The number of young Australians taking on apprenticeships and traineeships has hit its lowest point in two decades, as the nation lags behind other OECD countries on employment.
An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study, released on Wednesday, found in the 12 months to June 2018, 161,700 people started apprenticeships and traineeships, compared with a peak of 377,000 in 2012. The figures are the lowest since 1998.
For the first time since 2001, the number of people dropping out of programs outdid the number completing them; more than 57 per cent of those who signed up, or nearly 93,000 people.
"In 2009, commencements and completions began to increase alongside the Apprentice Kickstart initiative to address skills shortages in Australia, with a peak around 2012," the report said.
"This was followed by a sharp decline around 2012 to 2013 ... [which] coincided with Australian government changes to incentive payments for qualifications not on the National Skills Needs List."
The report found youth unemployment rates in Australia trail just behind the OECD average at nearly 12 per cent, seeing it rank 18th out of 36 countries.
Nearly one in nine young Australians, or 11 per cent, are not in education, employment or training; 2 percentage points below the OECD average, but 12th-lowest of the countries.
Of all people aged between 15 and 64, 74 per cent were employed in 2018 - "the highest annual employment rate recorded in Australia", according to institute of health and welfare spokesman Dinesh Indraharan. "In July 2019 the female and total employment rates remain at record levels," he said.
The figure puts Australia's employment-to-population ratio 14th out of 36 OECD countries. An Australian Bureau of Statistics report found the number of filled jobs in Australia grew by more than 2 per cent in the last financial year.
As of December 2018, about 9 per cent of workers were underemployed, or not doing as many hours as they would like. This affected more women than men, and had been trending upward for both since the late 1970s.
About 70 per cent of Australians made redundant found work within a year, and 80 per cent within two years. Women, older people, less-educated, part-time and casual workers had significantly less success trying to re-enter the workforce in two years, the report found.
One in nine families with children had no one in the family who was employed.
Generally, people with higher levels of education had more opportunities in their working life.
"Between 2008 and 2018 the proportion of students staying in school until year 12 rose from 69 per cent to 81 per cent for males and from 80 per cent to 89 per cent for females," Mr Indraharan said.
"In 2018, 65 per cent of Australians aged [between] 25 and 64 had a non-school qualification at Certificate III level or above. This is up from 55 per cent in 2009."
In contrast, Australia had one of the highest proportions of people working long hours, or more than 50 hours a week, in the OECD. It ranked 8th out of 35 countries with a proportion of about 13 per cent, but the figure represented a decline from 16 per cent in the previous financial year.
Males were more likely to work, and prefer, long hours.
The report found nearly 11 per cent of jobs in Australia are at high-risk of automation, while a further 25 per cent could change substantially in the way work is done.