Skip to content

Dealing with unemployment: What should be the role of labour market programs?

17 December 2014




This review presents a summary of evidence on outcomes from active labour market programs. Active labour market programs aim to increase the likelihood of employment for individuals who are unemployed or at risk of unemployment. The focus of this review is on studies of active labour market programs in Australia, supplemented with international evidence. An overview and historical background on active labour market programs is provided, as well as an introduction to the empirical methods used to estimate the effect of the programs. Evidence on the effects of the main types of programs – case management, work experience programs and formal education and training – is reviewed, and the main findings are distilled into a set of lessons for policy makers. The review concludes that active labour market programs cannot by themselves have a major impact on the rate of unemployment, but some spending on these programs is justified by outcomes such as increasing the pool of unemployed who are job ready and sharing the burden of unemployment. Job search and wage subsidy programs are suggested to be good ways to assist unemployed who are less disadvantaged. For unemployed with higher levels of disadvantage, priority should be given to programs that create jobs with opportunities for linked training, and that provide a pathway to a permanent job.

A systematic evidence review published by ANZSOG’s open access peer-reviewed journal Evidence Base.

Suggested citation

Borland, J. (2014). Dealing with unemployment: What should be the role of labour market programs? Evidence Base, 2015(4): 1-27, doi 10.4225/50/558110C9B892D.

Authors: Jeff Borland
Published Date: 17 December 2014