Labour Markets and Employment

Our researchers are advancing knowledge of workforce supply and demand by analysing the dynamics of employment over the entire lifecycle and evaluating the effectiveness of policies in improving labour market outcomes.

The study of labour markets is crucial to a well-functioning society. Underutilisation of labour affects the economic wellbeing of individuals and the entire nation.

We work with government, industry and the health and superannuation sectors to evaluate employment, welfare, retirement and tax and transfer policies, and to inform the development of appropriate measures for increasing labour force participation – particularly among under-represented or vulnerable groups within society.

At the Melbourne Institute, we are renowned for our quantitative skills: we use the most appropriate econometric techniques for analysis and evaluation to further our understanding of social policies and their impact on labour market outcomes. Our analysis of the labour market is informed by a range of national datasets including:

  • Workforce participation and dynamics

    We’re investigating the dynamics of workforce participation over the entire lifecycle as well as at specific life stages. Our focus is on groups that are under-represented in employment or experience disadvantage or discrimination in entering or maintaining employment. We evaluate policies and social intervention programs designed to mitigate the effects of gender, age, disability, education and ethnicity on workforce participation. Our research into policies around income support, paid parental leave, retirement and tax incentives provides essential intelligence to policymakers and helps to ensure interventions are having the desired impact.

    We seek to answer the complex question of how to incentivise work while ensuring those in need can access an appropriate level of income support. We’re currently working as part of a national team to evaluate the Department of Social Services $96.1 million Try, Test and Learn Fund, which is trialling innovative approaches to assist vulnerable families to move towards stable, sustainable independence. The objective of Try, Test and Learn is to generate new insights and empirical evidence into successful methods of moving disadvantaged people at risk of long-term welfare dependence into stable employment.

    Our Melbourne Institute Tax and Transfer Simulator (MITTS) is a powerful tool that allows us to assess the impact of actual and hypothetical tax and transfer policies on labour force participation, hours worked, income distribution and poverty.

  • Workplace conditions and structure

    Our researchers are examining the structure and conditions of employment and how changes in the labour market influence job design. We’re investigating the quality of employment in relation to wages, utilisation of skills, contract arrangements and job security, and how this differs between various population groups. Our researchers are delving into issues such as the gender divide in the minimum wage, the distribution of wage growth, the casualisation of work and the polarisation of employment conditions.

  • Labour market and workforce demand

    Our research provides important insights into the structure and conditions of Australia’s labour market, including its current state and how it is changing over time. The Australian economy has shifted primarily from a solid manufacturing base to a dominant service-based economy. Given this focus on knowledge-based activities, we are researching the extent to which organisations are demanding certain types of labour, the structure of the market and the effects of the growth or decline of particular industries and occupational groups.

Program Details


Program Coordinators: Professor Guyonne Kalb and Professor John De New

Research staff

Partnerships and Funding

This program is/has been funded through grants and research contracts provided by a variety of sources, including Australian State and Federal Government departments, the ARC, the NHMRC, New Zealand Treasury.


Working Papers

Research Insights