break the cycle of intergenerational welfare dependency, increase female labour force participation and help Close the Gap in Indigenous employment.

ParentsNext initially operated in 10 Australian local government areas (between April 2016 and June 2018). It was implemented nationally in July 2018 (DJB 2019a). The program has two streams—intensive and targeted. The intensive stream operates in 30 locations identified as having a high level of disadvantage and/or a high proportion of Indigenous parents (DJB 2019a). It provides access to additional support including a Participation Fund, wage subsidies and relocation assistance. The targeted stream operates in all 51 employment regions across Australia (DJB 2019a). The program is expected to assist more than 68,000 parents each year (DJB 2018c).

Where do I go for more information?

For more information on employment services, see:


DJB (Department of Jobs and Small Business) 2018a. Employment Services Outcomes Report, April 2017 – March 2018. Canberra: Department of Jobs and Small Business.

DJB 2018b. jobactive. Canberra: Department of Jobs and Small Business. Viewed 16 November 2018.

DJB 2018c. Minister for Jobs and Innovation media release: ParentsNext helping parents secure employment. Department of Jobs and Small Business. Viewed 12 March 2019.

DJB 2018d. Transition to Work. Canberra: Department of Jobs and Small Business. Viewed 16 November 2018.

DJB 2019a. Budget 2017-18. Canberra: Department of Jobs and Small Business. Viewed 29 April 2019.

DJB 2019b. Custom data request. Canberra: Department of Jobs and Small Business.

DJB 2019c. ParentsNext. Canberra: Department of Jobs and Small Business. Viewed 12 March 2019.

DSS (Department of Social Services) 2017. Annual Report 2016–17. Canberra: Department of Social Services.

DSS 2018a. Annual Report 2017–18. Canberra: Department of Social Services.

DSS 2018b. Disability Employment Services. Canberra: Department of Social Services. Viewed 16 November 2018.

Nevile A 2013. The curse of accountability: assessing relationships in the delivery of employment services. The Economic and Labour Relations Review 24(1): 64–79.

PM&C (Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet) 2018a. Community Development Program reforms. Canberra: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Viewed 16 November 2018.

PM&C 2018b. The Community Development Program. Canberra: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Viewed 16 November 2018.

PM&C 2019. An evaluation of the first two years of the Community Development Programme—Summary. Canberra: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.