The world of work is changing. Digitalisation, globalisation, and population ageing are having a profound impact on the type and quality of jobs that are available and the skills required to perform them. The extent to which individuals, firms and economies can reap the benefits of these changes will depend critically on the readiness of adult learning systems to help people develop and maintain relevant skills over their working careers.

To explore this issue, the OECD Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs has undertaken an ambitious programme of work on the functioning, effectiveness and resilience of adult learning systems across countries. This includes the creation of the Priorities for Adult Learning (PAL) dashboard for comparing the readiness of each country’s adult learning system to address future skills challenges, as well as a cross-country report, “Getting Skills Right: Future-Ready Adult Learning Systems,” which showcases relevant policy examples from OECD and emerging countries. The Directorate is also carrying out a series of in-depth country reviews of adult learning systems to offer a comprehensive analysis of the key areas where policy action is required.

This report reviews Australia’s existing set of financial incentives to promote adult learning, and analyses how they could be reformed to promote engagement among adults and employers. Chapter 1 presents an overview of recent trends in participation and provision, and summarises the types of financial incentives that are currently in place to promote adult learning. Chapter 2 identifies the main barriers to greater engagement in adult learning. It discusses how various types of financial incentives could be implemented to overcome these barriers, drawing on international and Australian experience. Chapter 3 provides an assessment of Australia’s current system, and considers the feasibility of various policy options.

The work on this report was carried out by Katharine Mullock from the Skills and Employability Division of the Directorate for Employment, Labour and Social Affairs under the supervision of Glenda Quintini (Skills team manager) and Mark Keese (Head of the Skills and Employability Division). The report benefited from helpful contributions from colleagues in the Skills and Employability division. Special thanks are given to the many Australian stakeholders who participated in telephone meetings between January and March 2019, and provided documentation and comments critical to the report’s production.

This report is published under the responsibility of the Secretary General of the OECD, with the financial assistance of the Australian Department of Education and Training, the Department of Jobs and Small Business, and the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business1. The views expressed in this report should not be taken to reflect the official position of OECD member countries.


← 1. As a result of machinery of government changes announced on 29 May 2019, the area of Department of Education and Training responsible for skills and training has merged with the former Department of Jobs and Small Business, which is now the Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business.

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