Approximately two thirds of public rental housing tenants are not participating in the labour force - that is, neither working nor seeking work, according to a report released today by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.
'Unemployed tenants, as well as those working part time but wanting to work more hours, emphasised their need for training, education or experience to help them access work opportunities', said Alison Verhoeven, Head of the Institute's Housing and Disability Group.
'One of the guiding principles of the Commonwealth State Housing Agreement is to support individuals and families to engage fully in society and the economy. However, the targeting of those in greatest need has meant that those households that meet the criteria for assistance are often those which have fewer opportunities in the job market', Ms Verhoeven explained.
The report, Labour force participation in public rental housing in Australia, showed that about 7% of public housing tenants work full time, a further 18% work part time and 23% are unemployed.
'The unemployment rate among public rental housing tenants is considerably higher than in the general population where only 4% of are unemployed', Ms Verhoeven said.
'The highest proportion of unemployed tenants were under the age of 34, but the greatest number of unemployed tenants was in the 35-44 year old age group', Ms Verhoeven said.
These tenants were also most likely to be a sole parent.
'Notwithstanding the high overall unemployment rate, tenants in over 80,000 households would like to increase their work activity, should their barriers to employment be addressed', she said.
Many tenants listed the need for further training, education or experience as a strong influence on their situation.
Younger female tenants with children were more likely to report the need to remain at home to care for children as the main reason for not being in full time work.
The report showed that that there was a relationship between the type of accommodation tenants had before moving into public housing and their employment status.
'Those who had been in private rental accommodation before entering public housing were more likely to be working full time, whereas those who had been homeless were more likely to be unemployed', Ms Verhoeven said.
The report concludes that while the specific circumstances of tenants should be taken into account, strategies aimed at improving workforce activity in the general population could be applied to those in public rental housing.