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6210.5 - Workforce Participation and Workplace Flexibility, Western Australia, October 2010 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 25/05/2011  First Issue
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SUMMARY OF FINDINGS


INTRODUCTION

This publication presents the results of the Workforce Participation and Workplace Flexibility Survey conducted in October 2010. Demographic change, particularly an ageing workforce, may result in declining workforce participation rates.

The focus of the survey was to provide information on attracting and retaining employees, including the factors that influence decisions to participate in the labour force. For employees, the survey collected information about work preferences, existing provisions for workplace flexibility and the utilisation of flexible working arrangements.

The survey was conducted as a supplement to the ABS Labour Force Survey. The Labour Force Survey comprises persons aged 15 years and over in the following groups, according to standard labour force definitions:

  • Labour Force
      • employed - employers, self employed or employees
      • unemployed - currently not employed but actively looking for paid work or waiting to start a new job.
  • Not in the labour force - neither employed nor unemployed and includes those who are on long term unpaid leave, i.e. have been away from a job for four weeks or more and have not been paid for any part of that absence.

See Explanatory Notes for more information


SURVEY POPULATION

Excluded from the survey population were persons in the Labour Force Survey population who were:
  • aged 15-17 years
  • unemployed
  • permanently unable to work
  • aged 65 years and over and not intending to work
  • employers, or own account workers
  • full time students under 25 years of age.

There are two categories of people remaining:
  • employees
  • persons not in the labour force.

For the purposes of this publication, the 'not in the labour force' population has been split into two groups:
  • Persons not in the labour force who were on long term unpaid leave
  • Persons not in the labour force who were not on long term unpaid leave.

Data for persons not in the labour force who were on long term unpaid leave have been combined with the data of employees, resulting in the following sub-populations:
  • Employees, and persons on long term unpaid leave
  • Persons not in the labour force, excluding those on long term unpaid leave.
Diagram: SURVEY POPULATION


SURVEY POPULATION OVERVIEW

In October 2010, there were an estimated 1,181,400 people aged 18 years and over in scope for the survey (Table 1). Approximately 79% (934,200 people) were employees or persons on long term unpaid leave. The remaining 247,200 were persons not in the labour force (excluding those on long term unpaid leave) (Table 1).


PERSONS NOT IN THE LABOUR FORCE, EXCLUDING THOSE ON LONG TERM UNPAID LEAVE

Demographic characteristics

At the time of the survey, 76% (186,700) of persons not in the labour force (excluding those on long term unpaid leave) were female. More than one in three (36%) were aged 55 years or over, 30% were living in households with a child aged 0-4 years present, and 38% were living in households where the equivalised annual household income was less than $25,000. By comparison, 6% of employees and persons on long term unpaid leave were living in households where the equivalised household income was less than $25,000 (Table 1). Equivalised household income is gross household income adjusted for household size and composition and allows for comparison between different household types (See Explanatory Notes).


Previous employment

The vast majority (91% or 225,300) of persons not in the labour force (excluding those on long term unpaid leave) had previously worked for pay in a job or business for a duration of two weeks or more. About 40% (97,700) last worked for pay 5 or more years ago, 35% (87,300) between 1 and 5 years ago, and 16% (40,300) in the last year (Table 2).

PERIOD SINCE LAST WORKED FOR PAY(a)
Graph: PERIOD SINCE LAST WORKED FOR PAY(a)


There was a relationship between the length of time since a person last worked for pay and the presence of young children in the household. Around 70% of persons in households with children aged 0-4 years had last worked for pay within the last 5 years compared with 44% of those in households with no children aged 0-4 years (Table 5).

PERIOD SINCE LAST WORKED FOR PAY, WHETHER 0-4 YEAR OLD CHILDREN IN HOUSEHOLD(a)
Graph: PERIOD SINCE LAST WORKED FOR PAY, WHETHER 0–4 YEAR OLD CHILDREN IN HOUSEHOLD(a)



Reasons for leaving previous job and for not seeking new employment

Males and females not in the labour force (excluding those on long term unpaid leave) had different reasons for leaving their last job. For males, the most commonly reported reasons were their own long term health condition or disability (32% or 17,600), and retired/didn't want to work any longer (27% or 15,000). For females, the most common reasons were to have children (35% or 60,200), and to look after family, house or someone else (16% or 27,100) (Table 6). Of people living in households with 0-4 year old children, 69% reported having children as the main reason for leaving their last job (Table 7).

Respondents were also asked for the main reason they were not currently seeking new employment. For both males and females, the most frequently reported reason was own ill health, physical disability, injury, pregnancy or to have children (38% and 43% for males and females respectively) (Table 6).


Employment intentions

About two in five (41%) people who were not in the labour force (excluding those on long term unpaid leave) reported that they would like to return to, or start, work, with similar proportions for males and females (40% and 41% respectively) (Table 2). The percentage was higher for those living in a household with children aged 0-4 years (59% or 43,600) than for those living in a household with no 0-4 year olds (33% or 57,200) (Table 5).

In terms of family type, the proportion who would like to return to, or start, work was highest among people in lone parent families (57%) and lowest for those in couple only families (17%) (Table 4).

WOULD LIKE TO RETURN TO, OR START, WORK-FAMILY TYPE
Graph: WOULD LIKE TO RETURN TO, OR START, WORK—FAMILY TYPE


As shown in the graph below, the proportion who would like to return to, or start, work decreased with age, from 63% for 18-24 year olds to 11% for those aged 65 years and over(footnote 1) (Table 3).

WOULD LIKE TO RETURN TO, OR START, WORK-AGE
Graph: WOULD LIKE TO RETURN TO, OR START, WORK—AGE



Special work arrangements required to return to, or start, work

Respondents were asked what arrangements were required to be in place for them to return to, or start, work. Of the 100,800 people who wanted to return to, or start, work, 16% reported that they did not require special work arrangements to do so (Table 8).

For those who required special working arrangements, the most commonly reported arrangements were part-time work (58% or 58,000), flexible start and finish times (39% or 39,200), childcare facilities available near or in the workplace (25% or 25,000) and a workplace close to home (23% or 22,900) (Table 8).

SPECIAL ARRANGEMENTS NEEDED TO BE IN PLACE TO RETURN TO, OR START, WORK
Graph: SPECIAL ARRANGEMENTS NEEDED TO BE IN PLACE TO RETURN TO, OR START, WORK



EMPLOYEES, AND PERSONS ON LONG TERM UNPAID LEAVE

Demographic characteristics

This section of the publication covers the 934,200 people who at the time of the survey were either employees, or were not in the labour force but were attached to a job because they were on long term (more than four weeks) unpaid leave. More than half (54%) were males, 49% were aged 25-44 years, and 45% were people living in couple with children families. About 47% were living in households with an equivalised annual household income of $70,000 or more (Table 1).


Employment characteristics

More than two thirds (68%) of employees and persons on long term unpaid leave, had been working in their current job for less than 5 years. An estimated 79% (736,000) were employed in the private sector. A slightly higher proportion (81% or 753,900) were employees with paid leave entitlements, whereas 17% (154,600) had no paid leave entitlements. The entitlement to paid leave was unknown for the remaining 2%. A higher proportion of females than males had no paid leave entitlements (20% compared with 14%). About three quarters (74% or 695,900) of employees worked full-time (35 hours or more per week) (Table 11).

Nearly one in four (24%) 18-24 year olds had no paid leave entitlements. The proportion decreased for each subsequent age group to the 45-54 years cohort which had the lowest proportion (13%). The age group 65 years and over had the highest proportion (38%) (Table 12).

EMPLOYEES WITHOUT PAID LEAVE ENTITLEMENTS - AGE
Graph: EMPLOYEES WITHOUT PAID LEAVE ENTITLEMENTS—AGE



Work preferences-employees only(footnote 2)

An estimated 217,000 (23%) full-time employees indicated that they would prefer to reduce their current work hours, with the proportion slightly higher for males than females (25% compared with 21%) (Table 14). People living alone and people in couple only families, had higher proportions wanting to reduce their working hours (30% and 28% respectively) while the proportion for lone parents with children was considerably lower (17%) (Table 13).

WOULD PREFER TO REDUCE WORKING HOURS(a)(b) - FAMILY TYPE
Graph: WOULD PREFER TO REDUCE WORKING HOURS(a)(b)—FAMILY TYPE


More than half (52% or 113,800) of those who would like to reduce their working hours reported social reasons/recreational activities/free time as the main reason for wanting to work fewer hours. A further 19% (41,000) reported a family reason as their main reason (Table 15).

MAIN REASON FOR PREFERRING TO WORK FEWER HOURS(a)(b)
Graph: MAIN REASON FOR PREFERRING TO WORK FEWER HOURS(a)(b)


Although some people preferred to reduce their working hours, there were barriers preventing them from doing so. More than half (56%) reported a reduction in pay as a barrier. This reason was more commonly reported by females (61%) than males (53%). Conversely, a higher proportion of males (32%) than females (23%) reported that because they had too much work, they were unable to reduce their hours (Table 15). Note that respondents could report more than one barrier.

BARRIERS TO REDUCING WORK HOURS(a)(b) -- SEX
Graph:BARRIERS TO REDUCING WORK HOURS(a)(b) -- SEX



Work-life balance

The majority of employees and persons on long term unpaid leave reported that their work and family/social responsibilities were sometimes, or always, balanced (49% and 40% respectively). A higher proportion of females than males reported that their family/social responsibilities were always balanced (43% compared with 37%). The proportion was also higher for those living outside of Perth than in Perth (44% compared with 39%) (Table 11).

LEVEL OF WORK-LIFE BALANCE-SEX
Graph: LEVEL OF WORK-LIFE BALANCE—SEX


One in ten employees (10%) reported that their work and family/social responsibilities were rarely or never balanced. This was highest among people working in the Transport, postal and warehousing industry (20%) (Table 17).

Across occupation groups, the proportion whose work and family/social responsibilities were rarely or never balanced ranged from 8% each for Technicians and trades workers, Clerical and administrative workers, and Sales workers, to 16% for Machinery operators and drivers (Table 18).

WORK-LIFE BALANCE, RARELY OR NEVER BALANCED - OCCUPATION GROUP
Graph: WORK-LIFE BALANCE, RARELY OR NEVER BALANCED - OCCUPATION GROUP


The proportion who reported that their work-life balance was always balanced decreased with increased income, from 45% of people in households with an equivalised household income of less than $25,000, down to 38% of those in households with income of $110,000 or more (Table 19).


Requests for changes to work arrangements

In the 2010 survey, employees and persons on long term unpaid leave were asked whether they had requested changes to their work arrangements during the previous 12 months. An estimated 23% of people reported asking for change. The proportion was higher for females (29%) than males (19%) (Table 11).

People aged 25-34 years and 35-44 years had the highest proportions requesting changes to work arrangements (27% and 28% respectively). This compared with 17% for 18-24 year olds who had the lowest proportion (Table 12).

Having young children in the household was associated with requests for changes to work arrangements. Approximately one third (34%) of people in households where the youngest child was aged 0-4 years had requested changes to work arrangements. This compares with 20% of people in households with no children under 15 years of age (Table 14).

REQUESTED CHANGES TO WORK ARRANGEMENTS - AGE OF YOUNGEST CHILD
Graph: REQUESTED CHANGES TO WORK ARRANGEMENTS—AGE OF YOUNGEST CHILD


Across industries, the proportions of people who requested changes were highest for Information Media and Telecommunications (40%) and Retail Trade (32%), and lowest for Other Services (17%) and Wholesale Trade (16%) (Table 31).

The percentages across occupation groups ranged from 31% for Sales workers to 18% for Labourers (Table 32).

REQUESTED CHANGES TO WORK ARRANGEMENTS - OCCUPATION GROUP
Graph: REQUESTED CHANGES TO WORK ARRANGEMENTS - OCCUPATION GROUP


Nearly four in five (78% or 170,400) requests for changes to work arrangements were approved or partially approved, and 17% (36,800) were not approved. The remainder were still awaiting a decision (4%) or the decision was not known (1%) (Table 20).

The proportion of requests that were approved or partially approved was higher among employees with paid leave entitlements than for those with no paid leave entitlements (79% compared with 73% respectively) (Table 23). The proportions were similar for people working in businesses with 20 or less employees and those in businesses with more than 20 employees (79% and 78% respectively) (Table 24).


Types of changes requested and reasons for requests

The most commonly requested change to working arrangements by employees and persons on long term unpaid leave was for reduced hours for a limited period (40,600 or 19%). Other frequently reported requests included more work/more hours (36,700 or 17%) and to have flexible working hours (32,100 or 15%) (Table 20). Note that respondents could request more than one change.

For most requests, the proportions were higher for females than males. However, a much higher proportion of males than females requested more money (17% compared with 6%). Conversely, the request to work part-time was about three times higher among females (10%) than males (3%) (Table 20).

TYPES OF REQUESTED CHANGES TO WORK ARRANGEMENTS - SEX
Graph: TYPES OF REQUESTED CHANGES TO WORK ARRANGEMENTS—SEX


A higher proportion of employees with no paid leave entitlements requested reduced hours for a limited period than did employees with paid leave entitlements (23% compared with 18%). Similarly, the proportion that requested more work/more hours was higher among employees with no paid entitlements (22% compared with 15%) (Table 23).

Requests for reduced hours were more frequent among public sector employees than private sector employees (25% compared with 17%). Similarly, requests for more work/more hours were more common in the public sector (21% compared with 16%) (Table 22).

Among people who requested changes to work arrangements, the most commonly reported reasons were financial (45,000 or 21%) and spending more time with family (41,100 or 19%) (Table 20).

MAIN REASON FOR REQUESTING CHANGES TO WORK ARRANGEMENTS-SEX
Graph: MAIN REASON FOR REQUESTING CHANGES TO WORK ARRANGEMENTS—SEX


For private sector employees, the most commonly reported main reasons for requesting changes to work arrangements were financial (22%) and to spend more time with family (21%). The comparable figures for the public sector were 16% and 13% respectively. Childcare needs were reported as the main reason for requesting changes to work arrangements by 13% of people in the public sector and 9% of those in the private sector (Table 22). The proportion was higher for people in households with children aged 0-4 years than in households with no children in this age group (29% and 4% respectively)(Table 21).

Financial reasons were more common among employees with no paid leave entitlements (28%) than for those with paid leave entitlements (19%). The proportion who reported leisure/travel as their main reason was also higher for employees with no paid leave entitlements than those with paid leave entitlements (15% compared with 8%) (Table 23).


REASONS FOR NOT REQUESTING FLEXIBLE WORK ARRANGEMENTS

Employees and persons on long term leave who were content with their working arrangements were less inclined to request changes. About three quarters (76% or 535,200) of employees who did not request a change to their work arrangements reported being content with arrangements as the main reason for not making a request (Table 26).

The percentage of people who asked for change was higher for those who felt their work and life responsibilities were rarely or never balanced (36% and 33% respectively) and lower for those whose work life responsibilities were always balanced (19%) or sometimes balanced (25%) (Table 30).

REQUESTED CHANGES TO WORK ARRANGEMENTS - WORK-LIFE BALANCE
Graph: REQUESTED CHANGES TO WORK ARRANGEMENTS—WORK-LIFE BALANCE



SUMMARY

Flexible working arrangements have an important role in encouraging workforce participation, by improving employment opportunities for those with personal health conditions, disabilities or family/social responsibilities and encouraging a healthy work life balance. People who reported that their work and family/social responsibilities were balanced were more likely to be satisfied with their working arrangements.

The ability to choose the hours worked was a common theme among both sub-populations in the survey in terms of preferred working arrangements. For those wanting to return to, or start, work, part-time and/or flexible working hours were required to engage them in the labour force. Similarly, the most common changes requested by employees were fewer hours and more flexible hours.

1 Persons aged 65 years and over who indicated they do not intend to return to the labour force were excluded from the survey. This does not exclude those who may at some time return to or start work. <back
2 Persons on long term unpaid leave were not asked questions in the labour force survey about hours usually worked, so this survey was not able to ask them whether they would prefer to reduce their working hours. <back

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