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6203.0 - Labour Force, Australia, Oct 2001  
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Special Article - Full-time and part-time employment (Oct, 2001)


This article was published in
Labour Force, Australia (Cat. No. 6203.0), October 2001


INTRODUCTION

Each month the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) publishes detailed statistics on full-time and part-time employment from the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS). Estimates of change in the number of people employed full time and part time are important indicators of the strength of the economy.

For many years, full-time work was regarded as the ‘normal’ working arrangement. However, one of the more significant changes in the labour market in recent decades has been the shift towards part-time employment. This is reflected in the steady growth in part-time employment, in absolute numbers and as a proportion of total employment, since the 1970s. This article describes the trends over the last decade in full-time and part-time employment.

In estimates derived from the LFS, full-time workers are defined as employed persons who usually work 35 hours or more a week (in all jobs), or those who, although usually working less than 35 hours a week, worked 35 hours or more in the survey reference week. Part-time workers are defined as employed persons who usually work 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.


TRENDS IN FULL-TIME AND PART-TIME EMPLOYMENT

The number of persons employed part time increased by over half (51%) in the 10 years since October 1991, standing at 2.6 million in October 2001. Over the same period, the number of persons in full-time employment increased by 11%, to 6.6 million. As a result, within the last decade, the proportion of total employment represented by part-time employment has increased from 22% in October 1991 to 28% in October 2001.

The recent trend towards part-time employment is a continuation of a longer term trend. For example, the 948,500 persons employed part time in October 1978 represented only 16% of total employment. The increase in part-time employment is by no means unique to Australia, with most comparable countries showing a similar increase.

Growth in total employment is influenced by many factors, including the growth in Australia’s population. Fluctuations in the economic cycle also play an important part, particularly for full-time employment. This can be seen in the following graph which shows the trend series for the number of persons in full-time employment fluctuating around the historical long-term trend 1 for the series over the economic cycle.

The decrease in full-time employment in the early 1990s and the slow growth in the mid 1990s reflect changes in the economic cycle. Similarly, the number of people in full-time employment between mid 1999 and mid 2000 grew considerably faster than the historical long-term trend. The subsequent decrease in full-time employment between September 2000 and August 2001 coincided with the slower economic growth experienced in the 2000-01 financial year.

FULL-TIME EMPLOYMENT
Graph - Full-time employment



Unlike full-time employment, the number of persons in part-time employment has not fluctuated markedly around its historical long-term trend. The growth in the number of people working part time between late 1993 and mid 2000 was particularly even. After being at approximately the same level as the historical long-term trend since early 1996, the number of people in part-time employment fell slightly below the historical long-term trend from September 2000. It has been above the historical long-term trend since April 2001.

PART-TIME EMPLOYMENT
Graph - Part-time employment



CHANGES IN PART-TIME EMPLOYMENT

The increase in part-time employment over the last decade has occurred at a time of significant underlying changes in the economy and in society more generally. Some of these changes have affected the demand for part-time labour while others have influenced the supply.

Changes in demand for labour

The increase in demand for part-time labour is often associated with restructuring within Australia’s economy, and in particular the relative growth in service industries, the deregulation of the workplace and the introduction of new technologies.

The demand for part-time labour is concentrated in a small number of industries. In August 2001, 50% of part-time workers were employed in just three service industries: Retail trade, Health and community services, and Property and business services. These same industries accounted for only 31% of full-time employment.

Industries with higher proportions of part-time employment have accounted for most of the growth in total employment over the last decade. Those with smaller proportions of part-time employment have increased their total employment levels only slowly, or not at all. There were eight industry divisions in which part-time employment accounted for 20% or more of total employment in August 2001. These industries accounted for 79% (2.0 million) of the total part-time employment of 2.6 million, although they only accounted for just over half (52%) of full-time employment. Except for Agriculture, all of the industries belong to the service sector.

EMPLOYMENT BY INDUSTRY
Graph - Employment by industry



Part-time employment, as a proportion of total employment, increased in almost all the major industry groups over the last ten years. The largest of the increases were in the Retail trade and Health and community services industries. A number of developments are likely to have contributed to the overall trend toward part-time work across all industries. For example, relaxation of trading hour restrictions, and the introduction of new technologies that have extended production schedules and operating times, have increased the demand for part-time employment. In some industries, including the Wholesale trade, Mining, and Manufacturing industries, the increase in part-time employment was accompanied by decreases in full-time employment.

PART-TIME EMPLOYMENT, as a proportion of total employment
Graph - Part-time employment, as a proportion of total employment



Changes in supply of labour

Female workers account for the majority (71% in October 2001) of the supply of part-time labour. Women aged 25-54 years accounted for almost half of all part-time workers (47%) and this may largely be associated with women balancing work and family responsibilities. The share of male workers in part-time employment has also increased over the last decade, from 24% in 1991 to 29% in 2001. However, the main factor associated with the increase in part-time employment over the recent decades is the increase in the number of women entering the labour force.

Part-time employment is also used as a source of short-term jobs by young people while participating in full-time and part-time education, or as a stepping stone to full-time work. In October 2001, young males and young females represented 12% and 17% of part-time workers, respectively. Older workers may use part-time work during the transition to retirement. They have increased their share of part-time employment over the last decade - from 10% in October 1991 to 14% in October 2001.




EMPLOYMENT STATUS BY SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS
October 1991
October 2001


Total Employed
Full-time
Part-time
Total Employed
Full-time
Part-time
('000)
('000)
('000)
('000)
('000)
('000)

Males
4,432.9
4,037.0
396
5,147.0
4,407.0
740.1
Females
3,212.1
1,926.2
1,285.8
4,057.6
2,232.2
1,825.4
Persons
7,645.0
5,963.2
1,681.8
9,204.6
6,639.2
2,565.4

(%)
(%)
(%)
(%)
(%)
(%)

Males
58
67.7
23.5
55.9
66.4
28.8
15-24
10.6
10.5
10.8
9.4
8.2
12.4
25-54
41.3
50.5
8.4
39.5
50.5
10.9
55 and over
6.2
6.7
4.3
7
7.6
5.5
Females
42
32.3
76.5
44.1
33.6
71.2
15-24
9.7
7.8
16.3
8.8
5.8
16.6
25-54
29.6
22.7
54
31.1
25.2
46.5
55 and over
2.8
1.8
6.1
4.1
2.6
8.1



The majority of people in part-time employment prefer part-time work to full-time work. In August 2001, 7% of part-time workers wanted to work full-time and were actively looking for full-time work. A larger proportion of male part-time workers would prefer to work full time compared to female part-time workers (13% and 5% respectively in August 2001). The proportion of part-time workers preferring full-time work has been relatively stable over the last decade for female workers, although it has shown a general decrease for male part-time workers.


PART-TIME WORKERS LOOKING FOR FULL-TIME HOURS (a)(b), as a proportion of total part-time employment
Graph - PART-TIME WORKERS LOOKING FOR FULL-TIME HOURS (a)(b), as a proportion of total part-time employment


Women

The number of women in employment, and the proportion of employed women working part time, has increased significantly over recent decades. Over the ten years from October 1991 to October 2001, their proportion of total employment increased from 42% to 44%. The increase in the number of employed women, in total and as a proportion of total employment, has been strongly associated with the increase in the supply of part-time labour. The proportion of employed women who work part time has increased from 40% in October 1991 to 45% in October 2001. In comparison, the proportion of employed men working part time was 14% in October 2001.

FEMALE EMPLOYMENT, AS A PROPORTION OF TOTAL EMPLOYMENT - TREND
Graph - FEMALE EMPLOYMENT, AS A PROPORTION OF TOTAL EMPLOYMENT - TREND



Young people

Part-time employment is also used as a source of short-term jobs by young people (those aged 15-24 years) while participating in full-time and part-time education, and as a pathway to full-time work. Young workers represented 29% of total part-time employment in October 2001. The proportion of employed young people who work part time (44% in October 2001) is considerably higher than the average across all age groups (28%), and has increased steadily over the last decade (from 30% in October 1991). This increase has coincided with the increase in educational attendance among young people. In October 2001, 46% of young people were attending an educational institution full time, the highest proportion at anytime in the last 25 years. Of these, 40% were working part time, which is a high proportion compared to previous years.

PART-TIME EMPLOYMENT AND FULL-TIME EDUCATION FOR 15-24 YEAR OLDS (a)
Graph - PART-TIME EMPLOYMENT AND FULL-TIME EDUCATION FOR 15-24 YEAR OLDS (a)



Older workers

Part-time work by older workers (those aged 55 years and over) is often associated with the transition from full-time work to retirement. In October 2001, 34% of older workers were employed part time, compared with 26% in October 1991. Older workers still make up only a small proportion of part-time employment (14% in October 2001), although the number of older part-time workers has doubled since October 1991, when they represented 10% of total part-time employment.


FURTHER INFORMATION

For further information relating to full-time and part-time employment statistics from the Labour Force Survey, please contact Peter Bradbury on (02) 6252 6565, or email peter.bradbury@abs.gov.au.


ENDNOTES

1 The historical long-term trend is a 199 term Henderson Moving Average used to remove the influence of changes in the economic cycle.


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