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In June 2005, Australia's unemployment rate was 5.1 percent, close to a 30-year low. Employment exceeded 10 million. The labor participation rate was 64.7 percent. About 70 percent of the labor force is employed in the services sector, 26 percent in industry, and 4 percent in agriculture.

Australia has an extensive, multifaceted social welfare system designed to address the educational, health care, housing, and income needs of its citizens. More than 4 million Australians are direct beneficiaries of income support payments. Other social welfare programs include family assistance, youth and student support, child-care support, labor-market assistance, housing assistance (both rental and home ownership), support for people with disabilities, support for caregivers, support for the aged, and retirement planning assistance. Residential facilities for aged persons are funded by various sources, including the government. An array of veterans' benefits also are provided by the government, including disability compensation (for veterans and their surviving spouses), a veterans' children education program to provide education allowances and other forms of educational assistance, income support, military compensation and rehabilitation, housing programs, and health care and counseling services.

Education is compulsory from six to 16 years of age in the states of South Australia and Tasmania and to 15 years of age elsewhere in Australia. The final two years of secondary school generally take place after the compulsory stage; 75 percent of students attended the final two years of schooling in 2003. Curricula vary from state to state, but as of early 2005 moves were underway to standardize core education areas and the age of commencement of students. These changes are expected to allow students to have access to 13 years of schooling on a comparable basis anywhere in Australia. In 2003 Australia had 9,607 primary and secondary schools (72 percent of which were government schools), with 3.3 million students (2.3 million in government schools) and 229,576 full-time or full-time equivalent teachers (67 percent in government schools). Australia has approximately 40 institutions of higher education. In 2003, 929,952 students attended institutions of higher education (including about 500,000 women), and institutions of higher learning employed 35,867 faculty (about 60 percent male) and 48,568 non-academic staff (about 60 percent female). As of 2005, the nation's literacy rate was 85 percent.

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Page last modified: 09-07-2011 02:33:33 ZULU