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The second measure 'parent/s are not employed' is the preferred ABS measure and is the one used in this analysis. This measure includes couple families where both parents are either unemployed or not in the labour force and lone parent families where the sole parent is unemployed or not in the labour force. This measure therefore includes families where the parent/s have chosen not to work, are not actively seeking work, are not available to start work or are unable to work. In contrast, the first measure, 'parent/s unemployed' excludes these families and so understates the number of families which may be of interest.
The third measure 'no family member employed' uses the labour force status of all members of the family, including non parent adults, such as grandparents and adult siblings. While there may be value in measuring families where the children have no role model of an employed person in the family, it is the labour force status of the parent/s that is likely to have more influence on a child than the labour force status of other adults in the family.
It is important to note that the family estimates from the LFS include families where one or both parents have an unknown labour force status. These parents are outside of the scope of the LFS and so employment information is not collected about them, but as other information about them is known (such as their age, sex and relationship to others in the household), they are included in LFS family estimates. These people have either a labour force status of 'Not determined, defence force personnel' for permanent members of the Australian defence forces or 'Not determined, other' for all others with an unknown labour force status. For the purposes of this article, permanent members of the Australian defence forces are treated as employed. It is not known if people with a labour force status of 'not determined, other' are employed or not and so these families are excluded from this analysis of jobless families.
NUMBER OF JOBLESS FAMILIES
The two tables below show the three measures of jobless families for November 2008. The data are available both as estimates of the number of families (with children under 15 years) and of the number of children aged 0 to 14 years.
Regardless of which measure of jobless families is used, there are considerably more jobless lone parent families than couple families, both in number and as a proportion of all families. Using the measure 'parent/s not employed', 12% of all families with children under 15 years are jobless, while 44% of lone parent families and only 4% of couple families are jobless. Furthermore, although there are more couple families (1,797,800) in Australia than lone parent families (459,500), there are more jobless lone parent families (203,700) than jobless couple families (74,800).
The count of children in jobless families is naturally higher than the count of families, as many families contain more than one child. The proportion of children in jobless families is similar to the proportion of jobless families with 13% of children living in jobless families. Almost half (48%) of all children under 15 years in lone parent families live with a parent who is not employed.
JOBLESS FAMILIES OVER TIME
Over the 4 years for which the improved LFS family estimates are available, the proportion of families who were jobless has decreased. During the same period, the unemployment rate for the civilian population of Australia also decreased from 5.4% to 4.3% (trend) (Labour Force, Australia cat. no. 6202.0.55.001). Jobless families accounted for 16% of all families in August 2004 and by August 2008 this had dropped to 12%. In early 2008 and at the beginning of each calendar year there is an increase in the number of jobless families. This correlates to an increase in employed persons in December and a decrease in employed persons in January/February each year (Labour Force, Australia cat. no. 6202.0.55.001).
COMPOSITION OF JOBLESS FAMILIES
Lone parent families account for almost three-quarters (73%) of all jobless families. In the majority (85%) of lone parent jobless families, the parent is not in the labour force rather than unemployed. Not in the labour force includes those parents who did not actively seek work or were not available for work as well as those who have chosen not to work, possibly because they are caring for child/ren. Parents who are not looking for work account for 90% of all jobless lone parent families where the parent is not in the labour force. Parents who are not looking for work include those without intention to work as they are caring for child/ren or others in the family or engaged in study.
Couple families may also have a parent choosing not to work to care for children but if the other parent is employed it is not a jobless family. For a couple family to be jobless, both parents need to be not employed. The lower rates of jobless couple families may reflect the greater flexibility in employment options for a family with two parents.
The chart below shows the distribution of jobless families and of all families by the number of children in the family. Families with one child under 15 years account for the largest share of all families (46%) and jobless families (50%). Jobless families have a higher proportion of families with only one child under 15 years and a lower proportion of families with two children.
Age of youngest child
The chart below shows the distribution of jobless families, and of all families, by the age of youngest child. The proportion of jobless families where the youngest child is under 5 years is higher than the proportion for all families, with over half (52%) the jobless families having at least one child under five years, compared to 46% of all families. This difference is even more apparent for lone parent families where families with the youngest child under 5 years account for 52% of jobless families and 35% of all families. This suggests that the presence of one or more young children may be a common reason for families, and, in particular lone parent families, to be jobless. Families where the youngest child is older (aged ten to fourteen) are less common, accounting for 27% of all families and 23% of jobless families.
Age of parent/s
The chart below shows the distribution of lone parent families with children under 15 years by the age of the parent. The age distribution of jobless lone parents is generally younger than the distribution of all lone parents. For all families and jobless families with children under 15 years there are relatively few parents aged 60 and over. Jobless lone parent families account for a higher proportion of families with younger parents (aged 15 to 34) than all lone parent families.
A similar trend appears in the chart below which shows the distribution of couple families by the average age of both parents. Jobless couple families are more common amongst younger parents with 41% of jobless families and 30% of all families having an average age of the parents less than 35 years. Also, families where the average age of the parents is 50 years or higher account for 6% of all families and 21% of jobless families. These jobless families include families where the parent/s have retired and so are not in the labour force.
For further information about family estimates from the LFS see Labour Force, Australia: Labour Force Status and Other Characteristics of Families (cat. no. 6224.0.55.001) or contact Carmel O'Regan on Canberra (02) 6252 6127 or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
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