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6265.0 - Underemployed Workers, Australia, Sep 2008 Quality Declaration 
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/02/2009   
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1 The statistics in this publication were compiled from data collected in the Underemployed Workers Survey conducted throughout Australia in September 2008 as a supplement to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS). Respondents to the monthly LFS who were within the scope of the supplementary survey were asked further questions.

2 The publication Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) contains information about survey design, sample redesign, scope, coverage and population benchmarks relevant to the monthly LFS, which also apply to supplementary surveys. It also contains definitions of demographic and labour force characteristics, and information about telephone interviewing relevant to both the monthly LFS and supplementary surveys.


3 The conceptual framework used in Australia's LFS aligns closely with the standards and guidelines set out in the Resolutions of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians. Descriptions of the underlying concepts and structure of Australia's labour force statistics, and the sources and methods used in compiling these estimates, are presented in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0.55.001) which is available on the ABS web site <> (Methods, Classifications, Concepts & Standards).


4 The scope of the LFS is restricted to people aged 15 years and over and excludes the following people:

  • members of the permanent defence forces
  • certain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments, customarily excluded from the census and estimated populations
  • overseas residents in Australia
  • members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants).

5 Students at boarding schools, patients in hospitals, residents of homes (e.g. retirement homes, homes for people with disabilities), and inmates of prisons are excluded from all supplementary surveys.

6 This supplementary survey was conducted in both urban and rural areas in all states and territories, but excluded approximately 120,000 people living in very remote parts of Australia who would otherwise have been within the scope of the survey. The exclusion of these people will have only a minor impact on any aggregate estimates that are produced for individual states and territories, except the Northern Territory where such people account for around 23% of the population.


7 In the LFS, coverage rules are applied which aim to ensure that each person is associated with only one dwelling and hence has only one chance of selection in the survey. See Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) for more details.


8 Supplementary surveys are not always conducted on the full LFS sample. Since August 1994 the sample for supplementary surveys has been restricted to no more than seven-eighths of the LFS sample.

9 The LFS sample size in September 2008 was approximately one-third smaller than the sample size in September 2007. This is due to an 11% sample reduction that was implemented from November 2007 to June 2008 based on the 2006 sample design, and an additional 24% sample reduction implemented in July 2008. Detailed information abut the sample reduction is provided in Information Paper: Labour Force Survey Sample Design, Nov 2007 (Second edition) (cat. no. 6269.0).

10 The reduced sample will still be representative, with selections made across all parts of Australia.

11 The initial sample for the September LFS consisted of 27,469 private dwelling households and special dwelling units. Of the 21,787 private dwelling households and special dwelling units that remained in the survey after sample loss (e.g. households selected in the survey which had no residents in scope for the LFS, vacant or derelict dwellings and dwellings under construction), approximately 20,631or 94.7% were fully responding to the Underemployed Workers Survey. The number of completed interviews obtained from these private dwelling households and special dwelling units (after taking into account scope, coverage and subsampling exclusions) was 22,656.


12 Estimates in this publication are subject to sampling and non-sampling errors:
  • Sampling error is the difference between the published estimate and the value that would have been produced if all dwellings had been included in the survey. For more information see the Technical Note.
  • Non-sampling errors are inaccuracies that occur because of imperfections in reporting by respondents and interviewers, and errors made in coding and processing data. These inaccuracies may occur in any enumeration, whether it be a full count or a sample. Every effort is made to reduce the non-sampling error to a minimum by careful design of questionnaires, intensive training and supervision of interviewers, and effective processing procedures.


13 The estimates are based on information collected in the survey month and, due to seasonal factors, may not be representative of other months of the year.


14 Country of birth data are classified according to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2008 (cat. no. 1269.0).

15 Educational attainment data are classified according to Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED) (cat. no. 1272.0).


16 In this publication there is a substantial increase in the number of part-time workers who preferred more hours and underemployed workers. This was due to a change in the question being asked of part-time workers. From September 2008, part-time workers are asked "Would you prefer to work more hours than you usually work?". In previous surveys part-time workers were asked "Would you prefer a job in which you worked more hours a week?". The new question has been altered to be consistent with the LFS and is broader and more inclusive of peoples situations as it relates to a preference for more hours of work.

17 This change has contributed to an additional 115,800 people who were classified as part-time workers who preferred more hours and an additional 131,500 people who were classified as underemployed workers in 2008. Users need to exercise care when comparing the number of part-time workers who preferred more hours and underemployed workers in this publication with previous releases because of this break in series.

18 From July 2004, a change has been made to the category 'considered too young or too old by employers' for the items 'all difficulties in finding work with more hours' and 'main difficulty in finding work with more hours'. The category has been split into 'considered too young by employers' and 'considered too old by employers'.

19 Revisions are made to population benchmarks for the LFS after each five-yearly Census of Population and Housing. The last such revision was made in February 2004 to take account of the results of the 2001 Census of Population and Housing. Estimates from supplementary surveys conducted from and including February 2004 are based on the revised population benchmarks.

20 Prior to September 1994, part-time workers who would prefer more hours of work were asked whether they were available to start work with more hours within the subsequent four weeks. From September 1994, an additional question was added to also determine their availability to start work with more hours during the reference week. This question was added to the survey so that estimates of underemployment could be more easily aligned with the then current International Labour Organisation (ILO) recommendations on underemployment.

21 As part of the 2001 LFS questionnaire redesign, people who were on short-term unpaid leave initiated by the employer, are now classified as employed. This approach is consistent with ILO recommendations on formal job attachment. Analysis of data from the LFS shows that many of these people usually worked part time, and that a number of these had a preference to work more hours. However, overall, these people contribute only marginally to the change in part-time workers who would prefer more hours.


22 Due to differences in the scope and sample size of this supplementary survey and that of the monthly LFS, the estimation procedure may lead to some small variations between labour force estimates from this survey and those from the monthly LFS.


23 The ABS definition of underemployment is consistent with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) guidelines of time-related underemployment adopted in 1998. According to these guidelines, time-related underemployment exists when the hours of work of an employed person are below a threshold, and are insufficient in relation to an alternative employment situation in which the person is willing and available to engage. More specifically, people in time-related underemployment comprise all employed people (as defined) who satisfy the following three criteria:
  • willingness to work additional hours - want to work more hours than they currently work. The ILO recommends that those who have actively sought to work additional hours should be distinguished from those who have not
  • availability to work additional hours, within a specified period
  • worked less than a threshold (determined according to national circumstances) relating to working time - the ABS underemployment framework uses a threshold (35 hours in the reference week) based on the boundary between full-time and part-time work.

24 A more detailed discussion is included in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0.55.001), Chapter 5.


25 The Underemployed Workers Survey was conducted in May 1985, 1988 and 1991. In 1994, the survey became an annual survey, collected each September. Results of previous surveys were published in: Underemployed Workers, Australia (cat. no. 6265.0); and the standard data service Underemployed Workers, Australia (cat. no. 6265.0.40.001) for 1994 and 1995.


26 The ABS plans to conduct this survey again in September 2009.


27 The ABS draws extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated: without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.


28 ABS publications which may be of interest include:
29 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are available from the Statistics Page on the ABS website. The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the web site which details products to be released in the week ahead.

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