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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2002  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 09/05/2002   
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Contents >> Work >> Paid Work: Working from home

Employment arrangements: Working from home

In June 2000, there were almost 1 million home workers in Australia. The main reason for people working from home was to operate a business (48%).

While there have always been home workers in the Australian labour market, advances in information technology and the introduction of family-friendly policies and flexible working arrangements have made working from home an increasingly attractive option for many people. As location is less important for home work, employees have access to a larger range of jobs, and employers can choose from larger numbers of potential employees. Home work may also increase opportunities for people who have limited access to normal workplaces due to disability, illness or caring responsibilities.1

Working from home offers a range of benefits to both individuals and their employers. Home workers, whether employees or self-employed persons, may find they have greater flexibility in working hours, a reduction in travelling time and costs, and better access to recreational, social and educational facilities in their local communities.1 Employers may benefit from employing home workers through reduced operating costs, increased employee motivation, retention of skilled personnel, reduced absenteeism and the use of peak performance times.2

However, employees working from home may experience reduced opportunities for career advancement, and feel isolated from workplace communication channels.2 Home workers must also strive to balance family and other pressures that intrude at home.1 Employers may also have difficulties accessing and supervising their staff, and achieving a better team work approach.3


Home workers
The ABS collects information on persons employed at home through the Locations of Work Survey. This survey was conducted for the first time in June 2000 and replaced the Survey of Persons Employed at Home conducted in 1989, 1992 and 1995. As a result of conceptual changes, data from the 2000 survey are not directly comparable with data from earlier surveys.

In this article, persons employed at home are referred to as home workers. As in the June 2000 survey, home workers are defined as employed persons who, during the reference week, worked all or most hours at their own home or at the home of another person (excluding the home of their employer or client) and employees who worked less hours at home than elsewhere but had an arrangement with their employer to work at home.


Who are home workers?
One in five (1.8 million) employed persons in 2000 worked some hours at home. Almost 1 million of these were classified as home workers. Home workers include persons who only or mainly worked at home (692,600 persons) as well as employees who, though working less hours at home than elsewhere, had an arrangement with their employer to work at home (287,700 persons). Almost half (49%) of all home workers in 2000 were women. This was larger than the proportion of all workers who were women (44%).

In general, home workers tend to be older than other employed persons. In 2000, more than three-quarters (76%) of home workers were aged 35 years and over, compared with 57% of all workers. The median age of home workers was 44 years, compared with 38 years for all workers. Male home workers tended to be older than female home workers, with a median age of 45 years, compared with 43 years for females.

In 2000, home workers were more likely to be employees than self-employed (58% compared with 42%). However, the proportion of home workers who were self-employed was higher than the proportion of all workers who were self-employed (13%).

HOME WORKERS AND ALL EMPLOYED PERSONS - 2000

Home workers
All employed persons


Males
Females
Persons
Males
Females
Persons

Age group (years)
%
%
%
%
%
%
    15-24
5.5
3.3
4.5
17.0
20.3
18.4
    25-34
18.1
21.7
19.8
24.7
24.1
24.5
    35-44
25.5
32.9
29.1
25.3
25.4
25.3
    45-54
28.0
27.8
27.9
21.4
21.9
21.6
    55-64
16.1
11.7
13.9
9.6
7.2
8.6
    65 and over
6.8
2.7
4.8
2.1
1.1
1.6
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total
503.3
476.9
980.3
4,830.8
3,758.6
8,589.4

Source: ABS 2000 Survey of Locations of Work.


Industry
In 2000, 23% of all home workers worked in the Agriculture, forestry and fishing industry. This reflects the large number of farmers who were home workers. Just over one in five home workers in 2000 were farmers.

Working from home was less common in service industries than in goods producing industries (9% and 15%, respectively, of all persons employed in these industries). However, due to larger numbers of people working in service industries, home workers were more likely to come from these industries (61% of all home workers) than goods producing industries (39%). Of the 584,500 home workers employed in service industries, 25% worked in Property and business services, 15% worked in Education and 10% worked in Health and community services.

INDUSTRY OF HOME WORKERS - 2000

Industry
Proportion of home workers
Home workers(a) as a proportion of all employed persons in the industry(b)

Selected industries
%
%
    Agriculture, forestry and fishing
22.9
50.4
    Personal and other services
5.5
15.3
    Property and business services
15.4
14.5
    Education
9.2
14.4
    Cultural and recreational services
3.1
13.8
    Construction
8.1
11.0
    Wholesale trade
4.9
10.7
    Finance and insurance
3.6
10.2
    Electricity, gas and water supply
0.7
10.2
    Communication services
1.3
7.1
Goods producing industries(c)
39.4
15.4
Service industries(d)
60.6
8.9
Total
(e)100.0
10.9

'000
'000
Total
(f)980.3
9,032.3

(a) Home workers in the June 2000 Locations of Work Survey.
(b) All employed persons in the May 2000 Labour Force Survey.
(c) Comprises Agriculture, forestry and fishing, Mining, Manufacturing, Construction, and Electricity, gas and water supply.
(d) Comprises Wholesale trade, Retail trade, Accommodation, cafes and restaurants, Transport and storage, Communication services, Finance and insurance, Property and business services, Government administration and defence, Education, Health and community services, Cultural and recreational services, and Personal and other services.
(e) Home workers whose industry was not determined were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.
(f) Includes home workers whose industry was not determined.

Source: ABS 2000 Survey of Locations of Work; ABS Labour Force Survey, May 2000.


Occupation
In 2000, home workers comprised 39% of all persons employed as Managers and administrators and 28% of all Advanced clerical and service workers. The latter occupation group includes occupations such as bookkeepers, secretaries and personal assistants.

Just over half (52%) of home workers employed in goods producing industries were Managers and administrators, compared with 9% of home workers in service industries. This reflects the large number of farmers working from home.

Home workers in service industries were concentrated in Professional occupations (39% of all home workers in these industries). Professionals working from home were concentrated in Education (30%, e.g. teachers) and Property and business services (29%, e.g. accountants and computing professionals).

The distribution of male and female home workers among different occupation groups tended to follow overall labour market trends. Women working from home outnumbered men in each of the three occupation groups involving clerical, sales and service workers. However, as in the total labour force, male home workers outnumbered female home workers in every other occupation group.

OCCUPATION OF HOME WORKERS - 2000

Type of industry
Sex
Home workers(a) as a proportion of all employed persons in the occupation(b)


Goods producing industries(c)
Service industries(d)
Males
Females
Persons

Occupation
%
%
%
%
%
%
    Managers and administrators
52.4
8.7
35.3
15.9
25.9
39.4
    Professionals
5.2
39.3
28.0
23.6
25.9
15.2
    Associate professionals
3.8
16.5
13.5
9.4
11.5
10.9
    Tradespersons and related workers
8.2
3.7
8.6
2.1
5.5
4.4
    Advanced clerical and service workers
13.0
10.2
1.6
21.6
11.3
28.0
    Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers
7.1
15.6
5.3
19.5
12.2
7.4
    Intermediate production and transport workers
3.1
1.0
2.4
1.3
1.9
2.2
    Elementary clerical, sales and service workers
*0.5
3.4
1.6
3.0
2.3
2.5
    Labourers and related workers
6.7
1.6
3.7
3.5
3.6
4.0
Total
(e)100.0
(e)100.0
(e)100.0
(e)100.0
(e)100.0
10.9

'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total
(f)379.6
(f)584.5
(f)503.3
(f)476.9
(f)980.3
9,032.3

(a) Home workers in the June 2000 Locations of Work Survey.
(b) All employed persons in the May 2000 Labour Force Survey.
(c) Comprises Agriculture, forestry and fishing, Mining, Manufacturing, Construction, and Electricity, gas and water supply.
(d) Comprises Wholesale trade, Retail trade, Accommodation, cafes and restaurants, Transport and storage, Communication services, Finance and insurance, Property and business services, Government administration and defence, Education, Health and community services, Cultural and recreational services, and Personal and other services.
(e) Home workers whose occupation was not determined were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.
(f) Includes home workers whose occupation was not determined.

Source: ABS 2000 Survey of Locations of Work; ABS Labour Force Survey, May 2000.


Reasons for working at home
In 2000, almost half (48%) of all home workers indicated that their main reason for working at home was to operate their own (or a family) business. Other reasons given for working at home were to catch up on work (15% of all home workers), flexible working arrangements (11%) and conditions of employment (10%). Child care or family considerations was the main reason for working at home for 4% of home workers.

While relatively few people cited their main reason for working at home as child care or family considerations, women working from home in 2000 were more likely to have children aged under 15 years than women working in other locations (42% of female home workers and 30% of all female workers). In comparison, 35% of male home workers and 32% of all male workers had children aged under 15 years.

HOME WORKERS, MAIN REASON FOR WORKING AT HOME - 2000

Source: Locations of Work, Australia, June 2000 (ABS cat. no. 6275.0).


Working hours and conditions
On average, male home workers in 2000 worked longer hours at home than female home workers. Men working at home in their main job averaged 27 hours a week at home, compared with 17 hours for women working from home. Although 53% of all home workers worked more than 40 hours a week in total, much of this work was done away from home. More than half (57%) of all home workers working at home in their main job worked 19 hours a week or less.

For many home workers, working from home is a long-term arrangement. In 2000, half (51%) of all home workers had worked in a job at home for five years or more, with 34% having worked from home for 10 years or more. The length of time that persons had worked from home varied across occupation groups. In 2000, 57% of Managers and administrators had worked from home for 10 years or more, compared with 28% of Professionals and 32% of Advanced clerical and service workers.

Of the 58% of homeworkers who were employees, most were covered by workers compensation and superannuation, but they were less likely to have access to such benefits than other employees. In 2000, 80% of employees working from home in their main job were covered by workers compensation, compared with 93% of all employees.4 Similarly, 74% of employees working from home had superannuation coverage provided by their current employer, compared with 84% of all employees.4

Many employees working from home have access to paid sick leave and paid holiday leave, although again not to the same extent as other employees. In 2000, 59% of employees working from home had access to either paid sick leave or paid holiday leave, compared with 71% of all employees.5

Employees working from home were also less likely to be members of trade unions than other employees. In June 2000, 16% of employees working from home were trade union members, compared with 25% of all employees in August 2000.5

HOME WORKERS AND ALL EMPLOYED PERSONS, WEEKLY HOURS WORKED - 2000

Home workers working at home in main job
Home workers working in all jobs and locations
All employed persons

Males
Females
Persons
Weekly hours worked
%
%
%
%
%

Under 10 hours
33.0
42.4
37.5
10.5
7.3
10-19 hours
15.6
23.6
19.4
11.4
9.5
20-29 hours
9.8
12.0
10.9
10.1
11.0
30-34 hours
6.4
5.5
6.0
7.8
12.9
35-39 hours
4.1
4.0
4.1
7.7
14.5
40 hours or more
31.1
12.5
22.2
52.6
44.8
Total(a)
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Persons whose weekly hours worked was not determined were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.

Source: ABS 2000 Survey of Locations of Work.


Use of information technology
In 2000, most home workers (64%) used information technology in their job at home. In the Locations of Work Survey, information technology refers to computers and the Internet (including e-mail).

Female home workers were slightly more likely than males to use computers as part of their job at home (66% compared with 63%). However, male home workers were more likely to use the Internet in their job at home than females (43% compared with 35%). These differences in information technology usage are likely to reflect differences in the occupational profiles of male and female home workers.

In terms of the occupations of home workers, information technology usage was highest among Professionals (83%) and Advanced clerical and service workers (76%). Professionals working from home (over half of whom were men) were more likely to use the Internet in their job at home (59%) than to use computers alone (24%). In contrast, Advanced clerical and service workers working from home (most of whom were women) were slightly more likely to use computers without connection to the Internet (40%) than with such connections (36%).

USE OF INFORMATION TECHNOLOGY BY HOME WORKERS - 2000

Males
Females
Persons
Use of information technology
%
%
%

Use information technology in job at home
63.0
65.6
64.2
    Use computer only
20.2
30.2
25.1
    Use Internet
42.7
35.3
39.1
Do not use information technology in job at home
37.0
34.4
35.8

Total
100.0
100.0
100.0

Source: ABS 2000 Survey of Locations of Work.


Endnotes
1 Standen, P. 1997 'Home, work and management in the Information Age', Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Academy of Management, vol. 3, no. 1, pp. 1-14.

2 Haseloff, K. 1999 'Teleworking - OH&S issues for employers', Safety Science Monitor, vol. 3, Safety Management, article 11 <http://www.ipso.asn.au/index.htm> accessed 21 January 2002.

3 Di Martino, V. 2001, The High Road to Teleworking, International Labour Organisation, Geneva.

4 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2001, Employment Arrangements and Superannuation, Australia, April to June 2000, cat. no. 6361.0, ABS, Canberra.

5 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2001, Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership, Australia, August 2000,
cat. no. 6310.0, ABS, Canberra.



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