Low socio-economic status fact sheet

This fact sheet was originally published 15 December 2023.


This fact sheet provides a high-level overview of findings from the Pathways Outcomes for Learners dashboard relating to students from low socioeconomic status (SES) areas.

The Pathways Outcomes for Learners dashboard maps the journeys of about 140,000 NSW students from school at age 15 (in 2004 and 2005) to employment at age 24 (in 2013 and 2014). Socioeconomic status is based on the student’s home address in Year 10 using Socio‑Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA). This fact sheet compares outcomes for NSW students from the most disadvantaged suburbs (bottom 25%) with outcomes for students from the most advantaged suburbs (top 25%).

  • 65% of students from low SES areas completed Year 12.
  • 54% of students from low SES areas were earning above minimum wage at age 24.
  • 63% of students from low SES areas enrolled in tertiary VET, while 32% enrolled in university.
  • VET study in management and commerce was the most common tertiary field of study for students from low SES areas.
  • Professionals was the most common occupation for students from low SES areas.

The Pathways for the Future Program aims to create a comprehensive evidence base for the department to improve the education and training system to better prepare our students as lifelong learners and equip them with the knowledge, skills and attributes for meaningful work and life.

This program builds on the pilot project which was established in 2017 by the NSW Department of Industry. This aimed to better understand young people’s education-to-work pathways, drive improvements to education and work outcomes, and lift overall system performance.

The Pathways Outcomes for Learners (BETA) uses the data from the Pathways for the Future Pilot Project which linked demographic, education, and employment data on over 3.5 million NSW young people aged 15 to 24 from 1996 to 2016.

The Pilot data is de-identified and aggregated, and individual students and learners cannot be identified.

Using this data, we analysed different student and learner groups, mapped their pathways through senior secondary school, tertiary education and into work at age 24, and explored the drivers of positive employment outcomes.

The following caveats should be kept in mind when using the dashboard:

  • The data for each student and learner group provides a snapshot of education to employment pathways up to age 24. Longer term outcomes for each group may vary, especially for pathways with longer study lengths.
  • The data presented is descriptive and exploratory in nature and does not identify root causes of educational outcomes achieved by students.
  • Education to employment pathways can be shaped by many factors not explored in this dashboard, including economic, wellbeing and social circumstances as well as student experiences with the justice, health and social services systems. These factors are likely to be especially important when looking at particular segments of young people.

Further releases of information will include insights from the expanded Program, including up-to-date and a wider breadth of data.

The NSW Department of Education would like to acknowledge the assistance of the following organisations in the supply of data and preparation of this visualisation tool:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)
  • Australian Government Department of Education
  • Macquarie University Human Research Ethics Committee
  • NSW Education Standards Authority (NESA)
  • NSW Skills Board
  • The Centre for Health Record Linkage (CHeReL), NSW Ministry of Health

A note about Multi-Agency Data Integration Project (MADIP) data:

The results of these studies are based, in part, on tax data supplied by the Australian Taxation Office (ATO) to the ABS under the Taxation Administration Act 1953, which requires that such data is only used for the purpose of administering the Census and Statistics Act 1905. Any discussion of data limitations or weaknesses is in the context of using the data for statistical purposes, and is not related to the ability of the data to support the ATO's core operational requirements.

Legislative requirements to ensure privacy and secrecy of these data have been followed. For access to MADIP data under section 16A of the Australian Bureau of Statistics Act 1975 or enabled by section 15 of the Census and Statistics (Information Release and Access) Determination 2018, source data are de-identified and so data about specific individuals has not been viewed in conducting this analysis. In accordance with the Census and Statistics Act 1905, results have been treated where necessary to ensure that they are not likely to enable identification of a particular person or organisation.


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