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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 1996  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/06/1996   
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Contents >> Work >> Paid Work: Work and Indigenous people

Paid Work: Work and Indigenous people

In 1994, 58% of Indigenous people aged 15 and over were in the labour force. CDEP initiatives played an important role in providing employment, accounting for 26% of all jobs held by Indigenous people.

In modern societies the economic well-being of an individual and their family is largely determined by their employment. Employment is also an important factor in the social status and privilege that an individual and their family enjoys in a community.

Indigenous communities have experienced higher levels of unemployment than the total Australian population. There are many reasons for this. One factor is the low level of educational qualifications held by Indigenous people (see Australian Social Trends 1996, The education of Indigenous people).

Another factor is the geographic distribution of jobs. The scarcity of employment opportunities has been addressed by the implementation of the Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme which has been operating since 19771. This scheme provides government-funded jobs for Indigenous people who would otherwise receive an unemployment allowance. CDEP is particularly important in rural areas where it accounts for 53% of all jobs held by Indigenous people.


Work and location

Labour force refers to people aged 15 and over who were either employed or unemployed.

Labour force participation rate is the total number of people in the labour force (either employed or unemployed) expressed as a percentage of the total number of people aged 15 and over.

Unemployment rate is the number unemployed expressed as a percentage of the labour force.

Long-term unemployment is the number of people unemployed for 52 weeks or more expressed as a percentage of those who are unemployed.

Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) operate through grants from the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) to Indigenous communities. Unemployed Indigenous people forgo their Department of Social Security entitlements and instead work for a local Indigenous community organisation in return for wages. Because CDEP is funded indirectly by the government and makes a significant contribution to Indigenous employment, it is treated separately.

Capital city comprises all state and territory capital city statistical divisions.

Other urban comprises all centres with a total population of 1,000 and over, except capital cities.

Rural comprises rural areas and towns with a total population of less than 1,000 people. Most remote Indigenous communities are included in this category.


Labour force participation
In June 1994 there were 185,000 Indigenous people aged 15 years and over in Australia, representing 1.3% of the adult population. The total number of Indigenous people in the labour force was 105,000, just over 1% of the total labour force. The Indigenous labour force participation rate was 58% compared to 63% for the total population.

The labour force participation rate of Indigenous men at 72% was similar to that of all men. However, the proportion employed (including CDEP employment) was considerably lower, 62% compared to 90%. Among women, Indigenous labour force participation was considerably lower than that of all women, 44% compared to 52%.

Labour force participation of Indigenous people varied according to their geographic location. Indigenous people who lived in capital cities had the highest participation rate at 62%, compared to 59% for those living in other urban areas and 54% for those living in rural areas.

PEOPLE IN THE LABOUR FORCE, 1994

Employed

CDEP
Non-CDEP
Unemployed
Labour force
Labour force participation rate
Population group
'000
'000
'000
'000
%

Indigenous men
11.5
28.4
24.1
64.0
72.3
Indigenous women
5.2
20.0
16.1
41.3
44.4
Indigenous persons
16.8
48.3
40.2
105.2
58.0
Total men
n.a.
4,534.8
498.7
5,033.5
73.4
Total women
n.a.
3,357.9
340.5
3,698.4
52.3
Total persons
n.a.
7,892.7
839.2
8,731.9
62.7

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994: Detailed findings (4190.0); The Labour Force Australia, June 1994 (6203.0)


Employment
In 1994 there were 65,100 employed Indigenous people. This represents 62% of the total Indigenous labour force. Of these employed Indigenous people 30% lived in capital cities, 37% in other urban areas and 33% in rural areas.

CDEP employment accounted for 26% of all Indigenous employment but was most common in rural areas where it accounted for 53% of Indigenous employment. In contrast, CDEP employment accounted for 19% of employment in other urban areas and 4% in capital cities. The lower unemployment levels experienced in rural areas are largely attributable to CDEP initiatives.

Men accounted for 69% of all CDEP employment; 87% in capital cities, 67% in other urban areas and 68% in rural areas.

TYPE OF INDIGENOUS EMPLOYMENT, 1994

Capital city
Other urban
Rural
Total
Type of employment
%
%
%
%

CDEP
3.7
19.1
52.7
25.8
Non-CDEP
96.3
80.9
47.4
74.2
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total employed
19.3
24.0
21.8
65.1

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994: Detailed findings (4190.0)


Hours of work
As in the total Australian labour force, Indigenous men are more likely to work full-time (35 hours or more per week) than Indigenous women. 69% of Indigenous men worked full-time in 1994 compared to 46% of Indigenous women. This difference in the number of hours worked explains some of the difference in income between men and women (see Income of Indigenous people).

Indigenous people employed in CDEP were more likely to be employed part-time than other employed Indigenous people. 74% of men and 84% of women employed in CDEP were employed on a part-time basis compared to 13% of men and 47% of women in non-CDEP employment.

Of employed Indigenous people, 73% were satisfied with their working hours and 27% wanted to work more hours. The highest rate of employed people wanting to work more hours was in rural areas (35%). This contrasts with capital cities and other urban areas where 19% and 27% respectively wanted to work more hours. The dependence of rural communities on CDEP initiatives to provide employment coupled with the high levels of part-time employment provided by CDEP are key factors in the high rate of rural people wanting to work more hours.

PROPORTION OF INDIGENOUS PEOPLE EMPLOYED PART-TIME(a), 1994


(a) Expressed as a proportion of those employed in CDEP or non-CDEP.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994 (unpublished data)

EMPLOYED INDIGENOUS PEOPLE WANTING TO WORK MORE HOURS, 1994

Capital city
Other urban
Rural
Total
Preferences for working hours
%
%
%
%

Want to work more hours
19.4
26.9
35.2
27.5
    Employed full-time
10.5
6.7
4.9
7.2
    Employed part-time
8.8
20.3
30.3
20.3
Does not want to work more hours
80.6
73.1
64.8
73.5
    Employed full-time
66.4
56.0
36.7
52.5
    Employed part-time
14.3
17.1
28.2
20.0
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994 (unpublished data).


Unemployment
Unemployment affects a person's income, health and sense of well-being. The high rates of unemployment experienced by Indigenous people have affected the health and welfare of the Indigenous community overall2.

In June 1994 there were 40,200 unemployed Indigenous people, giving an overall Indigenous unemployment rate of 38%. In comparison, the unemployment rate for the total Australian population was 10%. Indigenous women had a similar unemployment rate to Indigenous men (39% compared to 38%) and most (89% of men and 64% of women) were looking for full-time work.

Indigenous unemployment rates varied according to geographic location. People living in other urban areas experienced the highest rate of unemployment (46%) compared to capital cities (36%) and rural areas (29%).

Long-term unemployment
In 1994, 19,900 Indigenous people had been unemployed for 12 months or more. These people accounted for half of all unemployed Indigenous people. In comparison 36% of all unemployed Australians had been long-term unemployed3. Long-term unemployment rates for Indigenous men and women were similar.

While unemployment rates varied by geographic locations, the proportion of Indigenous people unemployed for 12 months or more did not vary significantly.

UNEMPLOYED INDIGENOUS PEOPLE, 1994

Capital City
Other urban
Rural
Total
Unemployment
%
%
%
%

Unemployment rate
36.1
45.8
29.2
38.2
Long-term unemployment(a)
47.6
51.1
50.0
50.0
'000
'000
'000
'000
Total unemployed
10.9
20.3
9.0
40.2

(a) Proportion of all unemployed Indigenous people.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994: Detailed findings (4190.0)


Voluntary work
Traditional life-style activities such as hunting and gathering and unpaid community work are not recognised in standard labour force definitions. However, they make an important contribution to Indigenous culture.

In 1994, 49,500 Indigenous people were involved in voluntary work giving a participation rate in voluntary work of 28%. The most common type of voluntary work was hunting, fishing or gathering bush food. 39% of those who participated in voluntary work were involved in this activity. Not surprisingly, participating in hunting, fishing or gathering bush food was most common in rural areas. In other areas the most common activity was working for community or sporting organisations.

Of those who hunted, fished or gathered bush food, 63% were men. 73% of those who hunted, fished or gathered bush food reported that they spent ten hours or less per week on these activities.

Of the 33% of people who worked for community or sporting organisations, 54% were men. In contrast, of the 30% of people who worked on committees, 60% were women.

47% of those involved in any voluntary activity dedicated between one and five hours per week to such activities and 76% spent ten hours or less.

INDIGENOUS PEOPLE UNDERTAKING VOLUNTARY WORK(a), 1994

Capital city
Other urban
Rural
Total
Type of voluntary work
%
%
%
%

Hunting, fishing or gathering bush food
19.7
29.4
61.6
38.9
Working for community or sporting organisations
43.0
34.5
24.2
32.8
Working on committees
34.8
32.2
23.6
29.7
Working at a school or with youth groups
27.6
23.8
14.0
21.1
Caring for sick or aged
16.2
18.1
10.4
14.8
Other
10.3
7.7
3.4
6.8
Total(b)
100.0
100.0
100.0
100.0
'000
'000
'000
'000
Does voluntary work
11.7
19.7
18.1
49.5
Does not do voluntary work
37.1
55.1
37.9
130.1

(a) Persons aged 15 and over.
(b) Percentages do not add to total because those who undertake voluntary work may participate in more than one type of activity.

Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey 1994 (unpublished data)


Endnotes
1 Saunders, W. (1993) The rise and rise of the CDEP scheme: an Aboriginal 'workfare' program in times of persistent unemployment Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, No. 54/1993.

2 Daly, A.E. and Smith, D.E. (1995) The economic status of indigenous Australian families Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, No. 93/1995.

3 The Labour Force Australia June 1994 (6203.0).

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