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6105.0 - Australian Labour Market Statistics, Oct 2007  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 16/10/2007   
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This article was published in the October 2007 issue of Australian Labour Market Statistics (cat. no. 6105.0).

SPOTLIGHT – AVAILABLE LABOUR OF THE UNEMPLOYED


THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHETHER LOOKING FOR FULL-TIME AND PART-TIME WORK AND PREFERRED NUMBER OF HOURS


INTRODUCTION

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS) and the Job Search Experience (JSE) Survey both collect information about the available labour of unemployed people.(end note 1) The measures produced from these collections are:

  • Unemployed: whether looking for full-time or part-time work; and
  • Unemployed: preferred number of hours would like to work each week.

This article explores the differences between these two measures. It looks at the questions, collection methods and the definitions in each survey. For the purposes of this article the estimates are from the JSE Survey, which includes items collected in the LFS component.(end note 2)



COMPARING THE DATA

In July 2006, there were an estimated 462,000 unemployed people of which 333,400 people were looking for full-time work and 128,600 people were looking for part-time work. The following table cross-classifies these people with preferred number of hours (1-34 hours which are considered part-time hours of work and 35 hours or more a week which are considered full-time hours of work).

1. Unemployed, Looking for full-time/part-time work by preferred number of hours - July 2006.

Unemployed
Looking for full-time work
Looking for part-time work
Total
Preferred number of hours
'000
'000
'000

1-34 hours
70.3
112.7
183.0
35 hours or more
253.7
12.8
266.4
Don't know
9.4
3.2
12.6
Total
333.4
128.6
462.0

Job Search Experience Survey, July 2006.


For the majority of people (79%) the number of hours they preferred to work was consistent with the type of work (i.e. full-time or part-time) they were looking for. However, for around 18% of people this is not the case. This inconsistency is greatest for people who say they are looking for full-time work yet prefer to work 1-34 hours per week (21% of all unemployed persons looking for full-time work). For people looking for part-time work, 10% would actually prefer to work 35 hours or more.


Another way to compare the data is to look at the proportion of unemployed people who were looking for part-time work with the proportion of unemployed people who would prefer to work 1-34 hours a week (see following graph). The proportion who would prefer to work 1-34 hours a week is, on average, 10 percentage points higher than the proportion looking for part-time work. In contrast, the proportion of unemployed people who would prefer to work 35 hours or more a week is, on average, 14 percentage points lower than the proportion looking for full-time work.

2. Proportion of unemployed looking or preferring full-time/part-time work or hours
Graph: 2. Proportion of unemployed looking or preferring full-time/part-time work or hours



Further analysis of the preferred hours reported in JSE shows that close to two-thirds (63%) of the unemployed people who looked for part-time work but preferred to work 35 hours or more per week, preferred to work 35-39 hours per week. These hours are very close to the ABS cut-off for full-time and part-time 'work' (employment). For those unemployed people who looked for full-time work but preferred to work 1-34 hours per week, almost a quarter (23%) preferred to work 30-34 hours per week (also close to the ABS cut-off for full-time and part-time 'work'), while three-fifths (60%) preferred to work 16-29 hours.

3. Unemployed, Looking for full-time/part-time work by detailed preferred number of hours - July 2006.

Unemployed
Looking for full-time work
Looking for part-time work
Total
Preferred number of hours
'000
'000
'000

1-15
11.9
59.4
71.3
16-29
42.5
46.6
89.0
30-34
15.9
6.7
22.6
35-39
139.3
8.1
147.4
40
100.3
*4.7
105.1
41 hours or more
14.0
-
14.0
Did not know
9.4
*3.2
12.6
Total
333.4
128.6
462.0

* estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
Job Search Experience Survey, July 2006.



METHODOLOGY AND DEFINITIONS

The questions used, the concepts behind the questions, and how the questions are collected contribute to the differences observed between the two measures. In the LFS people are first asked whether they had looked for full-time work in the past four weeks. If they indicated they did look for full-time work they are not asked if they were looking for part-time work. Hence an unemployed person who is looking for full-time and part-time work is only classified as looking for full-time work. In contrast, in the JSE survey all unemployed people are asked for their preferred number of hours. This means that someone who is classified in the LFS as looking for full-time work can report in the JSE component that they have a preference for working part-time hours.(end note 3)


A person's understanding or interpretation of what full-time and part-time work also has a bearing on the differences between the two measures. The ABS defines a person as employed full-time or part-time based on the hours the person usually (and actually) worked in the reference week.(end note 4) The cut-off value to determine this is 35 hours or more (in all jobs) for full-time employment, and less then 35 hours a week (in all jobs) for part-time employment. Whether a person answers yes or no in the LFS to the looking for full-time (and part-time) work questions is based on their interpretation (i.e. self perception) of what full-time (and part-time) work is. The question does not refer to the 35 hour cut-off used by the ABS to determine full-time or part-time status and the person answering may have a different view of what constitutes full-time.(end note 5) The JSE survey asks the exact number of hours an unemployed person prefers to work. This allows these hours to be classified into full-time and part-time based on the 35 hour cut-off.


The key difference between these two measures is that the estimate of whether a person is looking for full-time or part-time work is based on what they actually did in the past four weeks to gain employment, and whether in their opinion the work they were looking for was full-time or part-time. On the other hand, the number of hours a person would prefer to work is collected from a direct response from a specific question relating to how many hours they would like to work each week.


It may be that a person's preferred number of hours does not match what they did in the last four weeks or the number of hours they can actually work. For example, there may be factors such as caring for children or health concerns that influence the hours they looked for work. The JSE survey does not collect information on whether a person can actually work the number of hours they say they would like to work. In contrast, a person may need to work full-time for financial reasons, whereas their preference may be 15 hours a week (part-time hours).


There is also a difference in the methodology used to collect the information in these surveys. The LFS uses the Any Responsible Adult (ARA) methodology, where information is obtained on behalf of all the persons in a selected household who are in scope of the survey from any responsible adult. In contrast, some information from the JSE survey is collected by personal interview, that is, a person answers the questions on their own behalf. If the person who is asked JSE questions did not answer the LFS questions for themselves, there may be discrepancies between the LFS and JSE responses.


Future job starters (end note 1) are a sub population of the unemployed. While they have not been looking for any work, they are about to start some work shortly and so are considered unemployed. These people are still classified as unemployed people looking for either full-time or part-time work, however, this is based on whether the job they are about to start is either full-time or part-time. As with the 'looking' information, determining whether the job they are about to start is full-time or part-time is based on their interpretation. While the data is a too small a sample to make any conclusive observations, it appears that they may be taking up work that is not their preference; working more hours than they prefer, or not working enough.



SUMMARY

Although the two ABS measures which look at the available labour of unemployed people do not tell the same story, the story is similar. The majority of people are looking for work that match their preferred hours. For those whose preferred hours do not match the hours they are looking for there are a number of reasons. The main reasons for the differences between the estimated number of people looking for full-time or part-time work and the estimated number of hours they would prefer to work is one of measurement. In the LFS, only unemployed people who are not looking for full-time work are asked whether they are looking for part-time work, and the definition of full-time is left to them to determine. In the JSE Survey, unemployed people are asked for the number of hours they would like to work each week, and these are defined as full-time or part-time according to the ABS definitions.



END NOTES


1. The definition of unemployed is: Persons aged 15 years and over who were not employed during the reference week, and

  • had actively looked for full-time or part-time work at any time in the past four weeks up to the end of the reference week and were available for work in the reference week, or
  • were waiting to start a new job within four weeks from the end of the reference week and could have started in the reference week if the job had been available then (future job starters).Back


2. The JSE Survey is conducted in July of each year and is one of a range of supplementary surveys run in conjunction with the LFS. The supplementary survey and the LFS form the Monthly Population Survey. The JSE Survey collects information that is used to determine the number of hours an unemployed person would prefer to work each week. The information that determines whether an unemployed person is looking for full-time or part-time work is collected in the LFS component.Back


3. The question used to determine the number of preferred hours from the JSE survey is:
How many hours a week would you like to work?

The questions used to determine whether they are looking for full-time or part-time work in the LFS are:
'At any time in the last four weeks has ..... been looking for full-time work?'
and
'At any time in the last four weeks has ..... been looking for part-time work?'
Back


4. The definition of employed full-time is: employed persons who usually work 35 hours or more a week (in all jobs) and those who, although usually working less than 35 hours a week, worked 35 hours or more during the reference week.
The definition of employed part-time is: employed persons who usually worked less than 35 hours a week (in all jobs) and either did so during the reference week, or were not at work in the reference week.Back


5. The definition of unemployed looking for full-time work is: unemployed persons who: actively looked for full-time work, or were waiting to start a new full-time job.
The definition of unemployed looking for part-time work is: unemployed persons who: actively looked for part-time work only, or were waiting to start a new part-time job.Back

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