Australian Bureau of Statistics

Rate the ABS website
ABS Home > Statistics > By Release Date
4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2004  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/06/2004   
   Page tools: Print Print Page Print all pages in this productPrint All RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product  
Contents >> Family and Community >> Being unemployed, a lone parent or a recently arrived migrant

Being unemployed, a lone parent or a recently arrived migrant

In 2002, being unemployed, a lone parent or a recently arrived migrant affected people’s social and economic circumstances, even after accounting for demographic and other characteristics.

Information about people’s social and economic circumstances can assist in formulating appropriate policy and targeting programs and services. Some groups within the community may have a higher risk of experiencing disadvantage, relative to others, in one or more areas of their life. While there are many such groups of potential interest in the community, this article examines three selected groups: people who are unemployed; lone parents; and recently arrived migrants.

Each of these groups forms a relatively small proportion of the total Australian population. In 2001, unemployed adults comprised 5% of the population aged 18 years and over, lone parents comprised 3% and recently arrived migrants comprised 3%. However, due to the potential for disadvantage among these adults and their families, these groups are a particular focus of government policies and programs. For example, one aim of government welfare reforms is to reduce joblessness and the reliance of families, particularly one-parent families, on income support.(endnote 1) A range of support programs, including language and interpretation services, aim to assist migrants in developing the skills and networks that will facilitate their participation in work and community life.

This article highlights some of the diverse social and economic circumstances of unemployed people, lone parents and recently arrived migrants. It then uses results from multivariate analysis of data from the 2002 General Social Survey to consider whether the attributes of being unemployed, a lone parent or a recently arrived migrant are significantly associated with certain social and economic outcomes, when a range of demographic and other characteristics are removed from consideration.

SELECTED POPULATION GROUPS, AGED 18 YEARS AND OVER

1991
2001


‘000
%(a)
‘000
%(a)

Unemployed people
873.5
7.3
611.0
4.5
Lone-parents
346.3
2.8
462.1
3.3
Recently arrived migrants
554.2
4.5
477.9
3.4

(a) Percentage of the population aged 18 years and over.
Source: 1991 and 2001 Censuses of Population and Housing.

GENERAL SOCIAL SURVEY

This article uses data from the 2002 General Social Survey (GSS). The GSS is a new ABS social survey that collects information across a range of aspects of life. As such, it enables analysis of the interrelationships between various social circumstances and outcomes in a range of areas of wellbeing. The areas discussed in this article include financial stress, social attachment, health, and employment.

Unemployed people are those who were not employed and were actively looking for work in the four weeks prior to interview, and were available to start work in the week prior to interview.

Lone parents are those parents with no resident partner (married or de facto), with at least one dependent child living with them. Non-dependant children may also be present. Lone parents who have other related or unrelated usual residents living with them, and those in multi-family households are excluded.

Dependent children are all children aged less than 15 years, and people aged 15-24 years who are full-time students, have a parent in the household and do not have a partner or child of their own living in the household.

Recently arrived migrants are people who were born overseas and arrived in Australia in the six years up to and including the reference year. This includes long-term visitors not intending to settle in Australia permanently.

Equivalised gross household income is a standardised income measure which has been adjusted for the different income needs of households of different size and composition (see Australian Social Trends 2004, Household income, pp. 142-145).

UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE

Employment has a direct bearing on the material wellbeing of individuals and their families. It is also one means by which individuals contribute to their community, use and develop their skills, and enhance their social networks. Unemployed people can therefore be at a higher risk of experiencing financial and/or social disadvantage. In particular, long periods of unemployment can deplete savings and other family resources, and may lead to problems with morale, motivation and physical health.(endnote 2) Families in which no parent has paid employment can be particularly at risk (see Australian Social Trends 2004, Families with no employed parent, pp. 46-50 ).

At the 2001 Census, 611,00 Australians were unemployed, a decrease from 873,500 in 1991. Many Australians are out of work for substantial periods of time. The median duration of unemployment in 2003 was 19 weeks for males and 14 weeks for females. As at November 2003, some 81,300 men and 42,000 women had been unemployed for a year or more.(endnote 3)

In 2003, the unemployment rate was higher for males (6.2%) than females (6.0%) and higher outside the capital cities (6.7%) than in the capitals (5.8%) (see Australian Social Trends 2004, Work: national summary, pp.102-103). Unmarried people had a higher unemployment rate (8.9%) than people who were married or in a de facto relationship (3.0%).(endnote 3)

The circumstances of unemployed people differ from those of the total population, in a range of areas. However, some of these differences may relate to the younger age profile of the unemployed population compared with the adult population in general. In 2001, the median age (among those 18 years and over) was 33.3 years for unemployed people, compared with 43.8 years for the total adult population.

CIRCUMSTANCES OF SELECTED POPULATION GROUPS, AGED 18 YEARS AND OVER - 2002

Unemployed persons
Lone parents
Recently arrived migrants
All persons
%
%
%
%

Principal source of income(a)
Employee earnings
38.6
36.3
61.3
60.2
Government cash pensions and allowances
48.5
51.5
10.2
21.6
Equivalised gross household income quintile(a)(b)
Lowest quintile
44.9
43.0
20.7
19.6
Second quintile
25.0
30.3
19.8
18.7
Renting dwelling(a)
48.9
62.1
57.9
24.7
Has access to motor vehicle/s to drive
66.2
81.9
63.0
85.0
Used a computer at home in the last 12 months
57.2
50.5
66.6
55.3
Victim of physical or threatened violence, or actual or attempted break in, in the last 12 months
25.8
34.4
16.8
18.3
Self-assessed health status fair or poor(c)
14.7
16.4
7.7
15.9
Has a non-school educational qualification
41.8
47.2
66.2
49.7

(a) Refers to the characteristic of the household to which the person belongs.
(b) Excludes persons where household income was not known or was not adequately reported. Quintiles have been calculated after ranking persons by the equivalised gross income of the household of which they are a member. For further information on equivalised incomes see Australian Social Trends 2004, Household income, pp. 142-145.
(c) Response categories were: poor, fair, good, very good, excellent.
Source: ABS 2002 General Social Survey.
In terms of financial wellbeing, in 2002 unemployed people aged 18 years and over were over-represented in the lowest equivalised household income quintile (45%) when compared with the total adult population (20%). Furthermore, a greater proportion of unemployed people lived in households where Government cash pensions and allowances were the principal source of income (49% compared with 22% of the total population). Nearly half (49%) of unemployed people lived in households that rented their dwelling, compared with a quarter (25%) of the total population, and 22% of these were renting from a State or Territory Housing Authority (compared with 17% of all renters).

Unemployed people also experienced potential barriers to participation in the community when compared with others. For example, relatively fewer unemployed people aged 18 years and over had access to a motor vehicle (66%) than the adult population generally (85%), and fewer could easily get to the places they needed (67% compared with 84%). In 2002, relatively more unemployed people had been the victim of physical or threatened violence or actual or attempted break-in (26%) in the last year, than among the total population (18%).

LONE PARENTS

Immediate family and household members provide social and financial support to one another. While lone parents may receive ongoing support, for example from extended family, friends or the non-resident parent, the lack of a resident partner can still impact on social and financial wellbeing. For example, responsibility for raising children may impact on a lone parent’s capacity to participate in paid employment and other aspects of community life.

One-parent families are the fastest growing type of family in Australia. In 2001, there were 528,000 lone parents aged 18 years and over with dependent children. Of these, 88% (462,100) had no other adults (such as extended family members or members of a second family) resident in the household with them. In 2001, lone parents were predominately women (83%), and lone mothers tended to have younger children living with them than lone fathers. Around one-fifth (22%) of lone mothers had at least one child aged 0-4 years living with them, compared with one-tenth (9%) of lone fathers (see Australian Social Trends 2003, Changing families, pp. 35-39).

As with unemployed people, the circumstances of lone parents differ to others in a range of areas of life. For example, in 2002, more lone parents aged 18 years and over (52%) relied on Government cash pensions and allowances as their principal source of income, than did all adults (22%). Consequently, lone parents were over-represented in the lower income groups, with 43% in the bottom quintile of equivalised household income and 30% in the second lowest quintile, compared with 20% and 19% of all adults.

In 2001, 62% of lone parents aged 18 years and over rented their dwelling, compared with 25% of adults generally, and among renters proportionally more lone parents were renting from a State or Territory Housing Authority (31% compared with 17% of all renters). Relatively more lone parents felt unsafe or very unsafe at home alone after dark (19%) than adults in general (8%); and 34% of lone parents had been a victim of physical or threatened violence, or actual or attempted break in over the year prior to interview, compared with 18% of all adults.

RECENTLY ARRIVED MIGRANTS

The government’s immigration policy aims to balance social, economic, humanitarian, and environmental objectives,(endnote 4) so the social and economic situation of migrants coming to live in Australia can vary substantially. For example, some migrants arriving in Australia may have more established social support networks, as they have the close family relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident sponsor necessary for eligibility in the Family Stream migration category;(endnote 5) while others may have a strong economic position on arrival in Australia, as they have arrived under the Skill Stream which focuses on the applicant’s occupational skills, outstanding talents or business skills.(endnote 5) In contrast, those arriving under Australia’s Humanitarian Program, including people in need of resettlement due to persecution or human rights violations,(endnote 5) may have relatively disadvantaged social and economic circumstances on arrival.

In 2001, there were 477,900 recently arrived migrants aged 18 years and over living in Australia. The largest group (17%) were those born in the Oceania region, which was primarily comprised of migrants from New Zealand (79%) who are free to come to Australia without a visa. The second most common birthplace groups were South-East Asia, North-East Asia, and North-West Europe, each comprising 16% of recently arrived migrants.




PRINCIPLE SOURCE OF HOUSEHOLD INCOME - 2002
GRAPH - PRINCIPLE SOURCE OF HOUSEHOLD INCOME - 2002

Recent arrivals to Australia have a younger age structure than the general Australian population. In 2001, the median age (for those aged 18 years and over) of recently arrived migrants was 32.3 years, compared with 43.8 years for the total population. The majority of recently arrived migrants to Australia live in the capital cities (86% in 2001, compared with 64% of the total population).

While recently arrived migrants have relatively disadvantaged circumstances in some areas of life, they also have positive circumstances relative to other groups in many areas. A relatively larger proportion lived in rented dwellings (58% compared with 25% of all adults). This may relate to the length of time they have been in Australia, and reflect shorter term housing choices rather than long-term outcomes. A higher proportion of recent arrivals experienced transport difficulties than the total adult population. Fewer had access to a motor vehicle (63% compared with 85% of the total population), and more had difficulties getting to the places they needed to (30% compared with 16% overall).

However, recently arrived migrants aged 18 years and over were more likely to have used a computer at home in the last 12 months (67%) compared with Australian adults generally (55%), and have non-school qualifications (66% compared with 50%). Relatively fewer assessed their health as fair or poor (8% compared to 16% of the total population) and fewer had a disability or long-term health condition (19% compared with 40%). These health differences may reflect both the younger age structure of recently arrived migrants, and the standard health criteria migrants have to meet as part of the migration process.

MULTIVARIATE ANALYSIS

The patterns described above indicate that the social and economic circumstances of unemployed people, lone parents and recently arrived migrants differ from those of the total population. However, there are many complex, often interrelated factors which influence people’s social and economic experiences and outcomes. As such, it is not always clear how much a given attribute (i.e.being unemployed, a lone parent, or a recently arrived migrant) relates to particular social or economic circumstances. Other characteristics, such as age and life stage, educational background or location may also be contributing to people’s circumstances, to a greater or lesser extent. When other characteristics were accounted for through multivariate analysis, the attributes of being unemployed, a lone parent or a recently arrived migrant remained significantly associated with some social and economic circumstances, but not with others.

MULTIVARIATE ANALYSIS

Multivariate analysis assists in unravelling which particular characteristics are associated with specific social or economic circumstances. In particular, multivariate analysis highlights which characteristics have a significant association with specific circumstances after controlling for other characteristics. For example, older people often have poorer health outcomes than younger people, but there are a range of factors which may also contribute to older people’s health apart from their age (e.g. incomes also tend to be lower among older people which may restrict access to services).

The multivariate analysis technique used in this article (maximum likelihood estimation of the probit model) takes into account a range of demographic and other characteristics likely to be related to people’s social and economic circumstances, and models the probability of a particular outcome occurring. To present the results, the probability of the outcome occurring is calculated for a ‘base case’ scenario with particular characteristics, and then recalculated when one of the characteristics of the base case is exchanged with an attribute of interest. The difference between the two probabilities (referred to as the ‘marginal effect’) indicates what effect that attribute has on the likelihood of the particular outcome occurring. For example, the analysis shows whether unemployed people are more likely than employed people to have transport difficulties by estimating the probability for employed people then re-estimating the probability for unemployed people, keeping all the other modelled characteristics equal.

The base case used in this analysis included a range of characteristics representative of a large section of Australian society. These characteristics were those of a person who was: aged 35-54 years, female, born in Australia, living in a single family household, in a couple family with children with no other relatives present, in a major city, and in an area that is in the middle third Socio-Economic Indexes for Areas (SEIFA) category, employed, in the middle third income group, not paying rent or mortgage; and who had: finished year 12 but did not have a degree, self-assessed health status of good, very good or excellent, and no disability or long-term health condition. In some models, additional characteristics were included where these were considered to be important in explaining the particular outcome being modelled.

Only selected multivariate analysis results are presented in this article. A broader range of results, and full description of the analysis technique, are available in Multivariate Analysis of the GSS (ABS cat. no. 1351.0).

...UNEMPLOYED PEOPLE

In a range of areas of wellbeing, unemployed people were found to have disadvantaged circumstances compared with their employed counterparts, after controlling for other characteristics. For example, in the area of social attachment, unemployed people were more likely than employed people (other characteristics being equal) to experience transport difficulties, feel unable to ask others for small favours and feel that they had no support in a time of crisis.

In the area of financial stress, unemployment was associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing cash flow problems, being unable to raise money in an emergency and having to reduce assets or increase debt in order to pay for basic living expenses. However, unemployment was not associated with a significant increase in the likelihood of reporting fair or poor health (after accounting for other characteristics such as age).

Compared with being employed, the outcomes for unemployed people were somewhat different to those of people not in the labour force. For example, although being unemployed was not associated with an increased likelihood of reporting fair or poor health, those not in the labour force were significantly more likely to assess their health in this way. Like unemployed people, those not in the labour force were more likely than employed people (other characteristics being equal) to experience the negative outcomes measured in relation to social attachment - such as having transport difficulties.

POPULATION ATTRIBUTES: ASSOCIATIONS WITH SELECTED AREAS OF WELLBEING - 2002

Unemployed
Lone parent(b)
Recently arrived migrant
Area of wellbeing(a)
Marginal effect(c)
Marginal effect(d)
Marginal effect(e)

Social attachment
Less than weekly contact with family and friends
-
-1.5
3.0
Unable to ask others for small favours
3.2
-
8.0
No support in a time of crisis(f)
2.3
-
7.0
Has transport difficulty
15.7
-
9.2
Household financial stress
Experience one or more cash flow problems in the past
year
4.8
9.9
-8.3
Unable to raise $2,000 in an emergency
7.2
10.4
-
Took a dissaving action in the part year(g)
6.6
6.0
-6.8
Health
Self-assessed health status is fair or poor
-
-
-6.7
Employment
Not in the labour force
n.a.
4.9
18.9
Unemployed
n.a.
4.1
4.8
Employed part-time
n.a.
-
14.9
Employed as casual(h)
n.a.
5.0
13.8

(a) The common attributes of the base case model are given in the box ‘Multivariate analysis’ on page 54 of this article. Additional characteristics have been included in the models for social attachment, financial stress, health and employment as relevant to that area. For more information see Multivariate Analysis of the GSS (ABS cat. no. 1351.0)
(b) Includes some non-dependant children of lone parents, aged 18 years and over. Sensitivity analysis indicates that the presence of these children does not influence the multivariate analysis results.
(c) Increased probability (in percentage points) of experiencing the given indicator, compared with employed people (other characteristics being equal). All the marginal effects presented are statistically significant at the 10% level. Comparisons can be made across the columns, but not between the areas of wellbeing (rows), due to different models underlying the results for each area.
(d) Increased probability (in percentage points) of experiencing the given indicator, compared with couples with dependent children (other characteristics being equal).
(e) Increased probability (in percentage points) of experiencing the given indicator, compared with Australian-born people (other characteristics being equal).
(f) Includes support from friends, family, neighbours, workplace, community and charity organisations, government services, health, legal and financial organisations.
(g) Reduced assets, or increased debt, to pay for basic living expenses.
(h) Employees without leave entitlements in their main job.
Source: ABS 2002 General Social Survey.

...LONE PARENTS

Compared with couples with children, lone parents were not significantly more likely to have negative social attachment outcomes, indicating that lone parents access networks outside their immediate family household to the same extent as couples with children. For example, lone parents were no more likely than couples with children (other characteristics being equal) to have transport difficulties, to feel unable to ask others for small favours or have no support in a time of crisis. Further, lone parents were less likely than couples with children to have less than weekly contact with family and friends.

However, lone parents had an increased likelihood of experiencing all three of the measured indicators of financial stress. That is, lone parents were more likely than couples with children, other characteristics being equal, to have experienced cash flow problems, felt unable to raise money in an emergency or needed to take a dissaving action to pay for basic living expenses.

When other characteristics such as age and education were controlled for, lone parents were more likely than couples with children to not be in the labour force or to be unemployed. Among those who were employed, lone parents were more likely to be employed on a casual basis, but there was not a significant difference in their likelihood of being employed part-time.

In terms of health, after other characteristics were accounted for, lone parents were not significantly more likely than couples with children to assess their health as fair or poor.

RECENTLY ARRIVED AND OTHER MIGRANTS: ASSOCIATIONS WITH EMPLOYMENT OUTCOMES - 2002

Recently arrived migrant

Marginal effect(a)
Other migrant

Marginal effect(a)

Not in the labour force
18.9
2.3
Unemployed
4.8
1.8
Employed part-time
14.9
-
Employed as casual(b)
13.8
-

(a) Increased probability (in percentage points) of experiencing the given indicator, compared with the base case model. The marginal effects presented are statistically significant at the 10% level.
(b) Employees without leave entitlements in their main job.
Source: ABS 2002 General Social Survey.


...RECENTLY ARRIVED MIGRANTS

Reflecting the diverse economic and social circumstances of migrants arriving in Australia, recently arrived migrants had an increased likelihood of disadvantage in some areas, but a decreased likelihood in other areas, after controlling for demographic and other characteristics. For example, while recently arrived migrants were more likely than their Australian-born counterparts to experience the negative circumstances measured in the area of social attachment, they were less likely to rate their health as fair or poor, even after controlling for age.

In the area of employment, recently arrived migrants were more likely than people born in Australia to be unemployed or not in the labour force (other characteristics being equal). Among those in employment, recently arrived migrants were more likely to be employed part-time or on a casual basis. The employment outcomes of other (non-recent) migrants were somewhat different, indicating that the length of time migrants have lived in Australia can influence their social and economic circumstances.

As with recent migrants, other migrants were more likely than Australian-born people (other characteristics being equal) to be unemployed or not be in the labour force. However, in contrast to recent migrants, other migrants were not significantly more likely to be employed part-time or on a casual basis.

ENDNOTES

1 Department of Family and Community Services 2003, Goals of Welfare Reform <http://www.facs.gov.au/internet/facsinternet.nsf/aboutfacs/programs/esp-welreform_goals.htm>, accessed 27 January 2004.
2 Gregory, B and Sheehan, P 1998, ‘Poverty and the Collapse of Full Employment’ Australian Poverty: Then and Now. eds Fincher, R and Nieuwenhuysen, J, University Press, Melbourne.
3 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2004, Australian Labour Market Statistics, January 2004, cat. no. 6105.0, ABS, Canberra.
4 Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs 2003, Fact Sheet 20. Migration Program Planning Levels
<
http://www.immi.gov.au/facts/20planning.htm>, accessed 12 February 2004.
5 Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, 2003, Immigration Update, July–December 2002
<
http://www. immi.gov.au/facts/statistics/ publications/immigration_update/update_ dec02.pdf>, accessed 12 February 2004.


Previous PageNext Page

Bookmark and Share. Opens in a new window


Commonwealth of Australia 2014

Unless otherwise noted, content on this website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia Licence together with any terms, conditions and exclusions as set out in the website Copyright notice. For permission to do anything beyond the scope of this licence and copyright terms contact us.