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A job is conceptualised as a relationship between an employed person and employing enterprise, that is, between an employee and an employer or between a self-employed person (employee) and their own enterprise (employer). These jobs are often referred to in ABS statistics as ‘filled jobs’.
Jobs can also exist in the absence of an employed person, referred to in ABS statistics as a ‘vacant job’. Vacant jobs are positions which are available for immediate filling and for which recruitment action has been undertaken. For more information on vacant jobs, see Chapter 10: Job Vacancies.
Most jobs are performed by employed persons in return for some form of payment, whether it is in cash or in kind. As such, persons paid solely in kind, such as contributing family workers, are considered to have a job.
Not all jobs are paid, however, either in cash or in kind. People can be engaged in productive economic activity within an institutional unit for no apparent reward, in which case they are contributing to output but receiving no compensation. The 2008 SNA concept of a job includes these people as volunteer labour (footnote 1); however, they are excluded from the Australian System of National Accounts and also from Australian labour statistics (see Chapter 2: Institutional Units and the Economically Active Population).
A person can hold multiple jobs. For a person who is an employee of multiple employing enterprises, the SNA definition allows each agreement to be considered a separate job. The wording of the SNA is less clear in relation to self-employed persons, as it suggests that each self-employed person has only has one job. In practice, however, this is not the case. Many self-employed persons hold additional jobs, either in additional self-employment enterprises or with employing enterprises as employees (footnote 2). In ABS statistics, both employees and self-employed persons can have multiple jobs.
Jobs and Employment
Every employed person has a job, however, because they can have multiple jobs, measures of employment and measures of jobs are conceptually different. It is important to distinguish between estimates of employment and estimates of jobs as conceptually different measures of labour.
Household surveys typically estimate employment, such that they provide data on the number of people in the labour force (those who have jobs), not the number of jobs in the economy.
Estimates of employment from business surveys are typically measures of jobs. The employer is generally unable to provide information about their employees’ other jobs (footnote 3). Because ABS business surveys sample businesses and not employees, multiple job holders may be included in the sample multiple times.
“EMPLOYMENT” OR “JOBS”
The Labour Force Survey (LFS) is the official source of Australian employment and unemployment statistics. Current estimates of the number of people who are employed, unemployed and not in the labour force, classified by sex, full-time / part-time status, and state and territory are released in Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) each month. However, users sometimes refer to the increase (or decrease) in employment from month to month as the number of “jobs” created (or lost). This is an incorrect inference, as estimates of “employment” from the LFS (an ABS household survey) refer to counts of people rather than jobs.
The LFS is designed to produce estimates of the number of people engaged in economic activity, and the definition used aligns closely with international standards and guidelines. The concept of employment used in the LFS (and other ABS household surveys) differs to the concept used in ABS business surveys, where estimates are based on the number of jobs involving paid employment. For example, a person holding multiple jobs with different employers would be counted in ABS household surveys as employed once, but in ABS business surveys would be counted once for each job that they held.
Estimates of the number of employee jobs from ABS business surveys are most commonly compared to estimates of the number of persons in paid employment (referred to as employees) from ABS household surveys. However, estimates of employees from household surveys are not equivalent to estimates of employee jobs from business surveys for the same reason as described above. An example of an ABS business survey which provides estimates of the number of employee jobs (limited to the private sector) is the Economic Activity Survey (EAS). Estimates of employee jobs from Australian Industry (cat. no. 8155.0) can only be compared to estimates of the number of employees in the LFS, if the differences outlined above are considered and ideally quantified. For the purposes of this comparison, the estimates from the LFS would provide counts of the number of people in employee jobs, whereas estimates from the EAS would provide counts of the number of jobs that are occupied by employees. People who appear on more than one payroll are only counted once in the LFS, whereas in the EAS they are counted once for each payroll on which they appear.
The distinction between jobs and employment is also important when considering full-time/part-time status. As full-time/part-time status relates to a person's employment (based on the total hours they work in all of their jobs), the number of full-time employed people (and changes in that number) does not equate to the number of full-time jobs in the labour market. A person in full-time employment can hold more than one job (for example, two part-time jobs for which the combined number of hours worked totals 35 hours or more per week), whereas a full-time job represents one person employed full-time.
A number of examples illustrate this:
To correctly cite the employment estimates from the LFS, users should refer to employment or the number of people employed, not the number of jobs. Multiple job holding is the main reason why estimates of employment from the LFS cannot be equated to estimates of jobs. One employed person does not necessarily equate to one job - one person can hold more than one job.
Labour Force Survey
Data from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) are used to provide regular estimates of employment; however, specific estimates of jobs are not produced. Up to June 2014, the LFS collected data on the number of multiple job holders, however did not collect the number of jobs they held. Estimates of jobs were created by weighting estimates of the number of multiple job holders from the LFS using estimates of the average number of jobs held by multiple job holders from the 2007 Survey of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation. This method provided aggregate numbers of jobs but did not allow detailed disaggregation. For more information on this process, see the article ‘Estimating Jobs in the Australian Labour Market’ in Labour Force, Australia, Feb 2013 (cat. no. 6202.0).
In July 2014, the ABS introduced a series of changes resulting from the Labour Household Surveys Content Review. These included for the first time the collection in the LFS of the actual number of jobs held by each multiple job holder each month. These new data allow the number of jobs to be more accurately estimated, as the number of jobs held by each multiple job holder is directly collected. This allows for further disaggregation of the statistics; however, because the LFS does not provide detail about the jobs separately (such as which industry they are in), this analysis is still limited.
For more information on the data content and methodology of the LFS, see Chapter 19: Labour Force Survey.
Job Vacancies Survey
Estimates from this survey are produced according to the definitions outlined in Chapter 10: Job Vacancies. For more information on the data content and methodology of this survey, see Chapter 25: Job Vacancies Survey.
Other business surveys
Estimates of employment are created from several business surveys. Because these surveys are unable to identify individual employees across multiple businesses, these are rather estimates of jobs. The key business surveys which provide data on jobs are listed below. For more information on the specific data content and methodology of these surveys, see the relevant sections:
Linked Employer-Employee Data
In 2015 and 2016, the ABS published experimental statistics on employee jobs for the 2011-12 financial year. These statistics were created using data from a prototype linked employer-employee database (the Prototype LEED) for over 10 million employees sourced from the Australian Taxation Office. Employee jobs were defined as continuous contracts between employer and employee, as recorded in data from the Australian Taxation Office.
Measures of jobs from this source differ from other estimates in several key ways. Because of the year-long reference period, employees may have several jobs throughout the year (either concurrently or consecutively) with one or multiple employers, and thus the statistics differ from point-in-time estimates of filled jobs. The Prototype LEED only measures paid employee jobs, so jobs held by owner-managers of unincorporated enterprises and any unpaid jobs (for example contributing family workers) are excluded. The data sources used in the Prototype LEED were not created for statistical purposes, and therefore differ both conceptually and in the way they are collected and maintained. The Prototype LEED data is not a sample and the statistics produced from it are not estimated, as are ABS survey estimates.
For more information on the Prototype LEED, see Chapter 33: Future Directions of Labour Statistics and Information Paper: Construction of Experimental Statistics on Employee Earnings and Jobs from Administrative Data, Australia, 2011-12 (cat. no. 6311.0).
Australian Labour Account
In 2017, the ABS released data from an experimental Australian Labour Account. The Australian Labour Account includes jobs as one of its four quadrants of labour, along with persons, volume, and payments, and sources data on jobs from a number of ABS household and business surveys.
The Australian Labour Account defines jobs as a set of production related tasks that can be assigned to and undertaken by a person, and for which they are usually, but not necessarily, remunerated either in money or in kind.
The Australian Labour Account includes all jobs created and maintained by institutional units resident in Australian economic territory, involving economic activity within the Australian application of the 2008 SNA production boundary. It includes both filled and vacant jobs, and distinguishes between main and secondary jobs. It classifies jobs according to the status in employment categories of the person filling the job, as well as a variety of job characteristics.
For more information on the Australian Labour Account, see Australian Labour Account: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2017 (cat. no. 6150.0).
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