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1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2009–10  
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Contents >> Labour >> Labour force

LABOUR FORCE

The labour force represents the key official measure of the total supply of labour available to the labour market during a given short reference period. It represents the labour available for the production of economic goods and services. Therefore, people in the labour force are also referred to as the 'currently economically active population'.

The Australian labour force framework classifies people into three mutually exclusive categories: employed; unemployed; and not in the labour force. The employed and unemployed categories together make up the labour force, which gives a measure of the number of people contributing to the used or unused supply of available labour. The third category (not in the labour force) represents the currently economically inactive population. This framework is illustrated in diagram 8.2. Further details about the Australian labour force framework, and the specific criteria for classifying people to these three basic categories, are available in
ABS Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (6102.0.55.001).

For the purpose of compiling Australian labour force statistics, the population is restricted to people in the civilian population aged 15 years and over. This practice is consistent with international guidelines for the collection of labour statistics.

8.2 Australian labour force framework(a)
Australian labour force framework(a)

Characteristics of the labour force

The size and composition of the labour force are constantly changing. Changes in the size of the labour force are caused by changes in labour force participation as well as changes in the size and composition of the adult population. Between June 2008 and June 2009 the labour force grew by 1.5%. During the same period the civilian population aged 15 years and over grew by 1.8%. The difference between these two growth rates reflects a decrease in the labour force participation rate over this period.

The labour force participation rate is one of the most important indicators for analysing the overall level of labour market activity. The participation rate is calculated by dividing the total number of people in the labour force by the total number of people in the civilian population aged 15 years and over. Analysis of participation rates, particularly by age, sex and family type, provides the basis for monitoring changes in the size and composition of the labour supply.

During the last two decades the overall labour force participation rate has increased slowly, rising from 62.6% in 1988-89 to 65.4% in 2008-09. This long-term rise in the labour force participation rate has been driven by an increase in the female participation rate. The female participation rate increased from 50.4% in 1988-89 to 58.7% in 2008-09. In contrast, the male participation rate decreased from 75.2% to 72.3% over the same period. Graph 8.3 provides male and female participation rates between 1988-89 and 2008-09, and shows the convergence of male and female participation rates over this period.

8.3 labour force participation rates(a)
Graph: 8.3 labour force participation rates(a)


Underlying these trends in male and female participation rates are varying movements in the age-specific participation rates. As shown in table 8.4, male and female participation rates were similar in the 15-19 year age group. Participation rates for men and women rose as young people moved from education and training to employment. For men, participation rates peaked in the 25-34 and 35-44 year age groups, while female participation rates peaked in the 45-54 year age group.

A comparison of age-specific participation rates for women shows that labour force participation rates have increased for all age groups except the 15-19 and 20-24 year age groups. While over the last 20 years there has been a considerable increase in the labour force participation of women in their peak child-bearing years (the 25-34 year age group), the largest gains have been in the participation of older women. During the last two decades, the participation rate of women aged 55-64 years increased by 28.1 percentage points and for women aged 45-54 years by 19.6 percentage points.

Participation rates for men declined between 1988-89 and 2008-09 for almost all age groups. The exceptions were for men aged 55-64 years (61.7% to 68.6%) and men aged 65 years and over (9.1% to 14.5%).
8.4 LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION RATES(a), By age

MALES
FEMALES


1988-89
2008-09
1988-89
2008-09
Age group (years)
%
%
%
%

15-19
60.8
57.2
58.9
58.9
20-24
90.0
84.6
77.3
77.3
25-34
94.4
91.9
63.4
74.0
35-44
94.1
91.3
68.7
75.5
45-54
88.9
88.6
58.1
77.7
55-64
61.7
68.6
23.5
51.6
65 and over
9.1
14.5
2.3
5.6
Total
75.2
72.3
50.4
58.7

(a) Annual averages.
Source: ABS Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery (6291.0.55.001).


During the period 2004-05 to 2008-09, the total number of employed people grew by 9.8% to 10.8 million (table 8.5). This comprised an increase of 9.2% in the level of full-time employment and an increase of 11.5% in the level of part-time employment. Part-time employed people represent more than a quarter (29%) of all employed people. Women account for the majority of the part-time workforce (71% of all part-time workers).

The unemployment rate fell from 5.2% in 2004-05 to 5.0% in 2008-09. The unemployment rate for women was slightly higher than for men in 2008-09 (5.0% compared with 4.9%).

8.5 LABOUR FORCE STATUS(a)

Employed
Unemployed


Full-time
Part-time
Total
Full-time
Part-time
Total
Labour
force
Civilian
population
Unemploy-
ment rate
Participa-
tion rate
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
%
%

MALES

2004-05
4 628.2
799.3
5 427.6
229.2
59.4
288.7
5 716.2
7 965.0
5.0
71.8
2005-06
4 737.9
821.0
5 558.9
225.3
60.1
285.4
5 844.3
8 101.0
4.9
72.1
2006-07
4 848.1
865.8
5 713.9
201.4
53.8
255.1
5 969.1
8 244.2
4.3
72.4
2007-08
4 969.7
885.8
5 855.5
183.7
55.7
239.5
6 095.0
8 393.8
3.9
72.6
2008-09
4 985.1
899.0
5 884.1
241.5
61.3
302.7
6 186.9
8 553.4
4.9
72.3

FEMALES

2004-05
2 415.7
1 984.7
4 400.3
155.5
95.1
250.6
4 651.0
8 248.4
5.4
56.4
2005-06
2 482.0
2 071.3
4 553.3
148.2
95.8
244.0
4 797.3
8 380.0
5.1
57.2
2006-07
2 598.8
2 093.4
4 692.2
145.6
92.1
237.7
4 929.9
8 518.0
4.8
57.9
2007-08
2 678.8
2 144.9
4 823.7
134.1
98.1
232.2
5 055.9
8 660.2
4.6
58.4
2008-09
2 705.6
2 203.8
4 909.4
159.5
99.9
259.4
5 168.8
8 809.7
5.0
58.7

PERSONS

2004-05
7 043.9
2 784.0
9 827.9
384.7
154.5
539.3
10 367.2
16 213.3
5.2
63.9
2005-06
7 219.9
2 892.3
10 112.2
373.5
155.9
529.4
10 641.7
16 481.0
5.0
64.6
2006-07
7 446.9
2 959.2
10 406.1
347.0
145.9
492.9
10 899.0
16 762.2
4.5
65.0
2007-08
7 648.5
3 030.7
10 679.2
317.8
153.8
471.7
11 150.9
17 054.0
4.2
65.4
2008-09
7 690.7
3 102.8
10 793.5
401.0
161.2
562.2
11 355.7
17 363.2
5.0
65.4

(a) Annual averages.
Source: ABS Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery (6291.0.55.001).


Labour force participation, employment and unemployment vary across states and territories, and across capital cities and regional areas. Table 8.6 shows labour force status by state/territory and capital city/balance of state for 2008-09.

In 2008-09, of the states and territories, Tasmania had the lowest participation rate (61.9%) while the Northern Territory had the highest participation rate (73.6%). The Australian Capital Territory had the lowest unemployment rate (2.9%) and New South Wales had the highest unemployment rate (5.7%).

All states had lower unemployment rates and higher participation rates in the capital cities than in the balance of states, except South Australia, where in Adelaide the unemployment rate was higher and the participation rate was lower than in the balance of South Australia.

8.6 LABOUR FORCE STATUS(a), By state and territory - 2008-09

Employed full-time
Total employed
Unemployed
Labour
force
Civilian population aged 15 and over
Unemploy-
ment rate
Participation
rate
Capital city/balance of state
’000
’000
’000
’000
’000
%
%

Sydney
1 635.4
2 221.9
131.6
2 353.5
3 567.1
5.6
66.0
Balance of New South Wales
805.1
1 174.4
72.2
1 246.6
2 092.1
5.8
59.6
New South Wales
2 440.5
3 396.3
203.8
3 600.1
5 659.2
5.7
63.6
Melbourne
1 414.3
1 994.5
106.1
2 100.6
3 197.4
5.0
65.7
Balance of Victoria
436.1
662.9
36.7
699.6
1 139.5
5.2
61.4
Victoria
1 850.4
2 657.4
142.8
2 800.2
4 336.9
5.1
64.6
Brisbane
750.4
1 024.3
42.0
1 066.3
1 533.6
3.9
69.5
Balance of Queensland
862.1
1 202.9
60.7
1 263.6
1 913.6
4.8
66.0
Queensland
1 612.5
2 227.2
102.7
2 329.9
3 447.2
4.4
67.6
Adelaide
392.3
574.2
35.9
610.1
969.7
5.9
62.9
Balance of South Australia
150.2
218.4
9.4
227.7
348.1
4.1
65.4
South Australia
542.6
792.5
45.3
837.8
1 317.7
5.4
63.6
Perth
633.7
881.9
33.9
915.8
1 310.3
3.7
69.9
Balance of Western Australia
207.9
287.6
11.9
299.5
446.9
4.0
67.0
Western Australia
841.6
1 169.5
45.8
1 215.4
1 757.2
3.8
69.2
Hobart
69.7
102.8
4.5
107.3
170.5
4.2
62.9
Balance of Tasmania
93.1
135.5
6.9
142.4
232.6
4.8
61.2
Tasmania
162.8
238.2
11.4
249.6
403.2
4.6
61.9
Northern Territory
93.1
116.6
4.4
121.0
164.3
3.7
73.6
Australian Capital Territory
147.2
195.7
5.9
201.6
277.5
2.9
72.7
Australia
7 690.7
10 793.5
562.2
11 355.7
17 363.2
5.0
65.4

(a) Annual averages.
Source: ABS Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery (6291.0.55.001).


In 2008-09 there were 11.4 million people in the Australian labour force, of whom over a quarter (27%) were born overseas (table 8.7). The labour force participation rate of people born overseas was 61.5% compared with 68.9% for people born in Australia. This in part reflects the older age distribution of the overseas born population in Australia.


8.7 LABOUR FORCE STATUS(a), By country of birth - 2008-09

Employed full-time
Total employed
Unemployed
Labour force
Not in the
labour force
Unemploy-
ment rate
Participation rate
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
%
%

Born in Australia
5 601.1
7 918.1
390.9
8 309.0
3 751.4
4.7
68.9
Born overseas
2 088.3
2 873.4
170.8
3 044.2
1 904.5
5.6
61.5
Oceania and Antarctica
308.0
387.6
24.4
411.9
132.8
5.9
75.6
North-west Europe
603.5
839.0
29.8
868.8
555.4
3.4
61.0
Southern and Eastern Europe
239.4
323.1
13.0
336.1
459.1
3.9
42.3
North Africa and the Middle East
82.0
125.1
18.7
143.8
159.1
13.0
47.5
South-east Asia
290.2
384.9
26.2
411.1
202.7
6.4
67.0
North-east Asia
175.7
255.1
18.0
273.1
176.6
6.6
60.7
Southern and Central Asia
179.8
257.3
23.0
280.3
105.4
8.2
72.6
Americas
97.1
141.8
7.7
149.6
60.0
5.2
71.3
Sub-Saharan Africa
112.7
159.5
10.1
169.6
53.4
5.9
76.0
Total(b)
7 690.7
10 793.5
562.2
11 355.7
6 007.5
5.0
65.4

(a) Annual averages.
(b) Includes persons in institutions and persons whose country of birth was not specified or was unable to be classified by the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), Australia (1269.0).
Source: ABS Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery (6291.0.55.001).


Table 8.8 provides an overview of the labour force status of people in 2008-09, according to the family relationship within the household. For partners in couple families with dependants present, husbands (or male partners) had a higher participation rate (93.7%) than wives (or female partners) (69.5%). Of the partners who were employed, a higher proportion of males were employed full-time (88%) than females (52%). For lone parents with dependants, the participation rate of male parents (81.0%) was higher than female parents (63.9%). On average, parents in a couple relationship with dependent children have a higher participation rate than those without dependent children (81.7% compared with 60.0%), mostly due to the younger ages of parents with dependants.
8.8 LABOUR FORCE STATUS(a), By relationship in household - 2008-09

Employed full-time
Total employed
Unem-
ployed
Labour force
Not in the labour force
Civilian population aged 15 and over
Unemploy-
ment rate
Participation rate
’000
’000
’000
’000
’000
’000
%
%

MALES

Family member
4 184.7
4 922.4
235.5
5 157.8
1 717.9
6 875.7
4.6
75.0
Husband or partner
3 409.4
3 783.4
101.5
3 884.9
1 180.8
5 065.8
2.6
76.7
With dependants
1 918.6
2 050.4
58.9
2 109.3
141.8
2 251.1
2.8
93.7
Without dependants
1 490.7
1 733.0
42.7
1 775.6
1 039.0
2 814.6
2.4
63.1
Lone parent
100.8
119.2
7.6
126.8
48.3
175.2
6.0
72.4
With dependants
64.0
77.3
5.6
83.0
19.5
102.5
6.8
81.0
Without dependants
36.8
41.9
2.0
43.9
28.8
72.7
4.5
60.3
Dependent student
19.4
217.2
35.9
253.0
292.2
545.2
14.2
46.4
Non-dependent child(b)
558.6
678.8
76.6
755.4
135.6
890.9
10.1
84.8
Other family person
96.7
123.7
13.9
137.6
60.9
198.6
10.1
69.3
Non-family member
735.1
873.5
55.1
928.6
427.1
1 355.7
5.9
68.5
Lone person
452.2
518.1
32.1
550.1
331.9
882.1
5.8
62.4
Not living alone
282.9
355.5
23.0
378.5
95.2
473.7
6.1
79.9
Relationship in household not determined
65.3
88.2
12.2
100.4
221.6
322.0
12.1
31.2
Total
4 985.1
5 884.1
302.7
6 186.9
2 366.6
8 553.4
4.9
72.3

FEMALES

Family member
2 214.7
4 202.6
219.6
4 422.2
2 635.6
7 057.8
5.0
62.7
Wife or partner
1 619.1
3 002.2
98.0
3 100.3
1 860.2
4 960.5
3.2
62.5
With dependants
631.2
1 478.7
53.9
1 532.5
671.8
2 204.4
3.5
69.5
Without dependants
987.9
1 523.6
44.2
1 567.7
1 188.4
2 756.1
2.8
56.9
Lone parent
208.5
397.4
40.5
437.8
320.9
758.7
9.2
57.7
With dependants
144.5
302.2
36.1
338.2
191.3
529.6
10.7
63.9
Without dependants
64.0
95.2
4.4
99.6
129.5
229.1
4.4
43.5
Dependent student
16.7
281.5
35.0
316.5
247.5
563.9
11.1
56.1
Non-dependent child(b)
303.1
421.1
36.8
457.9
84.5
542.4
8.0
84.4
Other family person
67.4
100.4
9.4
109.7
122.6
232.3
8.5
47.2
Non-family member
452.9
637.1
33.5
670.6
683.7
1 354.3
5.0
49.5
Lone person
298.2
407.9
18.2
426.2
603.4
1 029.6
4.3
41.4
Not living alone
154.7
229.2
15.3
244.5
80.3
324.8
6.2
75.3
Relationship in household not determined
37.9
69.6
6.3
76.0
321.6
397.6
8.3
19.1
Total
2 705.6
4 909.4
259.4
5 168.8
3 640.9
8 809.7
5.0
58.7

PERSONS

Family member
6 399.4
9 124.9
455.1
9 580.0
4 353.5
13 933.5
4.8
68.8
Husband, wife or partner
5 028.4
6 785.6
199.6
6 985.2
3 041.0
10 026.2
2.9
69.7
With dependants
2 549.8
3 529.1
112.7
3 641.8
813.7
4 455.5
3.1
81.7
Without dependants
2 478.6
3 256.6
86.8
3 343.4
2 227.3
5 570.7
2.6
60.0
Lone parent
309.3
516.6
48.1
564.7
369.2
933.8
8.5
60.5
With dependants
208.5
379.5
41.7
421.2
210.8
632.0
9.9
66.6
Without dependants
100.8
137.1
6.4
143.5
158.3
301.8
4.4
47.5
Dependent student
36.1
498.7
70.8
569.5
539.7
1 109.2
12.4
51.3
Non-dependent child(b)
861.6
1 099.9
113.4
1 213.3
220.0
1 433.4
9.3
84.6
Other family person
164.0
224.1
23.3
247.4
183.5
430.9
9.4
57.4
Non-family member
1 188.0
1 510.7
88.6
1 599.3
1 110.8
2 710.1
5.5
59.0
Lone person
750.4
926.0
50.3
976.3
935.3
1 911.6
5.2
51.1
Not living alone
437.6
584.7
38.3
623.0
175.5
798.5
6.1
78.0
Relationship in household not determined
103.3
157.9
18.5
176.4
543.2
719.6
10.5
24.5
Total
7 690.7
10 793.5
562.2
11 355.7
6 007.5
17 363.2
5.0
65.4

(a) Annual averages.
(b) Aged 15 years and over.
Source: ABS Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery (6291.0.55.001).





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