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Trends in Hours Worked
AVERAGE HOURS WORKED
Between 1985 and 2005, average weekly hours worked by all Australian workers declined slightly, from 35.8 hours to 34.7 hours. Over the same period average weekly hours worked by men declined from 39.7 hours to 39.3 hours and for women from 29.4 hours to 29.0 hours.
Along with a decline in men's average weekly hours, there has also been a decrease in the proportion of men working a standard week (35–40 hours per week). Between 1985 and 1995, the proportion of employed men working a standard week fell from 41% to 33%. This fall levelled off during the late 1990s and reduced only slightly further, to 32%, by 2005. The decline in men's average hours reflects an increase in the proportion of employed men working part-time hours (from 6% in 1985 to 15% in 2005) and occurred despite an increase in the proportion of employed men working more than a standard week (from 36% in 1985 to 42% in 2005).
The proportion of employed women working a standard week also decreased, from 37% to 27% between 1985 and 2005. The decline in women's average weekly hours also in part reflects the increase in part-time employment for women over the period (see Australian Social Trends 2006, Trends in women's employment).
DISTRIBUTION OF HOURS WORKED PER WEEK
The proportion of employed men and women working full-time over the past 20 years has decreased, reflecting the shift towards part-time work. The proportion of employed men working full-time decreased from 94% to 85% between 1985 and 2005, and for women from 63% to 54%. For men, there have been decreases in the proportion working full-time in every age group, while for women there have been decreases in most age groups, with small increases or little change in others. Despite these differences, the proportion of employed women working full-time (54%) remains much lower than for men (85%) across all age groups.
The decline in the proportion of people working full-time has been greatest in younger age groups. This reflects the increasing number of young people (aged 15–24 years) delaying their commencement of full-time work as they continue their education or combine part-time work with study. For example, the proportion of employed men aged 15–24 years working full-time declined from 87% in 1985 to 64% in 2005, and for women in this age group from 75% to 45% over the same period.
Employed men in the age group 25–54 years experienced smaller decreases in the proportions working full-time than men in other age groups, while the proportion of women working full-time in this age group remained relatively stable, increasing or decreasing slightly. In particular, while the proportion of employed men aged 25–34 years working full-time decreased from 97% to 91% between 1985 and 2005, the proportion of women working full-time in this age group increased from 63% to 65% over the same period. There was a slight decrease in the proportion of employed women aged 35–44 years working full-time, from 54% to 52%, while for women aged 45–54 years the proportion employed full-time remained at 57% over the period. For men the proportion employed full-time decreased from 97% to 92% in both these age groups between 1985 and 2005.
There were decreases in the proportions of both employed men and women working full-time in age groups 55 years and over in part reflecting the use of part-time work as a transition to retirement.
PROPORTION OF EMPLOYED PERSONS WORKING FULL-TIME
...LONGER HOURS FOR FULL-TIME WORKERS
Average weekly hours for full-time workers increased from 40.2 hours to 41.9 hours between 1985 and 2005. This trend has been similar for both male and female full-time workers, with men's hours increasing 1.9 hours per week (to 43.2 hours) over the period, and women's increasing 1.7 hours per week (to 39.3 hours).
The proportion of full-time workers who work a standard week (35–40 hours per week) fell from 48% to 42% between 1985 and 2005. Despite this decrease, 37% of male and 51% of female full-time workers worked a standard week.
Very long hours of work (50 hours or more per week) have become more common for full-time workers in the 20 years since 1985, particularly for men. In 2005, 30% of men working full-time worked 50 hours or more per week, up from 22% in 1985. Fewer women working full-time worked very long hours, with 16% working 50 hours or more per week in 2005, up from 9% in 1985.
Long hours are more common in the occupations characterised by high levels of self-employment, such as full-time Managers and administrators (on average 48.1 hours per week in 2005). Full-time workers who work long hours tend to be employers (51.4 hours per week in 2005) and own account workers (45.6 hours per week).
FULL-TIME WORKERS: AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS
...PREFERENCE FOR HOURS
In November 2003, more than half (61%) of all full-time employees were satisfied with the number of hours they usually worked per week, one third (33%) preferred to work fewer hours and a 6% preferred more hours.
The majority of full-time employees in each age group preferred no change in the number of hours they usually worked per week. This ranged from over half (57%) of full-time employees aged 45–54 years, to nearly three quarters (73% ) of full-time employees aged 15–19 years.
Full-time employees in younger age groups were most likely to prefer to work more hours per week, 14% of full-time employees aged 15–19 years and 10% of those aged 20–24 years preferred to work more than their usual weekly hours.
Full-time employees who usually worked very long hours (50 hours or more per week) were more likely to prefer to work fewer hours than other full-time employees. Over half (59%) preferred to work fewer hours while a further 39% preferred no change in the current number of hours they work. More than two thirds (71%) of full-time employees who usually worked a standard week were satisfied with the hours they worked per week.
FULL-TIME EMPLOYEES(a): HOURS PREFERENCES(b)
There have been increases in the proportions of employed men and women working part-time between 1985 and 2005. The proportion of employed men working part-time more than doubled from 6% to 15% between 1985 and 2005. The proportion of employed women working part-time increased from 37% to 46% over the same period.
For both employed men and women, the increase in the proportion working part-time has been greatest in younger age groups where part-time employment is frequently used to balance work and study. For example the proportion of employed men aged 15–24 years working part-time increased from 13% to 36% between 1985 and 2005, and for women from 25% to 55% over the same period.
The proportion of employed men and women working part-time in the 25–54 year age groups has remained fairly stable between 1985 and 2005, increasing from 3% to 8% for men and from 41% to 42% for women. There were generally higher proportions of employed men and women working part-time in the 55 years and over age groups in 2005 than in 1985, reflecting the increased use of part-time work to re-enter the labour force after child caring responsibilities (for women) and in the transition from full-time work to retirement (for both men and women).
Average weekly hours of part-time workers increased slightly over the past two decades for both men and women. In 1985, the average hours of men working part-time was slightly higher (15.7 hours) than for women (15.5 hours). Men's average weekly hours dipped below women's average hours in the late 1980s and while the average hours for both men and women have increased since then, men's part-time hours remained slightly lower than women's part-time hours in 2005 (16.4 hours for men compared to 16.9 hours for women).
PART-TIME WORKERS: AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS
...PREFERENCE FOR MORE HOURS
In November 2003, 61% of part-time employees were satisfied with the number of hours they worked per week and would prefer no change. Just under a third (31%) preferred to work more hours each week, while a further 8% preferred to work less hours each week.
There were higher proportions of part-time employees in older age groups preferring no change in the number of hours worked per week. For example, 82% of part-time employees aged 65 years and over were satisfied with the number of hours worked per week compared with 49% of those aged 15–24 years. Part-time employees in younger age groups were more likely to prefer more hours of work, with almost half (48%) of part-time employees aged 15–24 years preferring more hours of work.
Part-time employees who work relatively long part-time hours (30–34 hours per week) are more likely to prefer less hours of work per week than other part-time employees. For example, 13% of part-time employees who work 30–34 hours per week would prefer less hours compared to just 3% of part-time employees who work 1–15 hours per week.
PART-TIME EMPLOYEES(a): HOURS PREFERENCES(b)
Average weekly hours for all workers declined in all occupation groups between 1997 and 2005. The largest decline was for Managers and administrators, from 48.2 hours per week to 44.6 hours between 1997 and 2005. This was followed closely by Associate professionals, from 42.8 hours to 39.5 hours over the same period. People working in these two occupations worked the longest average weekly hours in 2005, and these were also the only occupations with declines of more than 3.0 hours per week over the period.
Intermediate production and transport workers had the smallest decline in average weekly hours (0.1 hours) to 38.1 hours in 2005, while average weekly hours for Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers declined (0.2 hours) to 30.3 hours. Labourers and related workers and Tradepersons and related workers also had a relatively small decline in average hours. All other occupations had a decline of between 1.1 and 3.6 hours per week between 1997 and 2005.
AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS WORKED IN SELECTED OCCUPATIONS
Between 1995 and 2005, average weekly hours for all workers decreased from 35.9 hours to 34.7 hours, a decline of 1.2 hours per week. Industries experiencing the largest declines in average hours were Agriculture, forestry and fishing, from 42.9 hours to 40.6 hours (-2.3 hours), and Cultural and recreational services, from 32.7 hours to 30.6 hours (-2.1 hours).
Most industries that experienced an increase in average weekly hours between 1995 and 2005 also had higher average hours than the average across all industries in 2005 (34.7 hours per week). For example, average weekly hours in Mining increased 2.3 hours over the period to 45.5 hours per week, while in Communication services there was a 1.3 hour increase to 37.5 hours per week. Personal and other services was the only industry which had lower than total average hours in 2005 (33.5 hours per week) and which also experienced an increase (0.2 hours) in average hours from 1995.
In 2005, industries with average weekly hours that were higher than total average hours per week tended to have lower levels of part-time employment. Generally, the industries with high average weekly hours have no more than one-fifth (20%) of workers employed part-time. Two exceptions to this were Agriculture, forestry and fishing (with average weekly hours of 40.6 hours) and Property and business services (35.8 hours), where 26% of workers were employed part-time in both of these industry groups.
The proportion of part-time workers in industries with higher than total average weekly hours ranged from 4% of workers in Mining (with average weekly hours of 45.5 hours) to 19% of workers in Finance and insurance (36.2 hours per week), excluding Agriculture, forestry and fishing and Property and business services.
Industries with average weekly hours that were lower than total average hours (34.7 hours) tended to have significant part-time employment, with more than one-quarter of people working in those industries employed part-time. The exception was Government administration and defence with 17% of workers employed part-time and average weekly hours of 34.0 hours. The two industry groups with the lowest average weekly hours each had more than 40% of workers employed part-time. These were Health and community services (30.0 hours per week) with 43% of workers employed part-time, and Retail trade (30.1 hours) with 46% part-time employment.
The proportion of part-time workers in industries with lower than total average hours ranged from 29% of workers in Personal and other services (with average weekly hours of 33.5 hours) to 49% of workers in Accommodation, cafes and restaurants (30.8 hours per week), excluding Government administration and defence.
AVERAGE WEEKLY HOURS WORKED IN SELECTED INDUSTRIES