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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1994  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/05/1994   
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Contents >> Work >> Paid Employment: Trends in part-time work

Employment arrangements: Trends in part-time work

Much of the job growth in recent years has been in part-time work. In 1993 just under a quarter of all employed persons were working part-time.

One
of the most important developments in the labour market in recent years has been the substantial growth in part-time work. Total employment grew by 1.8 million or 32% between 1973 and 1993. Just over one million of the new jobs were part-time, representing an increase in part-time employment of 164% over the 20-year period. The number of people working full-time grew by nearly three-quarters of a million, an increase of 14%.

The relatively rapid growth of part-time work in comparison to the growth of full-time work has led to a substantial increase in the proportion of the employed working part-time. In 1973, 12% of all workers were part-time, by 1983 the proportion had reached 17%, and in 1993 it was 24%.


This trend presents challenges in terms of policy making which has, in many areas, traditionally been based on a model of full-time working arrangements.
Industrial relations (see Trends in trade union membership), social security and family welfare are just some of the broad areas in which part-time work has become an important issue. Research also suggests that the proportion of new jobs that are part-time has an important effect on the impact that overall employment growth has on reducing measured unemployment1.

Both the demand and supply side of the labour market have influenced the growth in part-time work.


Part-time work

Part-time workers
are defined by the ABS as employed persons who usually work less than 35 hours in a week and who did so during the reference week.

Prior to 1986 figures do not include unpaid family helpers working less than 15 hours a week. No adjustments have been made for this break in the series. The effect should only be small, however.

INDEX(a) OF TRENDS IN PART-TIME AND FULL-TIME EMPLOYMENT



(a) Base year 1973=100.


Source: Labour Force Survey.



Industry

High growth in the service industries is one of the most often cited factors associated with the growth in demand for part-time workers. Part-time workers tend to be highly concentrated in the service industries, reflecting the cost advantages of part-time labour in these areas.


In 1993, 79% of all part-time workers were employed in just 4 of the 12 major industry groupings and all of these were service industries: wholesale and retail trade (28%); community services (26%); recreation, personal and other services (14%); and finance, property and business services (10%). It is precisely these industries which have experienced the greatest employment growth over the last two decades.


In 1973 manufacturing was the largest industry grouping in terms of employment, followed by wholesale and retail trade, community services, construction, and agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting. By 1993 the largest employer had become wholesale and retail trade, followed by community services. Manufacturing had slipped to third, while construction and agriculture were replaced as the fourth and fifth largest employers by finance, property and business services, and recreation, personal and other services.


Although part-time employment growth was greatest in service industries such as wholesale and retail trade, community services etc., increases were recorded in all of the 12 major
industrial categories. In construction the proportion increased almost four-fold between 1973 and 1993, from 4% to 16%, and in public administration the proportion almost trebled from 4% to 12%.

In the service industries the increase in the proportion of people working part-time was largely due to employment growth in part-time work outstripping employment growth in full-time work. However, in agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting; electricity, gas and water; manufacturing; construction; and communications, growth in part-time employment was accentuated by declines in full-time employment.


The specific reasons for strong growth in part-time work vary according to the industry in question. Nevertheless, some of the more general developments likely to have had an effect in a number of areas include:
    • the introduction of extended working hours. This has particularly affected the retail industry following the relaxation of trading hour restrictions, but also banking, restaurants, pubs and clubs, and many other service providers;
    • the introduction of new technology. The technology which has had the greatest impact in this respect is information and data processing. In many areas this technology has led to a complete reorganisation of work. Areas affected include finance, property and business services (including banking administration), other clerical work in a number of industries, and retailing;
    • an increased demand by employers for flexibility under more competitive conditions. In many areas there are peak demand periods for services through the day, week or year. Under such conditions part-time labour may prove more flexible and as such may also be more cost effective;
    • changed award conditions which allowed part-time work on a permanent basis.
LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION RATE PROFILES
Full-time males
Full-time females
Part-time males
Part-time females


Source: Labour Force Survey

TRENDS IN PART-TIME EMPLOYMENT BY INDUSTRY

Full-time employment
Part-time employment
Total employment
Change 1973-93




1973
1993
1973
1993
1973
1993
Part-time
Full-time
Total
Industry
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting
375.8
320.4
50.4
86.8
426.1
407.2
36.4
-55.4
-18.9
Mining
67.7
86.9
1.8
3.1
69.5
90.0
1.3
19.2
20.5
Manufacturing
1,313.8
962.4
68.5
111.5
1,382.3
1,073.9
43.0
-351.4
-308.4
Electricity, gas and water
98.4
93.2
* *
1.7
99.0
94.8
* *
-5.2
-4.2
Construction
481.9
465.9
21.3
87.9
503.2
553.8
66.6
-16.0
50.6
Wholesale and retail trade
992.9
1,073.7
194.2
516.0
1,187.1
1,589.7
321.8
80.8
402.6
Transport and storage
294.0
324.1
18.5
41.4
312.4
365.5
22.9
30.1
53.1
Communication
120.4
102.7
5.8
11.6
126.2
114.4
5.8
-17.7
-11.8
Finance, property and business services
350.0
662.4
51.2
190.7
401.3
853.1
139.5
312.4
451.8
Public administration and defence
219.1
344.8
8.9
44.9
228.0
389.7
36.0
125.7
161.7
Community services
550.0
1,011.8
142.4
465.8
692.4
1,477.6
323.4
461.8
785.2
Recreation, personal and other services
229.0
352.2
126.5
259.0
355.6
611.2
132.5
123.2
255.6
Total
5,092.9
5,800.5
690.1
1,820.5
5,783.0
7,621.0
1,130.4
707.6
1,838.0


Source: Labour Force Survey


Occupation

As might be expected given industry concentrations, part-time workers are also concentrated in a narrow range of occupations. In 1993, the proportion of part-time workers was above the average of 24% in 15 out of 52 occupation groups. These same occupation groups accounted for close to three-quarters of all part-time workers. The 15 largest occupation groups in terms of full-time employment accounted for about half of all full-time workers.


Cleaners had the highest proportion of people working part-time at 63%. Other occupations with more than 50% working part-time in 1993 were miscellaneous salespersons (a group which includes bar attendants, waiters and waitresses), tellers, cashiers and ticket salespersons, and sales assistants.


In 1993, sales assistants accounted for 14% of all part-time workers and was the largest occupation group in terms of the overall number of people working part-time. The next largest occupation group was miscellaneous labourers and related workers which accounted for 9% of all part-time workers. This group includes storemen, kitchenhands and hospital ward helpers.

SELECTED OCCUPATIONS, 1993

% of occupation group part-time
% of all part-time workers
Occupation (minor group)
%
%

Cleaners
63.3
7.1
Miscellaneous salespersons
59.6
6.0
Tellers, cashiers and ticket salespersons
59.3
4.6
Sales assistants
51.4
13.9
Personal service workers
48.9
4.1
Miscellaneous labourers and related workers
42.5
9.3
Other teachers and instructors
43.7
2.6
Registered nurses
40.4
3.6
Receptionists, telephonists and messengers
34.0
3.9
Numerical clerks
33.4
8.4
Stenographers and typists
31.2
4.0
Agricultural labourers and related workers
29.7
2.2
Filing, sorting and copying clerks
27.1
0.9
Miscellaneous clerks
26.4
1.6
Miscellaneous professionals
24.5
0.7


Source: Labour Force Survey


Demographic characteristics

The majority of part-time workers (75% in 1993) are women and the increasing participation of women in the labour force has been one of the major factors on the supply side of the labour market associated with the increase in part-time employment. The female labour force participation rate increased 10 percentage points between 1973 and 1993, rising from 41% to 51%. Over 90% of the increase was due to an increase in participation in the part-time labour market.


Increasingly women are combining work with family responsibilities and part-time work provides an important means of achieving this. In 1993 the incidence of part-time work was highest among married women at 47% compared to 35% for unmarried women. The incidence of part-time work among men in 1993 was 10%.


Students are another important source of part-time labour and the increase in participation in education among 15-24 year olds, particularly through the 1980s, has been another important trend contributing to an increase in the supply of potential part-time workers (see
Education - National summary tables). Participation in full-time education among 15-24 year olds increased from 25% to 38% between 1982 and 1992. Over the same period participation in the full-time labour force by 15-24 year olds declined, from 61% to 48%, while participation in the part-time labour force increased, from 11% to 21%.

About 40% of the overall increase in participation in the part-time labour force between 1973 and 1993 was due to increased participation by 15-24 year olds, a large proportion of whom are students.


One other group which requires special mention with respect to part-time work is older male workers, particularly those in retirement. Although men in the 55-64 year age range represented only a little over 3% of the total part-time labour force in 1993, 12% of those who were working, worked part-time, compared to 6% of men aged 25-54 years. This partly reflects the use of part-time work as a means of easing into retirement (see
Early retirement among men).
EDUCATION AND LABOUR FORCE PARTICIPATION OF 15-24 YEAR OLDS



Source: Labour Force Survey; Survey of Transition from Education to Work.



Part-time work and unemployment

The fact that such a large proportion of the pool of people working or wishing to work part-time are married women and students impacts on the relationship between employment growth and unemployment. A number of researchers have argued that among these particular groups a large proportion are likely to have been outside the labour force prior to obtaining a job. Similarly, if married women or students lose their part-time jobs they are likely to leave the labour force, rather than enter the pool of unemployed for any extended period. In essence this means that many of the participants in the part-time labour market effectively bypass the unemployment pool upon entering or exiting the labour force.


This has critical implications for the way in which job growth affects measured unemployment. As the mix of new jobs changes, with more jobs being part-time, the effect of overall job growth on measured unemployment is diminished. This partly explains why at the present time Australia has a high unemployment rate despite many years of high overall employment growth.


Some support for this argument can be found in the fact that increases in part-time work have corresponded with increases in participation in the labour force by women, particularly married women, and students. Some support can also be found in the fact that in 1992, 67% of people outside the labour force who wanted to work said they would prefer a part-time job. Moreover, 64% of discouraged jobseekers i.e. people who had left the labour force because they could not find a job, also said they would prefer part-time work. At the same time only 14% of the people who were unemployed said they were looking for part-time rather than full-time work.


Underemployment

The majority of people working part-time do so by choice. Nevertheless, with the growth in unemployment in recent years the number of people working part-time who would prefer more hours has been increasing, as has the number of full-time workers forced to work part-time hours because of lack of work. Combined, these two groups of workers comprise the underemployed.


In 1993, 580,000 people were underemployed, a slight decline from the previous year. The underemployment rate (underemployed expressed as a percentage of the labour force) was 7%. About 12% of the underemployed were full-time workers stood down or on short time because of insufficient work. The remainder, just over half a million, were part-time workers. Of these, 186,000 (36%) had actively looked for full-time work in the four weeks prior to the survey.


The half million underemployed part-time workers represented 28% of all part-time workers in 1993. 62% of underemployed part-time workers were women compared to 75% of all part-time workers. The highest incidence of underemployment among male part-time workers was in the 25-34 years age group of whom 60% wanted to work more hours. The highest incidence of underemployment among women was 43% in the 20-24 years age group. Overall, 44% of male part-time workers were underemployed compared to 23% of female part-time workers.

UNDEREMPLOYMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT RATES



Source: Labour Force Survey; Survey of Transition from Education to Work.

TOTAL AND UNDEREMPLOYED PART-TIME WORKERS, AUGUST 1993

Total part-time workers
Underemployed part-time workers


Males
Females
Persons
Males
Females
Persons
Age group (years)
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000

15-19
123.6
168.8
292.4
46.2
47.4
93.6
20-24
71.6
129.1
200.8
34.3
55.9
90.2
25-34
71.9
303.2
375.1
43.3
69.8
113.1
35-44
58.5
397.6
456.1
32.7
78.7
111.3
45-54
47.2
264.9
312.1
23.4
55.2
78.7
55 and over
76.5
107.6
184.1
15.7
9.8
25.5
Total
449.3
1,371.1
1,820.5
195.6
316.8
512.4


Source: Labour Force Survey


Endnotes

1 See for example Lewis, H. (1990 )
Part-time Work: Trends and Issues and Gregory, R.G. (1990) Jobs and Gender: a Lego Approach to the Australian Labour Market Discussion Paper No. 244, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Australian National University.



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