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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1995  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 20/06/1995   
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Contents >> Work >> Paid Employment: The working week

Employment arrangements: The working week

Average weekly hours worked by full-time workers have been increasing. This is mainly because more people are working more hours without additional pay.

Over the last 30 years, total hours of paid work have increased in Australia. In August 1994, 287 million hours were worked per week compared to about 188 million in August 1966, an increase of 52%. This increase reflects not only population growth and the resultant larger numbers in the labour force, an increase of 77% over the period, but also changes in labour force participation, particularly among married women. In August 1994, 53% of married women were in the labour force compared to 29% in August 1966.

While weekly aggregate hours have been increasing since 1966, there has been a considerable reduction in the average weekly hours worked per worker, from 39.1 to 36.4 hours per week. This is mainly due to the increasing prevalence of part-time work.


Hours worked and worker status

The Labour Force Survey measures hours worked as the number of hours actually worked by employed people in the reference week. It includes paid and unpaid employment. Paid leave, flextime or rostered days off are excluded.

Actual hours of work may differ from that legislated as the standard working week. Actual hours may be reduced due to leave, public holiday entitlements and time not spent working because of bad weather or industrial disputes. Actual hours may be increased due to overtime worked, both paid and unpaid.

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

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

Casual employees are those not entitled to either annual or sick leave in their positions.

Labour force projections are not predictions or forecasts. They are illustrations of the growth and change in the composition of the labour force that would occur if the assumptions were realised.


Trends in weekly hours worked
One of the aims of the trade union movement has been to progress towards a shorter working day and working week. Early this century the agreed working hours for full-time employees were about 49 hours a week. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s cases were argued before various industrial tribunals for reductions to this. By 1948 all state industrial tribunals and the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration had adopted the 40 hour week (8 hour day and 5 day week). This remained the case for the next few decades1.

In the late 1970s, cases were presented arguing for further reductions and by the 1980s, a 35 or 38 hour week was the standard in many industries1. Despite the trend towards part-time work, there has been little change in the overall average hours worked by employed people in recent years. That is, increases in the average hours worked by full-time workers have offset the increased proportion of part-time workers.

Among full-time workers, both men and women increased their average working hours between 1984 and 1994. In 1984 full-time employed men worked an average of 41.6 hours a week, while women worked an average of 38.1 hours. In 1994 the averages were 44.5 and 39.6 hours respectively.

The increase in the average weekly hours of full-time work has been attributed to a number of factors including: fewer absences from work due to illness or injury; a decrease in the proportion of workers using their full holiday leave entitlements; and a decrease in time lost due to industrial disputes2. However, these reasons only explain a small part of this increase. Other possible reasons such as increases in overtime and the number of workers with more than one job are not supported by data. It is likely therefore that more people are working more hours without additional pay3.

In August 1994, two-thirds of full-time workers worked 40 hours or more a week. Equal proportions of men and women worked 40-48 hours a week but proportionally twice as many men as women worked 49 hours or more. 33% of full-time employed men and 15% of full-time employed women in 1994 worked 49 hours or more a week compared to 22% of full-time employed men and 9% of full-time employed women in 1984.

The average weekly hours worked by full-time workers increased for all occupations between 1986 and 1994. The largest increase, about 4 hours a week, occurred for plant and machine operators and drivers, who worked an average 44 hours a week in 1994. Clerks, with an average working week of 38 hours in 1994, had the shortest average working week of all full-time employees.

In both 1986 and 1994, managers and administrators worked considerably longer hours than any other occupation group. Between 1986 and 1994 this group also had a high rate of increase in full-time employment, 19% compared to 6% overall. It was also the only occupation group to record a greater proportional increase in full-time employment than in part-time. An increase in the number of people employed in such occupations reflects both structural change in the economy and a more highly educated labour force.

AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS WORKED BY FULL-TIME WORKERS



Source: Labour Force Survey (August)

DISTRIBUTION OF WEEKLY HOURS WORKED BY FULL-TIME WORKERS

Men
Women
Persons



Hours worked
1984
1994
1984
1994
1984
1994
%
%
%
%
%
%

0(a)
4.7
3.7
4.7
4.1
4.7
3.9
1-34(a)
10.1
8.4
11.7
11.1
10.6
9.3
35-39
18.9
16.2
29.3
30.2
21.9
20.7
40-48
44.1
38.6
45.1
39.5
44.4
38.9
49 & over
22.2
33.1
9.1
15.1
18.4
27.3
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Full-time workers may have worked less than 35 hours in the survey week due to leave, illness, bad weather etc.

Source: Labour Force Survey (August)

AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS WORKED BY FULL-TIME WORKERS

1986
1994
Occupation
hours
hours

Managers and administrators
51.0
52.1
Professionals
41.3
44.0
Para-professionals
37.4
39.7
Tradespersons
39.6
42.4
Clerks
36.0
38.1
Salespersons and personal service workers
41.4
42.4
Plant and machine operators, and drivers
40.2
43.7
Labourers and related workers
37.8
39.7
Total
40.5
43.0

Source: Labour Force Survey (August)


The increase in part-time work
Growth in part-time work is characteristic of all developed countries. Among OECD countries Australia is one of the larger employers of part-time labour4, but the average hours worked are lower than in other countries3. Nevertheless, part-time hours have increased in recent years. Among men, part-time hours declined between 1984 and 1989, from 16.1 to 14.4 but have since increased, reaching 15.5 in 1993. Among women an increase in part-time hours occurred between 1991 and 1994, from 15.5 to 16.1.

Two factors account for the growth in part-time work. The first of these is growth in the service sector which is more suited to part-time employment. Total employment in the recreation, personal and other services industry almost doubled between August 1984 and August 1994. Similarly the finance, property and business services industry increased by two-thirds. Part-time employment in both these industries more than doubled.

The second factor is the increased desire of women to participate in the labour force, particularly on a part-time basis. In August 1994 the number of women employed part-time exceeded the number of men employed part-time in all industries except transport and storage.

Industries with the highest rates of part-time employment in August 1994 were recreation, personal and other services (38%), community services (35%), wholesale and retail trade (33%), finance property and business services (22%) and agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (22%). It is these same industries, apart from agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting, which have the highest proportion of women employed part-time.

For more information on trends in part-time employment see Australian Social Trends 1994, Trends in part-time work.

AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS WORKED BY PART-TIME WORKERS



Source: Labour Force Survey (August)


Endnotes
1 National Institute of Labour Studies Inc., Flinders University of South Australia (1994) Work Sharing and Unemployment Working Paper No 129.

2 Dawkins, P.J. and Simpson, M. (1993) Work, Leisure and the Competitiveness of Australian Industry Report prepared for CEDA, Melbourne.

3 Wooden, M. The Australian Labour Market - September 1993 Australian Bulletin of Labour, Vol 19, No 3.

4 OECD (1994) Statistics on the Member Countries, Supplement to the OECD Observer No.188.



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