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6105.0 - Australian Labour Market Statistics, July 2010  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 16/07/2010   
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In November 2009, the ABS collected the Working Time Arrangements (WTA) topic as part of the monthly population survey program. It is the second time this topic has been included since the redevelopment of the Working Arrangements survey, collected for the final time in 2003 (the first WTA topic was collected in 2006). The November 2009 Working Time Arrangements, Australia (cat. no. 6342.0) publication is largely comparable with the 2006 publication; however, there are several data item and question sequencing changes that are important to consider when interpreting the estimates. Several questions asked of a subset of employees (excluding Owner Managers of Incorporated Enterprises (OMIEs)) in 2006 were asked of all employees (excluding OMIEs) in 2009. The interpretation of these and other estimates requires caution in terms of comparisons over time in the working arrangements of employees (excluding OMIEs).

This article outlines the main survey changes, presents appropriate comparisons between 2006 and 2009 estimates, and describes the demographic characteristics of people who have access to various working arrangements. The addition of the data item 'Whether usually worked shift work and type of shift usually worked' to WTA (2009) are also featured.


Whether had agreement with employer to work flexible hours

The group of employees (excluding OMIEs) who were asked 'Whether had agreement with employer to work flexible hours' was different in 2009 from 2006. In 2006, only employees (excluding OMIEs) who had a say in their start and finish times were then asked whether they had an agreement with their employer to work flexible hours. In 2009, however, all employees (excluding OMIEs) were asked whether they had an agreement with their employer to work flexible hours. Therefore, the apparent comparison for this data item of an increase from 23.2% in 2006 to 30.9% in 2009 is likely to be attributable to more employees (excluding OMIEs) being asked this question. The revised question sequencing in the 2009 survey provides a more meaningful use of this data item as it is fully representative of the extent of employees' (excluding OMIEs) arrangements with employers to work flexible hours. The question is no longer dependent on the response obtained from the question regarding employees having a say in their start and finish times.

Estimates from WTA (2009) using the same question sequencing as 2006 show that the proportion of people who both had an agreement with their employer to work flexible hours and had a say in their start and finish times fell slightly to 21.6%. These estimates are directly comparable with the 2006 result of 23.2%. The extent of agreements to work flexible hours in November 2009 were similar amongst full-time employees (21.7%) and part-time employees (21.2%).

Estimates from the November 2009 WTA of employees (excluding OMIEs) with an agreement to work flexible hours show some differences when looking at their relationship in their household. Of family members who were employees (excluding OMIEs), 'Lone parents with dependent children' (37%) were more likely to have an agreement with their employer, perhaps reflecting a greater need for this arrangement, while employees (excluding OMIEs) who were 'Non-dependent children' had the lowest percentage (21%).

Whether guaranteed a minimum number of hours of work

As with flexible hours agreements, the data item 'Whether guaranteed a minimum number of hours of work' used a new question sequence in 2009. In 2006, only employees who did not usually work the same number of hours each week were asked if they were guaranteed minimum hours each week, whereas the 2009 question was asked of all employees (excluding OMIEs). The 2009 survey provides a more complete picture of the extent of guaranteed minimum working hours, but again this change means the 2009 estimate is not directly comparable with the 2006 estimate.

Estimates obtained for 'Whether guaranteed a minimum number of hours of work' using the question sequencing from 2006, shows that of those not usually working the same number of hours per week, the proportion of employees (excluding OMIEs) who were guaranteed minimum hours was similar in 2009 (14.8%) to the 2006 estimate of 14.6%. In contrast, of all employees (excluding OMIEs) in November 2009, 82.8% were guaranteed a minimum number of hours.

Of all employees (excluding OMIEs) in 2009, family and non-family members in their household had a similar proportion of people being guaranteed minimum hours of work (82.7% and 83.6% respectively). For family members, 85.6% of people whose relationship in household was 'Husband, wife or partner' had guaranteed minimum hours, while the smallest percentage was among employees (excluding OMIEs) who were 'Dependent students' (44.3%).


Whether Usually Worked Shift Work and Type of Shift Usually Worked

A new addition to WTA (2009) is 'Whether usually worked shift work and type of shift usually worked'. This expands on the question 'Whether usually worked shift work' collected in 2006. Respondents who said they usually worked shift work were then asked the type of shift usually worked from the following categories: a 'Rotating shift which periodically changes' (42.9% of all shift workers); a 'Regular evening shift' (15.1%); a 'Regular morning shift' (6.7%); a 'Regular afternoon shift' (7.9%); an 'Irregular shift' (19%); a 'Split shift' (3.5%); 'On call' (2.4%); or, 'Other' (2.6%).

There were a similar proportion of employees (excluding OMIEs) in main job who usually worked shift work in 2009 (17% or 1.4 million) compared with 2006 (16.1%). Of those who usually worked shift work, 47.6% of males and 37.2% of females worked on a 'Rotating shift which periodically changes', while 16.4% of males and 22.2% of females worked an 'Irregular shift' as part of their shift work.


Working Time Arrangements is the key survey presenting information about the working arrangements and patterns of employees in their main job, which can provide insights into the work-family balance of employees. In interpreting these results it is important to consider what each data item does and does not say about the working arrangements and patterns of employees, including who is asked certain questions.

One limitation, for example, is a lack of context and explanation of the reasons why employees had no say in start and finish times or days on which they worked. In some instances, an employee's industry of main job entails an inherent lack of flexibility in terms of hours or days worked, due to legislated trading periods or conventional business operations. Certain working arrangements that are prevalent in some industries and occupations are not necessarily present in others.

The revised sequencing in the 2009 WTA topic has made some data items not directly comparable with those from the 2006 survey. However, these improvements better capture information about the working time arrangements of Australian employees. Changes in question sequencing are only made after careful consideration, and are always detailed in the publication. Details can be found under Notes - 'Changes in This Issue' and in 'Explanatory Notes'. For questions which have undergone changes, care is urged in making direct comparisons between surveys.


For further information on working time arrangements, see Working Time Arrangements, Australia (cat. no. 6342.0). For further details on information presented in this article contact Matt Dillon on (02) 6252 5183 or email <>.

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