Where the jobs are

There are over 2 million organisations in Australia, employing 12.8 million people. The Health and social services sector employs the most people, followed by retail, construction, professional services, education, and accommodation and food.

Overall, public administration employs the largest number of people in Australia – 2,046,700, with 1.6 million people working in state and territory government, 242,000 employed in Commonwealth government and 194,000 in local government.

Public sector employees are primarily employed in public administration and safety, education and training, health care and social assistance.

Service industries employ about 80% of the work force.

The mining industry employs 234,000 people, but when mining services are included the broader sector accounts for over 1 million employees.

The productive industries of manufacturing, agriculture, ICT and the creative industries employ the remainder.

Full time, contract, self-employed, freelance, part time and temporary work

The number of full time jobs is decreasing. About 4 million people now work on short-term contracts, are self employed, freelance, part time or temporary workers – “Gig economy” workers.

Employment is measured in Australia by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which classifies a person as employed if, when surveyed, the person worked for one hour or more during the week.

When compared to other employment research (eg Roy Morgan), the ABS figures on employment are consistently lower.  So it is important to understand how employment and underemployment is measured and the basis for the percentages published.

It is worth visiting the Roy Morgan website to understand why.

Mining, agriculture, tourism and education drive export income

Industries in Australia can be divided into extractive, productive and services sectors.

Extractive and productive industries produce products and services that can be sold into international markets for export income. Australia relies heavily on mining, agriculture, tourism and education for overseas income and royalties.

Australia exports iron ore, coal, gas, food, machinery, transport equipment, medicines, scientific instruments, buildings, as well as engineering, surveying, architectural, veterinary, design, mining, energy and environmental services.

Productive industries

Australia has a wide range of productive industries including education, manufacturing, agriculture, arts and recreation, media and communications, professional services, mining services, construction, health and social services, where value can be added through innovation, technology, design, branding and advertising to improve the product or service, increase price and the prospect of sales into local and international markets.

Productive industries provide the basis for greater diversification of Australia’s economy, offering protection against over reliance on a small number of industry sectors – mining, agriculture, education and tourism.


Science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), plus art/design (STEAM) subjects are increasingly relevant in all industries.

As software continues to evolve and provide tools and business support in all areas of business activity, including administration, management, sales, marketing and production, digital literacy is becoming a fundamental requirement.

Workers in all industries now need a level of digital comprehension and digital literacy that was not necessary in the past.

Software integration, machine learning and artificial intelligence are automating routine business functions and processes, eliminating many existing jobs as well as creating new jobs requiring a higher level of skills.

So workers now need digital skills, the ability to use Microsoft Office or similar tools effectively, and the capacity to gain new skills and apply existing skills to new work environments. Reskilling and upskilling have become a standard.

Increasingly, all workers will need to be flexible, resilient, creative, innovative, problem solvers, critical thinkers and analysers – the result of STEAM education.

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