When the new Labour Force Survey (LFS) questionnaire was introduced for the April 2001 survey, two new measures of weekly hours worked were included - actual hours worked in main job and usual hours worked in all jobs. These new measures complement the existing hours worked measure (actual hours worked in all jobs) that has been used since the beginning of the LFS in the 1960s and presented in the hours worked section earlier in this chapter.
This article looks at the new measures now available from the survey, discusses their differences, and gives examples of how they may be used.
LFS hours worked data
The LFS now records weekly hours worked data for employed persons on three different bases. The existing measure actual hours worked in all jobs refers to hours actually worked in the survey reference week, including overtime and excluding any time off. The new measure actual hours worked in main job refers to hours actually worked (including overtime and excluding any time off) in the job in which the most hours are usually worked. The new measure usual hours worked in all jobs refers to the normal working pattern over the past three months in all jobs, including overtime if that has been a regular part of work over that period.
The data for the two new hours worked measures are only available from April 2001. While earlier labour force surveys recorded whether or not persons actually working less than 35 hours (in all jobs) usually worked less than 35 hours per week, the information was only used to determine full-time/part-time status.
Graph 6.24 shows average weekly hours worked for employed persons for the three hours measures. As can be seen both average weekly hours actually worked measures are influenced by seasonal factors arising from social factors (customs in taking leave) and economic factors (workplace-related influences). Large movements can be seen to occur around the months of January, April and October over the period since April 2001. It can also be seen that the average weekly hours worked in main job series closely follows, but lies slightly below, the average weekly hours worked in all jobs series. This indicates that the number of hours worked in second and subsequent jobs is relatively small.
Average weekly hours usually worked in all jobs exhibits much lower levels of variability over the period since April 2001. This is because the usual hours worked series is not affected by the seasonal factors that lead to the fluctuations in the actual hours worked series.
A significant amount of the variation in average hours actually worked in all jobs (and main job) can be explained by people who worked no hours, that is, were absent from their job. The calculation of simple averages can disguise widely differing contributions between underlying groups, or changes in their behaviour. Adjusting the calculation for average hours by excluding those people absent from their job allows us to examine average weekly hours of employed persons at work. Graph 6.25 illustrates the difference between the two concepts. As can be seen, there is still variability in the people at work series, but the relative size the variation in average weekly hours in the months of January, April and October each year are much smaller for the people at work series than the employed persons series.
Table 6.26 shows, for June 2003, hours worked classified by hour range categories. This table highlights significant differences between hours usually worked and hours actually worked. Usual hours worked in all jobs is concentrated in the groups 35-39 hours (19%) and 40 hours (20%), compared with 14% actually working 35-39 hours and 12% actually working 40 hours in the reference week.
6.26 EMPLOYED PERSONS, By hours worked - June 2003
Actual hours worked in main job
Actual hours worked in all jobs
Usual hours worked in all jobs
|50 and over|
|Source: ABS data available on request, Labour Force Survey.|