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6102.0.55.001 - Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, Apr 2007  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 19/04/2007   
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CHAPTER 21.14. UNDEREMPLOYED WORKERS

INTRODUCTION

21.14.1 The ABS has been conducting the Underemployed Workers Survey irregularly since 1985, and annually since 1994. The survey provides detailed information about workers who are in time-related underemployment, i.e. part-time workers who indicate that they would prefer to work more hours, and full-time workers who worked part-time hours in the reference week for economic reasons.


21.14.2 Underemployed workers are an important component of underutilised labour in the economy, along with the unemployed and those with marginal attachment to the labour force. While aggregate level data on underemployment are available quarterly from the Labour Force Survey, this supplementary survey provides greater detail on the characteristics of underemployed workers, steps taken to find additional hours of work and their preferred number of hours.

21.14.3 This section describes only those aspects of the methodology that are unique to this survey, and should be used in conjunction with
Chapter 21, which outlines the survey methodology used in supplementary surveys.


SURVEY OUTPUT

21.14.4 Data from the survey are published in
Underemployed Workers, Australia (cat. no. 6265.0). More detailed data are available on request.

21.14.5 Data from the survey relate to all employed people aged 15 years and over. The main populations of interest are:

    • part-time workers who would prefer more hours; and
    • underemployed workers, who comprise:
      • part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours and were available to start work with more hours, either in the reference week or in the four weeks following the survey; and
      • full-time workers who worked part-time hours in the reference week for economic reasons (such as being stood down or insufficient work being available).

21.14.6 Estimates are produced on an original basis only (i.e. not seasonally adjusted) and include:

    Socio-demographic information

    Sex, age, marital status, relationship in household, state or territory of usual residence, area of usual residence, level of highest educational attainment, level of highest non-school qualification, whether qualification was obtained overseas, country of birth and period of arrival in Australia.

    Employment characteristics
    Whether fully employed, full-time/part-time status, status in employment, employment type.

    Underemployed workers
    Underemployment status, number of hours worked in the reference week, duration of current period of insufficient work, whether would move interstate if offered a suitable job, whether would move intrastate if offered a suitable job, whether would prefer to change occupation to work more hours, whether would prefer to change employer to work more hours.

    Part-time workers who would prefer more hours
    Whether looking and/or available for work with more hours, number of hours worked in the reference week, duration of current period of insufficient work, whether would move interstate if offered a suitable job, whether would move intrastate if offered a suitable job, whether would prefer to change occupation to work more hours, whether would prefer to change employer to work more hours, steps taken to find additional work with more hours in the last four weeks, whether registered with Centrelink, preferred number of extra hours, main difficulty in finding
    work with more hours, usual number of hours worked, preferred total number of hours.
21.14.7 Data collected in the survey are compiled according to concepts and definitions outlined in Chapter 3 (Employment), Chapter 4 (Employment Measures and Classifications), Chapter 5 (Underemployment) and Chapter 16 (Other Classifications Used in Labour Statistics).


SCOPE

21.14.8 The scope of this survey is restricted to persons aged 15 years and over. The standard scope restrictions for supplementary surveys outlined in
Chapter 21 also apply to this survey.


DATA COMPARABILITY OVER TIME

21.14.9 In order to provide a high degree of consistency and comparability over time, changes to survey methods, survey concepts, data item definitions, frequency of collection, and analysis methods are made as infrequently as possible. Over the time the survey has been conducted there have been some changes to the scope and sample size. These changes mean that the standard errors for the survey differ over time. The effect on estimates of the change in scope is considered to have been small. Changes affecting the Labour Force Survey may also affect this survey. Such changes are outlined in
Chapter 20 and are not repeated here.

21.14.10 Key survey specific changes are outlined below.

    1985
    Initial survey conducted (May) - data published in in
    Underemployed Workers, Australia (cat. no. 6265.0).

    1988

    Survey conducted (May).

    1991

    Survey conducted (May).

    1994

    Annual collection commenced (September). Sample restricted to no more than seven-eighths of the Labour Force Survey sample. An additional question was added to the survey to determine availability during the reference week of part-time workers who prefer more hours of work. This question was added so that estimates of underemployment could be aligned with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) recommendations on underemployment. Occupation and industry of employment data items no longer available.


    Standard Data Service replaced publication format (cat. no. changed to 6265.0.40.001).

    1996

    The following data items were added to the survey: duration of current period of insufficient work; whether would move interstate if offered a suitable job; whether would move intrastate if offered a suitable job; whether would prefer to change occupation; whether would prefer to change employer to work more hours; and main difficulty in finding work.


    Publication format replaced Standard Data Service (cat. no. changed to 6265.0).

    1997
    Persons living in remote and sparsely settled areas excluded from scope.


    2001
    As part of the 2001 Labour Force Survey questionnaire redesign, people who were on short-term unpaid leave initiated by the employer are now classified as employed. This approach is consistent with ILO recommendations on formal job attachment. Overall, these people contributed only marginally to the change in number of part-time workers who would prefer more hours.


    2004
    For the data items 'all difficulties in finding work with more hours' and 'main difficulty in finding work with more hours' the response category 'considered too young or too old by employers' was split into two separate categories: 'considered too young by employers' and 'considered too old by employers'.


    2008
    Changes were made to the survey question relating to preference for more hours: part-time workers were asked 'Would you prefer to work more hours than you usually work?' instead of 'Would you prefer a job in which you worked more hours a week?', to be consistent with the Labour Force Survey. The revised question resulted in an additional 131,500 people who were classified as underemployed in 2008, compared with 2007.


FURTHER INFORMATION

21.14.11 For further details contact the Labour Market Statistics Section, on Canberra (02) 6252 7206 or email <labour.statistics@abs.gov.au>.


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