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6105.0 - Australian Labour Market Statistics, Oct 2010  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 08/10/2010   
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SHIFT WORKERS


INTRODUCTION

Shift work serves multiple purposes within the Australian labour market. It allows employers to maximise production by making full use of 24 hours of each day. Shift work also ensures that many essential services are provided to the community around the clock.

In this article, the term shift workers refers to people who work rotating shifts, irregular shifts, evening shifts, afternoon shifts, morning shifts or split shifts.1 However, the interpretation of what constitutes shift work can be quite subjective. For example, people can work 'shifts' in the Accommodation and food services industry, such as a lunch or dinner service, whereas in the Mining industry, where operations may not cease, there can be continuous shifts up to 12 hours long. For some people, a 'shift' may merely represent the specific hours they are assigned, while for others it is more closely linked to the business' operations. Shifts can be regular and consistent, or can rotate frequently and people can either have a set schedule or be called in for a shift.

This article uses data from the November 2009 Labour Force Supplementary Survey, Working Time Arrangements, where respondents are asked to identify whether they usually work shift work, to highlight the extent of shift work in Australia and to explore the characteristics and working arrangements of shift workers.


OVERVIEW

In November 2009 there were 8.6 million employees2 aged 15 years and over in Australia. Of these, 1.4 million usually worked shift work, making up 16% of employees2. Over two-thirds (68%) of shift workers worked full-time and over half (55%) were men. This was similar to 2006, where 17% of employees2 usually worked shift work, of whom 67% worked full-time and 56% were men.


AGE AND SEX

As shown in Table 1, a higher proportion of men were shift workers than women (17% compared with 15%). The table also highlights the fact that shift work decreases with age; for example, 18% of people aged 15-19 usually worked shift work, whereas only 11% of people aged 65 and over usually worked shift work. This can largely be attributed to the nature of work performed across different age groups. For example, young people are heavily represented in the Accommodation and food services industry (20% of all 15-19 year olds) and this industry also has a high proportion of shift workers (37%). Of all people aged 65 and over, a high proportion (15%) worked in the Education and training industry, which had a very low proportion of shift workers (2%).

1. Usually worked shift work, Proportion within each age group, by Sex - November 2009

Males
Females
Persons
'000
%
'000
%
'000
%

15 to 19
35.8
17.1
38.8
18.9
74.6
18.0
20 to 24
103.9
18.7
95.4
17.8
199.4
18.3
25 to 34
199.5
17.6
144.6
15.5
344.1
16.6
35 to 44
184.5
18.2
130.1
14.0
314.7
16.2
45 to 54
145.9
16.5
132.1
13.7
277.9
15.0
55 to 59
59.4
18.1
43.0
12.8
102.5
15.4
60 to 64
26.9
12.9
24.8
13.5
51.7
13.2
65 and over
*4.8
6.1
10.0
16.7
14.8
10.7
Total
760.7
17.2
618.9
14.9
1 379.6
16.1

* estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
Source: ABS Survey of Working Time Arrangements.



OCCUPATION

As shown in graph 2, there are notable differences in the proportion of men and women who usually work shift work in a number of the occupation categories. The broad occupation group Community and personal service workers had the highest proportion of female shift workers (29%), and of these, 40% worked as Carers and aides. The same occupation group also had the highest proportion of male shift workers (54%), but in contrast to women, the most common specific occupation of male shift workers in this broad occupation group were Protective service workers (46%). Although there was a high proportion of shift workers, this broad occupation group only represented 11% of the total workforce. While the Professionals occupation group had a relatively low proportion of shift work (12%), because of the relative size of this occupation group, it had a high number of shift workers (16% of all shift workers). However, among Professionals who are shiftworkers, the Health professionals group comprised 75%.

In the occupation category Machinery operators and drivers, 29% of employees2 were shift workers, and of these 95% were men. As with Community and personal services workers, Machinery operators and drivers only made up a relatively small percentage of the total workforce (7% of all employees2), but had a high number of shift workers. In contrast, there were relatively few Managers (9%) and Clerical and administrative workers (6%) who were shift workers.

2. USUALLY WORKED SHIFT WORK, by Occupation - November 2009
Graph: 2. USUALLY WORKED SHIFT WORK, by Occupation—November 2009



INDUSTRY

The break-down by industry category reveals that the industry with the highest proportion of men who usually worked shift work was Mining (52%), while for women it was Health care and social assistance (32%). While half (49%) of all people (men and women) who worked in the Mining industry were shift workers, the mining industry is relatively small (2% of the total workforce), representing 6% of all shift workers (81,000). The Accommodation and food services industry also had a high proportion of shift workers (37%), of whom 44% were men and of these, 89% worked in Food and beverage services. Health care and social assistance was the industry with the largest number of shift workers (342,900 or 25% of all shift workers), and 45% of these were women.

3. USUALLY WORKED SHIFT WORK, by Selected industries - November 2009
Graph: 3. USUALLY WORKED SHIFT WORK, by Selected industries—November 2009


A number of industries had very low proportions of shift workers. These include Financial and insurance services (3%), Professional, scientific and technical services (3%) and Education and training (2%).


SECTOR AND STATE

Of all public sector employees2, 18% usually worked shift work compared with 16% of private sector employees2. Queensland had the highest proportion of shift workers, and of these, 24% worked in the Public sector. Interestingly, the ACT had a very low proportion of public sector employees2 who usually worked shift work compared to the other states. This may reflect the high proportion of federal government employees2 in the ACT, as compared to the other states and territories, where there are larger numbers of state and local government employees2. For example, 77% of public sector employees in the ACT worked in the Federal Government, compared with the other states and territories where less than 13% of public sector employees worked in the Federal Government (Survey of Employment and Earnings, Public Sector, Australia (cat. no. 6248.0.55.002).

4. USUALLY WORKED SHIFT WORK, by Sector and State - November 2009
Graph: 4. USUALLY WORKED SHIFT WORK, by Sector and State—November 2009



WORKING PATTERNS

As graph 5 shows, rotating shifts were the most common form of shift work for both men and women (48% and 37% respectively), followed by irregular shifts (16% and 22%) and evening shifts (15% and 16%).

5. TYPE OF SHIFT USUALLY WORKED, by Sex - November 2009
Graph: 5. TYPE OF SHIFT USUALLY WORKED, by Sex—November 2009


The days on which shift workers worked varied considerably from those who didn't work shift work, with shift workers more likely to work on both weekdays and weekends. For example, just over a quarter (26%) of shift workers worked weekdays only, whereas a much higher proportion (79%) of non-shift workers worked weekdays only, which reflects the twenty-four hours a day, 7 days a week nature of shift work. Shift workers who worked a rotating shift were most likely to work on both weekdays and weekends (80%) and almost two thirds (65%) of shift workers who worked a regular evening shift usually worked on both weekdays and weekends. Less than half (41%) of shift workers who only worked a regular afternoon shift worked exclusively on weekdays.

6. DAYS OF THE WEEK WORKED, by type of shift usually worked - November 2009
Graph: 6. DAYS OF THE WEEK WORKED, by type of shift usually worked—November 2009


Around a quarter (26%) of shift workers had some say in their start and finish times, whereas 45% of non-shift workers had some say in their start and finish times. This reflects the nature of shift work, as shift workers generally have predetermined shifts and less flexibility in start and finish times.


HOURS WORKED

The hours worked in shifts show some interesting results. Men worked longer shifts than women, on average, with 41% of men working 9 to 12 hours in their most recent shift. In contrast, 77% of women worked 8 hours or less in their most recent shift.

7. HOURS WORKED IN MOST RECENT SHIFT - November 2009
Graph: 7. HOURS WORKED IN MOST RECENT SHIFT—November 2009



FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information about the Working Time Arrangements Survey, see Working Time Arrangements, Australia, November 2009 (cat. no. 6342.0). This publication is available free of charge on the ABS website <www.abs.gov.au>.


END NOTES

1. Definitions of these shifts are available in the glossary as well as Working Time Arrangements, Australia, November 2009 (cat. no. 6342.0).

2. Employees excluding owner managers of incorporated enterprises (OMIEs). While any employed person could work shift work, this article focuses on employees (excluding OMIEs) only.


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