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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2002  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 09/05/2002   
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Contents >> Work >> Underutilised labour: Searching for work

Underutilised labour: Searching for work

In July 2000, around one in three people who found work in the previous year got their job through their network of friends, relatives or company contacts.

Searching for work is an activity undertaken by many people in a variety of circumstances. At any point in time, some people who are not employed are looking for their first job or looking to regain employment. In addition, some people who are currently employed are looking for more work, or for a different job. There are numerous ways to search for work, ranging from registering with an employment agency to directly contacting likely employers. While the method used to search for work influences the likelihood of finding a job,1 success in finding work also varies with the characteristics of people seeking work.


Job searching
Data presented in this article are mainly from the ABS Successful and Unsuccessful Job Search Experience Survey which was last conducted in July 2000, and from the ABS Job Search Experience of Unemployed Persons Survey, most recently conducted in July 2001.

Successful jobseekers are people aged 15 years and over who started work for an employer for wages or salary lasting two weeks or more during the previous 12 months. For people who started two or more jobs during this period, data were collected about the most recently started job only. Persons who started a new job without changing employer are excluded.

While some successful jobseekers are approached by their employer, most approach their employer to get work. In this article, the subset of successful jobseekers who approached their employer are referred to as people who found work.

Unsuccessful jobseekers are people aged 15 years and over who had not started work for an employer for wages or salary, but who had looked for work with an employer for wages or salary while they were out of work during the previous 12 months.

In this article, unemployed persons are people aged 15 years and over who were not employed during the survey reference week, but were available for work and were actively looking for work, except for those who were stood down without pay for less than four weeks.


Ways of finding work
Of people who found work in the year to July 2000, 32% got their job by either obtaining knowledge from a friend, relative or company contact that work was available, or by contacting a friend or relative as the first step taken in seeking the job obtained. This had also been the most common way of finding work throughout the 1990s.

Yet there was some change during the 1990s in the ways by which people found work. This change was accompanied by institutional, labour market and technological change, as well as changes in the unemployment rate (see Australian Social Trends 2001, Unemployment trends and patterns).

During the years of economic growth that have followed the 1990-91 recession, there has been an increase in the proportion of people who found work by obtaining knowledge about their job from a newspaper advertisement. In July 2000, 21% of people who found work in the previous 12 months did so in this way, up from 16% in the year to July 1992. In contrast, there was a decline in the proportion who had found work over a 12-month period by contacting likely employers without prior knowledge that a job was available (to 20% in the year to July 2000 from 30% in the year to July 1992). Changes in these two ways of finding work are consistent with employers being more likely to advertise available jobs in newspapers during periods of relatively low unemployment, and with jobseekers being more likely to contact prospective employers during periods of relatively high unemployment.

Of people who found work over the 12-month period, the proportion who did so by registering with, obtaining knowledge from, or using the services of Centrelink or the former Commonwealth Employment Service (CES) fell between 1996 (9%) and 2000 (4%). At least part of this decline has been offset by an increase in finding work through employment agencies. Over this same period, the proportion of people who found work by obtaining knowledge from an employment agency increased from 2% to 4% of people who found work. These changes are likely to have been influenced by institutional change that commenced in September 1997, when Centrelink began replacing CES and Department of Social Security (DSS) shopfronts. From May 1998, private, community and government organisations known as Job Network members were contracted to match jobseekers with jobs registered with them by employers. In the Successful and Unsuccessful Job Search Experience Survey, a Job Network member was defined as an employment agency.

Technological change has seen internet sites become an additional source of information about available jobs. However, despite the rise in numbers over recent years, finding jobs from internet sites has to date been an uncommon way of finding work. Of people who found work in the 12 months to
July 2000, 1% found work in this way.

PEOPLE WHO FOUND WORK(a): MOST COMMON WAYS OF FINDING WORK

(a) In the 12 months to July.
(b) Contacted as a first step taken, or obtained knowledge from one of these sources that work was available.
(c) Changes to employment service arrangements occurred between July 1997 and July 1998.
(d) Registered with or used CES/Centrelink services as a first step taken, or obtained knowledge from CES/Centrelink.

Source: Successful and Unsuccessful Job Search Experience, Australia (ABS cat. no. 6245.0), various issues.


Part-time and full-time jobs
One area of labour market change that may have impacted upon the ways of finding work over the past decade has been a shift away from finding a full-time job towards finding a part-time job. Of people who found work, the proportion who found a part-time job increased between the year to July 1992 and the year to July 2000 (from 43% to 45%).

In July 2000, the three most common ways of finding work over the previous 12 months were similar for those who found a full-time job and those who found a part-time job. Yet there were some differences between these two groups. Those who found a full-time job were more likely than those who found a part-time job to have found their job through a newspaper advertisement (25% compared with 17%) or an employment agency (6% compared with 2%). Conversely, those who started a part-time job were more likely to have found their job by way of a friend, relative or company contact (35% compared with 29%), by contacting likely employers (24% compared with 17%), or by responding to a sign or notice on the employer’s premises (4% compared with 1%). Differences in the ways of finding work between people who found a full-time job and people who found a part-time job may reflect different recruitment methods used by employers when filling full-time and part-time job vacancies.

PEOPLE WHO FOUND WORK(a): FULL-TIME OR PART-TIME STATUS OF JOB - 2000

Status of job when started

Ways of finding work
Full-time
Part-time
Total

%
%
%
Friend, relative or company contact(b)
28.5
35.2
31.5
Newspaper advertisement
24.7
16.8
21.2
Contacted likely employers
16.8
24.1
20.1
Employment agency
6.0
2.1
4.3
Centrelink(c)
4.2
2.8
3.6
Tendered or advertised for work
2.4
1.7
2.1
Sign or notice on employer’s premises
0.6
3.8
2.0
Internet sites
1.2
*0.7
1.0
School programs
*0.4
*0.7
0.5
Other
15.1
11.9
13.7
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0

‘000
‘000
‘000
Total
831.2
668.9
1,500.1

(a) In the 12 months to July.
(b) Contacted as a first step taken, or obtained knowledge from one of these sources that work was available.
(c) Registered with or used Centrelink services as a first step taken, or obtained knowledge from Centrelink.

Source: ABS 2000 Successful and Unsuccessful Job Search Experience Survey.


Successful jobseeking
In the year to July 2000, 76% of all jobseekers were successful. Over the year to July 2000, younger jobseekers were more likely than older jobseekers to succeed in finding work, with those aged between 25 and 34 years being the age group most likely to be successful (81%). Thereafter, the likelihood of success steadily declined with age, dropping to 60% of those aged 55 years and over. A similar pattern of declining success with increasing age was evident in 1990 and 1996, although in these two years the age group most likely to succeed in finding work was younger, at 20-24 years. In the year to July 2000, female jobseekers were slightly more likely to have found work than male jobseekers (77% compared with 75%).

In July 2000, jobseekers with post-school qualifications were more likely to have succeeded in getting a job in the previous 12 months than those without a post-school qualification (82% compared with 72%). A lower success rate (66%) also prevailed among jobseekers born overseas in a country other than the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, the United States of America, and New Zealand. In contrast, jobseekers born overseas in one of these six English-speaking countries were more likely to succeed in their search for work (80%) than jobseekers overall. If country of birth is an indicator of English language proficiency and degree of familiarity with Australian institutions and customs, then some of the percentage point difference between the two groups of overseas-born Australians may be due to variation in English language skill and cultural familiarity.

PROPORTION OF JOBSEEKERS(a) WITH SELECTED CHARACTERISTICS WHO WERE SUCCESSFUL JOBSEEKERS - 2000

%

Age group (years)
    15-19
77.3
    20-24
80.2
    25-34
81.2
    35-44
71.8
    45-54
68.6
    55 and over
60.3
Sex
    Males
75.0
    Females
77.0
Educational attainment
    With post-school qualifications
81.9
    Without post-school qualifications
71.5
    Still at school
73.4
Country of birth
    Born in Australia
77.2
    Born overseas
71.9
      In the United Kingdom, Ireland, Canada, South Africa, the United States of America or New Zealand
79.9
      In another country
65.9
Total
76.0

(a) In the 12 months to July.

Source: Successful and Unsuccessful Job Search Experience, Australia, July 2000 (ABS cat. no. 6245.0).


States and Territories
Variation in the availability of jobs in the States and Territories is likely to further impact upon a jobseeker’s chance of finding work. In the year to July 2000, Tasmanian jobseekers and South Australian jobseekers were least likely among jobseekers in each State and Territory to succeed in getting work (with 65% and 71% respectively of jobseekers in these States being successful). These two States also had the highest unemployment rates on average that year (8.8% in Tasmania and 8.0% in South Australia). In contrast, jobseekers in the two Territories were most likely to have succeeded in finding work (80% or more for both Territories). The Territories also had the lowest unemployment rates of all States and Territories in 1999-2000.

As well as variation in the availability of work, such differences between the States and Territories may reflect to some extent the different age profiles of jobseekers across Australia. Given the way the success rate varies between age groups, a State or Territory with a relatively high proportion of younger jobseekers could be expected to have a higher success rate than a State or Territory with a relatively high proportion of older jobseekers.

PROPORTION OF JOBSEEKERS(a) WHO WERE SUCCESSFUL JOBSEEKERS AND UNEMPLOYMENT RATE - 2000

Proportion of jobseekers(a) who were successful jobseekers
Unemployment rate(b)
State or Territory
%
%

NSW
76.7
5.8
Vic.
77.5
6.6
Qld
74.4
7.7
SA
71.4
8.0
WA
77.6
6.2
Tas.
64.6
8.8
NT(c)
82.9
4.4
ACT
80.0
5.2
Aust.
76.0
6.6

(a) In the 12 months to July.
(b) Average for the year ending 30 June.
(c) Refers to mainly urban areas.

Source: ABS 2000 Successful and Unsuccessful Job Search Experience Survey; Labour Force, Australia (ABS cat. no. 6203.0).


Time spent searching
Some people find work quickly while others can be looking for a job for months or even years. More than one-third of people who found work in the year to July 2000 spent less than four weeks looking before finding a job and half found work within eight weeks. Around 10% had searched for 52 weeks or longer before finding work, with this proportion representing over 120,000 jobseekers who found a job in the year to July 2000.

In an increasingly competitive and changing labour market, there are people who struggle to find paid employment in any occupation, and some who have difficulty finding paid employment in their preferred occupation. For some people, unsuccessful job searching over a prolonged period may result in a loss of confidence and motivation for finding work, and may give rise to negative perceptions among some potential employers.2 For others, unsuccessful job searching could result in withdrawal from the labour force altogether.

In the year to July 2000, long periods of looking for work were more likely to have been experienced by unsuccessful jobseekers than by people who found work. Over half (55%) of all unsuccessful jobseekers had been looking for at least six months between July 1999 and July 2000, compared with 20% for people who found work. One in three (34%) unsuccessful jobseekers had searched for work for the entire 12 month period.

PEOPLE WHO FOUND WORK(a)(b): TIME SPENT SEARCHING FOR WORK BEFORE BEING OFFERED A JOB - 2000

(a) In the 12 months to July.
(b) After looking for at least one week, and whose duration of looking for work before being offered a job was known.

Source: Successful and Unsuccessful Job Search Experience, Australia, July 2000 (ABS cat. no. 6245.0).


Searching spells
Some jobseekers encounter little difficulty in finding work but have difficulty securing continuous employment. Alongside long-term unemployment, turbulent labour market experience (i.e. frequent movement between employment and unemployment or being out of the labour force) may impair a person’s ability to undertake ongoing financial commitments such as repaying a mortgage.

Of people who were unemployed in July 2001, most (88%) were experiencing their only spell of being out of work and looking for a job within the period spanning July 2000 to July 2001. However, 8% were looking for a job for the second time within the year, and 4% were looking for work for at least the third time in the past 12 months.

Difficulties faced in finding work
The proportion of unemployed people having difficulty finding work because they feel that there are too many applicants for the available jobs may be one indication of the competitiveness of the labour market. In July 2001, 41% of unemployed people felt they had difficulty getting a job for this reason.

Unemployed people in July 2001 were considerably less likely than unemployed people in June 1991 to indicate that they had difficulty getting a job because of a lack of jobs. In 2001, 29% of unemployed people felt that they had difficulty finding work because there were no vacancies at all (compared with 58% in 1991), and the same proportion (29%) felt that they experienced difficulty because there were no vacancies in their line of work (compared with 48% in 1991). These differences are likely to be due in part to the Australian economy being in a contractionary phase in 1991 and a growth phase in 2001.

Other commonly perceived difficulties in 2001 were a lack of necessary skills or education (35%) and insufficient work experience (33%). These difficulties were encountered by a higher proportion of unemployed persons in July 2001 than a decade earlier, possibly reflecting the shift towards a more skilled labour force (see Australian Social Trends 1997, Changing industries, changing jobs).

Unemployed people in July 2001 felt slightly less likely than those of a decade earlier to have had trouble getting a job because of being considered too young or too old by employers. However, they were slightly more likely than unemployed people in June 1991 to have had trouble because of transport problems, travel distance, unsuitable hours, and personal health or disability.

DIFFICULTIES PERCEIVED BY UNEMPLOYED PERSONS IN FINDING WORK - 2001

Source: ABS 2001 Job Search Experience of Unemployed Persons Survey.


Willingness to relocate for work
At any point in time, most people who are unemployed will not have been offered a job by an employer during their current period of unemployment. For example, of those people who were unemployed in July 2001, 86% had not been offered a job during their current period of unemployment. Fewer than one in ten (9%) had received one offer during this period, with the remainder (5%) having received two or more offers.

One of the reasons that some unemployed people decline a job offer may be their desire to stay close to their support network of family and friends. However, in 2001, one-third (34%) of unemployed people were prepared to move elsewhere within their State or Territory if offered a suitable job. A smaller proportion (22%) were prepared to move to another State or Territory.

Willingness to change residence to take up work may be influenced by the prevailing rate of unemployment and expectations of job shedding or employment growth in the foreseeable future. A decade earlier, when the unemployment rate was higher and had been rising for some time, higher proportions of unemployed persons were prepared to move intrastate (43%) and interstate (29%) if offered a suitable job. Differences between the characteristics of unemployed people in June 1991 and July 2001 may also have contributed to the lesser willingness of unemployed people to relocate for work in 2001. Between June 1991 and July 2001, the proportion of unemployed people who were still at school increased from 5% to 8% and the proportion looking for part-time work rose from 14% to 24%.

WILLINGNESS OF UNEMPLOYED PERSONS TO MOVE IF OFFERED A SUITABLE JOB - 2001

%

Within the same State/Territory
    Would move
33.7
    May move
10.6
    Undecided
2.1
    Would not move(a)
53.6
Total
100.0
To a different State/Territory
    Would move
22.3
    May move
7.6
    Undecided
2.5
    Would not move(a)
67.6
Total
100.0

‘000
Total
613.0

(a) Includes 49,600 persons who were still at school and who comprised 8% of all unemployed persons.

Source: ABS 2001 Job Search Experience of Unemployed Persons Survey.


Endnotes
1 Heath, A. 1999, Job-search methods, neighbourhood effects and the youth labour market, Research Discussion Paper 1999-07, Reserve Bank of Australia, Canberra.

2 Chapman, B. 1993, ‘Long term unemployment: The case for policy reform’, Social Security Journal, June 1994, pp. 19-37.



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