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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2006  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/07/2006   
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Contents >> Work >> Trends in Hours Worked

Trends in Hours Worked

Average weekly hours worked for both full-time workers and part-time workers have increased over the last two decades.

There has been a slight decline in the average weekly hours worked by all Australian workers over the last two decades. The decline in average hours is the result of strong growth in part-time employment (compared with full-time employment) and has occurred despite increases in average hours worked by both full-time and part-time workers. Strong growth in part-time employment, for both men and in particular women, has increased the proportion of workers working fewer hours, resulting in a slight decline in the overall average hours worked per week.

The hours that people work relate to their preferences and to the work that is available. The trend towards longer hours among full-time workers, together with increases in women's employment, has led to increases in the working hours of many families. Part-time employment is preferred by some people and is often used to help achieve balance between paid work and personal, social and family lives. However, other part-time workers would prefer more hours of work and the unavailability of extra hours may have financial impacts on some individuals and their families.


Hours worked

This article mainly uses data from the monthly ABS Labour Force Survey (LFS). Unless otherwise stated, estimates presented in this article are annual averages derived from quarterly LFS series. Data on preferred working hours are from the ABS November 2003 Survey of Working Arrangements.

Average weekly hours is the total actual hours worked by a group, divided by the total number of people in that group.

Full-time workers are those who usually work 35 hours or more per week (in all jobs) and those who, although usually work less than 35 hours a week, worked 35 hours or more in the reference week.

Part-time workers are those who usually work less than 35 hours per week (in all jobs) and did so in the reference week.

People working a standard week are those working 35–40 hours per week.


AVERAGE HOURS WORKED

Between 1985 and 2005, average weekly hours worked by all Australian workers declined slightly, from 35.8 hours to 34.7 hours. Over the same period average weekly hours worked by men declined from 39.7 hours to 39.3 hours and for women from 29.4 hours to 29.0 hours.

Along with a decline in men's average weekly hours, there has also been a decrease in the proportion of men working a standard week (35–40 hours per week). Between 1985 and 1995, the proportion of employed men working a standard week fell from 41% to 33%. This fall levelled off during the late 1990s and reduced only slightly further, to 32%, by 2005. The decline in men's average hours reflects an increase in the proportion of employed men working part-time hours (from 6% in 1985 to 15% in 2005) and occurred despite an increase in the proportion of employed men working more than a standard week (from 36% in 1985 to 42% in 2005).

The proportion of employed women working a standard week also decreased, from 37% to 27% between 1985 and 2005. The decline in women's average weekly hours also in part reflects the increase in part-time employment for women over the period (see Australian Social Trends 2006, Trends in women's employment).

DISTRIBUTION OF HOURS WORKED PER WEEK
GRAPH: DISTRIBUTION OF HOURS WORKED PER WEEK



FULL-TIME WORK

The proportion of employed men and women working full-time over the past 20 years has decreased, reflecting the shift towards part-time work. The proportion of employed men working full-time decreased from 94% to 85% between 1985 and 2005, and for women from 63% to 54%. For men, there have been decreases in the proportion working full-time in every age group, while for women there have been decreases in most age groups, with small increases or little change in others. Despite these differences, the proportion of employed women working full-time (54%) remains much lower than for men (85%) across all age groups.

The decline in the proportion of people working full-time has been greatest in younger age groups. This reflects the increasing number of young people (aged 15–24 years) delaying their commencement of full-time work as they continue their education or combine part-time work with study. For example, the proportion of employed men aged 15–24 years working full-time declined from 87% in 1985 to 64% in 2005, and for women in this age group from 75% to 45% over the same period.

Employed men in the age group 25–54 years experienced smaller decreases in the proportions working full-time than men in other age groups, while the proportion of women working full-time in this age group remained relatively stable, increasing or decreasing slightly. In particular, while the proportion of employed men aged 25–34 years working full-time decreased from 97% to 91% between 1985 and 2005, the proportion of women working full-time in this age group increased from 63% to 65% over the same period. There was a slight decrease in the proportion of employed women aged 35–44 years working full-time, from 54% to 52%, while for women aged 45–54 years the proportion employed full-time remained at 57% over the period. For men the proportion employed full-time decreased from 97% to 92% in both these age groups between 1985 and 2005.

There were decreases in the proportions of both employed men and women working full-time in age groups 55 years and over in part reflecting the use of part-time work as a transition to retirement.

PROPORTION OF EMPLOYED PERSONS WORKING FULL-TIME

1985
1995
2005



Males
Females
Males
Females
Males
Females
%
%
%
%
%
%

Age
15–19 years
76.0
62.8
51.7
28.3
44.8
22.5
20–24 years
93.3
83.5
84.6
70.6
76.1
60.8
25–34 years
96.5
63.2
94.0
64.1
91.3
65.2
35–44 years
97.2
53.7
94.4
54.3
92.5
52.0
45–54 years
96.6
57.1
94.6
59.3
92.1
56.7
55–64 years
92.3
56.0
85.9
49.7
84.8
49.8
65 years and over
61.4
37.0
58.3
35.1
54.3
30.9
Total 15 years and over
93.8
62.9
89.0
57.4
85.5
54.1

Source: Labour Force, Australia, Detailed – Electronic Delivery, quarterly (ABS cat. no. 6291.0.55.003)


...LONGER HOURS FOR FULL-TIME WORKERS

Average weekly hours for full-time workers increased from 40.2 hours to 41.9 hours between 1985 and 2005. This trend has been similar for both male and female full-time workers, with men's hours increasing 1.9 hours per week (to 43.2 hours) over the period, and women's increasing 1.7 hours per week (to 39.3 hours).

The proportion of full-time workers who work a standard week (35–40 hours per week) fell from 48% to 42% between 1985 and 2005. Despite this decrease, 37% of male and 51% of female full-time workers worked a standard week.

Very long hours of work (50 hours or more per week) have become more common for full-time workers in the 20 years since 1985, particularly for men. In 2005, 30% of men working full-time worked 50 hours or more per week, up from 22% in 1985. Fewer women working full-time worked very long hours, with 16% working 50 hours or more per week in 2005, up from 9% in 1985.

Long hours are more common in the occupations characterised by high levels of self-employment, such as full-time Managers and administrators (on average 48.1 hours per week in 2005). Full-time workers who work long hours tend to be employers (51.4 hours per week in 2005) and own account workers (45.6 hours per week).

FULL-TIME WORKERS: AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS
GRAPH: FULL-TIME WORKERS: AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS



...PREFERENCE FOR HOURS

In November 2003, more than half (61%) of all full-time employees were satisfied with the number of hours they usually worked per week, one third (33%) preferred to work fewer hours and a 6% preferred more hours.

The majority of full-time employees in each age group preferred no change in the number of hours they usually worked per week. This ranged from over half (57%) of full-time employees aged 45–54 years, to nearly three quarters (73% ) of full-time employees aged 15–19 years.

Full-time employees in younger age groups were most likely to prefer to work more hours per week, 14% of full-time employees aged 15–19 years and 10% of those aged 20–24 years preferred to work more than their usual weekly hours.

Full-time employees who usually worked very long hours (50 hours or more per week) were more likely to prefer to work fewer hours than other full-time employees. Over half (59%) preferred to work fewer hours while a further 39% preferred no change in the current number of hours they work. More than two thirds (71%) of full-time employees who usually worked a standard week were satisfied with the hours they worked per week.

FULL-TIME EMPLOYEES(a): HOURS PREFERENCES(b)
GRAPH: FULL-TIME EMPLOYEES(a): HOURS PREFERENCES(b)



PART-TIME WORK

There have been increases in the proportions of employed men and women working part-time between 1985 and 2005. The proportion of employed men working part-time more than doubled from 6% to 15% between 1985 and 2005. The proportion of employed women working part-time increased from 37% to 46% over the same period.

For both employed men and women, the increase in the proportion working part-time has been greatest in younger age groups where part-time employment is frequently used to balance work and study. For example the proportion of employed men aged 15–24 years working part-time increased from 13% to 36% between 1985 and 2005, and for women from 25% to 55% over the same period.

The proportion of employed men and women working part-time in the 25–54 year age groups has remained fairly stable between 1985 and 2005, increasing from 3% to 8% for men and from 41% to 42% for women. There were generally higher proportions of employed men and women working part-time in the 55 years and over age groups in 2005 than in 1985, reflecting the increased use of part-time work to re-enter the labour force after child caring responsibilities (for women) and in the transition from full-time work to retirement (for both men and women).

Average weekly hours of part-time workers increased slightly over the past two decades for both men and women. In 1985, the average hours of men working part-time was slightly higher (15.7 hours) than for women (15.5 hours). Men's average weekly hours dipped below women's average hours in the late 1980s and while the average hours for both men and women have increased since then, men's part-time hours remained slightly lower than women's part-time hours in 2005 (16.4 hours for men compared to 16.9 hours for women).

PART-TIME WORKERS: AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS
GRAPH: PART-TIME WORKERS: AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS



...PREFERENCE FOR MORE HOURS

In November 2003, 61% of part-time employees were satisfied with the number of hours they worked per week and would prefer no change. Just under a third (31%) preferred to work more hours each week, while a further 8% preferred to work less hours each week.

There were higher proportions of part-time employees in older age groups preferring no change in the number of hours worked per week. For example, 82% of part-time employees aged 65 years and over were satisfied with the number of hours worked per week compared with 49% of those aged 15–24 years. Part-time employees in younger age groups were more likely to prefer more hours of work, with almost half (48%) of part-time employees aged 15–24 years preferring more hours of work.

Part-time employees who work relatively long part-time hours (30–34 hours per week) are more likely to prefer less hours of work per week than other part-time employees. For example, 13% of part-time employees who work 30–34 hours per week would prefer less hours compared to just 3% of part-time employees who work 1–15 hours per week.

PART-TIME EMPLOYEES(a): HOURS PREFERENCES(b)
GRAPH: PART-TIME EMPLOYEES(a): HOURS PREFERENCES(b)



OCCUPATION

Average weekly hours for all workers declined in all occupation groups between 1997 and 2005. The largest decline was for Managers and administrators, from 48.2 hours per week to 44.6 hours between 1997 and 2005. This was followed closely by Associate professionals, from 42.8 hours to 39.5 hours over the same period. People working in these two occupations worked the longest average weekly hours in 2005, and these were also the only occupations with declines of more than 3.0 hours per week over the period.

Intermediate production and transport workers had the smallest decline in average weekly hours (0.1 hours) to 38.1 hours in 2005, while average weekly hours for Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers declined (0.2 hours) to 30.3 hours. Labourers and related workers and Tradepersons and related workers also had a relatively small decline in average hours. All other occupations had a decline of between 1.1 and 3.6 hours per week between 1997 and 2005.

AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS WORKED IN SELECTED OCCUPATIONS

1997
2005


Employed part-time

Occupation
Hours
Hours
'000
%

Managers and administrators
48.2
44.6
94.1
11.4
Professionals
37.9
36.1
454.4
24.1
Associate professionals
42.8
39.5
220.3
17.5
Tradespersons and related workers
39.6
39.0
130.0
10.3
Advanced clerical and service workers
29.2
27.5
179.3
46.1
Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers
30.5
30.3
653.3
39.8
Intermediate production and transport workers
38.2
38.1
141.0
17.2
Elementary clerical, sales and service workers
25.3
24.2
619.9
61.9
Labourers and related workers
30.0
29.6
357.3
40.6
Total Occupations
35.7
34.7
2 849.7
28.6

Source: Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery, quarterly (ABS cat. no. 6291.0.55.003).


INDUSTRY

Between 1995 and 2005, average weekly hours for all workers decreased from 35.9 hours to 34.7 hours, a decline of 1.2 hours per week. Industries experiencing the largest declines in average hours were Agriculture, forestry and fishing, from 42.9 hours to 40.6 hours (-2.3 hours), and Cultural and recreational services, from 32.7 hours to 30.6 hours (-2.1 hours).

Most industries that experienced an increase in average weekly hours between 1995 and 2005 also had higher average hours than the average across all industries in 2005 (34.7 hours per week). For example, average weekly hours in Mining increased 2.3 hours over the period to 45.5 hours per week, while in Communication services there was a 1.3 hour increase to 37.5 hours per week. Personal and other services was the only industry which had lower than total average hours in 2005 (33.5 hours per week) and which also experienced an increase (0.2 hours) in average hours from 1995.

In 2005, industries with average weekly hours that were higher than total average hours per week tended to have lower levels of part-time employment. Generally, the industries with high average weekly hours have no more than one-fifth (20%) of workers employed part-time. Two exceptions to this were Agriculture, forestry and fishing (with average weekly hours of 40.6 hours) and Property and business services (35.8 hours), where 26% of workers were employed part-time in both of these industry groups.

The proportion of part-time workers in industries with higher than total average weekly hours ranged from 4% of workers in Mining (with average weekly hours of 45.5 hours) to 19% of workers in Finance and insurance (36.2 hours per week), excluding Agriculture, forestry and fishing and Property and business services.

Industries with average weekly hours that were lower than total average hours (34.7 hours) tended to have significant part-time employment, with more than one-quarter of people working in those industries employed part-time. The exception was Government administration and defence with 17% of workers employed part-time and average weekly hours of 34.0 hours. The two industry groups with the lowest average weekly hours each had more than 40% of workers employed part-time. These were Health and community services (30.0 hours per week) with 43% of workers employed part-time, and Retail trade (30.1 hours) with 46% part-time employment.

The proportion of part-time workers in industries with lower than total average hours ranged from 29% of workers in Personal and other services (with average weekly hours of 33.5 hours) to 49% of workers in Accommodation, cafes and restaurants (30.8 hours per week), excluding Government administration and defence.

AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS WORKED IN SELECTED INDUSTRIES

1995
2005


Employed part-time

Industry
Hours
Hours
'000
%

Agriculture, forestry and fishing
42.9
40.6
94.7
26.0
Mining
43.2
45.5
4.8
3.9
Manufacturing
38.8
38.4
124.4
11.6
Electricity, gas and water
37.2
38.0
5.3
6.5
Construction
38.1
38.2
125.5
14.6
Wholesale trade
39.5
38.3
71.3
16.4
Retail trade
32.1
30.1
705.5
46.4
Accommodation, cafes and restaurants
32.7
30.8
246.7
49.4
Transport and storage
40.3
38.9
76.7
16.8
Communication services
36.2
37.5
25.8
14.0
Finance and insurance
36.4
36.2
71.6
19.2
Property and business services
37.1
35.8
307.8
26.3
Government administration and defence
34.6
34.0
78.7
17.3
Education
34.4
33.2
245.7
35.4
Health and community services
30.8
30.0
438.2
43.3
Cultural and recreational services
32.7
30.6
114.7
41.7
Personal and other services
33.3
33.5
112.4
28.8
Total Industries
35.9
34.7
2 849.7
28.6

Source: Labour Force, Australia, Detailed - Electronic Delivery, quarterly (ABS cat. no. 6291.0.55.003).


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