Australian Bureau of Statistics
1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2004
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/02/2004
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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 is equivalent to the supply of labour available for the production of economic goods and services. Therefore, persons in the labour force are also referred to as the 'currently economically active population'.
6.2 THE AUSTRALIAN LABOUR FORCE FRAMEWORK(a)
(a) The rules for determining whether a person is classified as employed, unemployed or not in the labour force are detailed in 'Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2001' (6102.0), paragraphs 2.12 to 2.23.
Source: Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2001 (6102.0).
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 adult population. Between June 2002 and June 2003 the labour force grew by 1.6%. During the same period the civilian population aged 15 and over grew 1.6%. The similarity in these rates indicates there was little change 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 persons in the labour force by the total number of persons in the civilian population aged 15 years and over. Analysis of participation rates, particularly in terms of age, sex and family status, 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 a level of 61% in 1982-83 to 64% in 2002-03. The main force behind the long-term rise in the labour force participation rate has been an increase in the female participation rate. The female participation rate increased from 45% in 1982-83 to 56% in 2002-03. In contrast, the male participation rate fell from 77% to 72% over the same period. Graph 6.3 shows male and female participation rates between 1982-83 and 2002-03 and illustrates the convergence of male and female participation rates over time.
Underlying these contrasting trends in male and female participation rates are varying movements in the age-specific participation rates. As seen in table 6.4, male and female participation rates are similar in the 15-19 year age group. The low participation rate for persons in this age group reflects the fact that many young people are in full-time education, and many of these students are not in the labour force. Participation rates for males and females then rise as young people move from education and training to employment. For males, participation rates peak in the 25-34 and 35-44 age groups. Female participation rates peak in the 20-24 year age group.
Examining changes in age-specific participation rates for women between 1982-83 and 2002-03, more women are remaining in the labour force during the child-bearing years. In 1982-83, the female participation rate fell from 71.0% for the 20-24 year age group to 54.0% for the 25-34 year age group, a fall of 17.0 percentage points. In 2002-03, the participation rate fell from 77.5% for the 20-24 year age group to 70.8% for the 25-34 year age group (a fall of 6.7 percentage points), then rose slightly through to the 45-54 year age group.
Examining changes in age-specific participation rates for men between 1982-83 and 2002-03, for all age groups up to and including the 55-64 year age group, participation rates declined between the two periods. In contrast to this declining male participation rate, the participation rate for men 65 years and over increased slightly between 1982-83 and 2002-03.
Table 6.5 shows changes in labour force status (i.e. employed, unemployed, not in the labour force) between 1997-98 and 2002-03. During this period the total number of persons employed grew by 11.0% to 9.5 million. This comprised an increase of 6.8% in the level of full-time employment and an increase of 23.2% in the level of part-time employment. Part-time employed persons now account for 28.5% of all employed persons. Women dominate the part-time workforce, accounting for 71.2% of part-time workers.
The unemployment rate declined gradually from 8.0% in 1997-98 to 6.4% in 2000-01. The unemployment rate then rose slightly to 6.6% in 2001-02, before falling to 6.1% in 2002-03. Over this six-year period, the unemployment rate for women has remained consistently below that for men.
Within Australia, labour force participation, employment and unemployment vary across states and territories and across capital cities and regional areas. Table 6.6 shows the labour force status by state and part of state for 2002-03.
The Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory had higher participation rates (both 73%) and lower unemployment rates (6% and 4% respectively) than any of the states. Tasmania had the lowest participation rate (58%) and highest unemployment rate (9%).
There was no consistent pattern in differences between participation rates and unemployment rates in capital cities and the balance of states. In New South Wales, Queensland and Tasmania, the balance of state had a higher unemployment rate and lower participation rate than the capital city. However, in South Australian and Western Australia, the capital city had a higher unemployment rate.
In 2002-03 there were 10.1 million people in the Australian labour force, of whom 24.6% were born overseas (table 6.7). The labour force participation rate for persons born overseas was 57.7% compared with 67.7% for persons born in Australia. Migrants from main English speaking countries participated in the labour force at a higher rate than those from other than main English speaking countries. The unemployment rate for migrants from main English speaking countries (5.0%) was lower than that for both persons born in Australia (6.0%) and migrants from other than main English speaking backgrounds (7.5%).
Table 6.8 provides an overview of labour force status of persons at June 2003, according to the family relationship within the household. For couple families with dependants present, 83% of husbands (or male partners) were employed full-time, compared with 26% of wives (or female partners) (with a further 37% of wives employed part-time). Just over half of male lone parents with dependants (54%) were employed full-time compared with 22% of female lone parents with dependants. The unemployment rates for husbands and for wives were lower than for all other groups.
This page last updated 24 March 2006
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