Australian Bureau of Statistics
4125.0 - Gender Indicators, Australia, Jan 2012
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/02/2012
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In 2010-11, males aged 20-74 years had a higher labour force participation rate (80%) than females in the same age group (65%). The labour force participation rate for males has remained steady between 2001-02 and 2010-11, while it has increased by five percentage points for females during this period, with most of the increase achieved in the older age groups. The labour force participation rate was higher for males than females across all age groups.
The 20-74 year age group has been chosen as the key broad population of interest for a number of reasons. Those in the 15-19 year age group are more likely to be working part-time and/or studying and not yet moved into the labour force on a full-time basis. The increased life expectancy of Australians, and the much longer years of life after age 64 years, is also seeing increasing rates of employment for people over 64 years of age. Since 2001-02 the labour force participation rate for men aged 65 -74 years has increased from 15% to 24%, while for women it has more than doubled from 6% to 13%.
The labour force comprises of people who are either employed or unemployed (i.e. actively looking for and available for work). The labour force participation rate for any group within the population is the labour force component of that group, expressed as a percentage of the total population in that group (the sum of the labour force component and those people neither working nor looking for work).
Increasing the Australian working-age population, lifting labour force participation rates, and raising productivity have been identified by the Australian Treasury as critical in addressing the economic challenges posed by an ageing population (Australian Treasury 2010). While there is an economic incentive to lift labour force participation rates, there are also benefits to the individual. Labour force participation can lead to greater individual wellbeing in terms of financial security, self-esteem and social engagement. (Endnote 1)
The labour force participation rate for males has historically been much higher than the rate for females. However, a range of cultural and economic shifts in recent decades has seen a dramatic increase in the proportion of females participating in the labour force. (Endnote 2) Much of the increase in the labour force participation of females is associated with part-time work. A more detailed analysis on part-time employment is included in the Employment Conditions commentary.
The labour force participation rate for both males and females varies over the life course. The rate for males remains relatively high until men reach their sixties when many retire. For males, participation rates peak in the 25-44 year age group, while for females, the participation rates peak in the 45-54 year age group. For females, the labour force participation rate tends to dip slightly during the peak childbearing years between the ages of 25 and 44 years. Delayed childbearing and an increased propensity for females to combine paid work and family has seen this dip become later and less pronounced than in the past.
In 2010-11, the labour force participation rate for females in the 20-24 year age group was 76%, and for the 25-34 year age group it declined to 73%. The participation rate for females in the 35-44 year age group was 75% and then it increased to 78% for the 45-54 year age group.
The labour force participation rates for males in the 20-54 age groups have remained relatively stable from 2001-02 to 2010-11, but increased for males in the 55-64 and 65-74 years age groups (eleven and nine percentage points respectively) over this period. For females, while there has been an increase in labour force participation rates across all age groups in the same period, the largest gain has been in the older age groups. For females aged 55-64 years it was 16 percentage points. During this period, the labour force participation rate for females aged 45-54 and 65-74 years each increased by seven percentage points.
Labour force participation rate for parents
The labour force participation rate is notably lower for females with dependent children than for their male counterparts, as they are most likely to be the ones to shift into the role of primary carer of children at this stage in life. The labour force participation rate for mothers is partly related to the age of their child/ren, with participation increasing as the age of their youngest child increases. In 2010-11, the difference in the participation rate between males and females whose youngest child was aged 5 years or under was 39 percentage points, but drops to a 14 percentage point difference when the youngest dependent child is aged 6-14 years.
Measuring changes between employment levels and population levels enables evaluation of the strength of employment growth compared with population growth. The measure relating these two levels is the employment to population ratio. Movements in the employment to population ratio reflect changes in the number of employed people relative to changes in population size. Being employed affects income, living standards, welfare dependency, social inclusion and social connectedness, and through them, social and economic wellbeing, for both individuals and their family members. (Endnote 3)
There is a level of interdependence between labour force participation rates and employment to population ratios. For example, one cannot be employed without also being classified in the labour force. In addition, an economic slow-down may not only result in a decline in employment levels, but also contribute to a decline in overall labour force participation as unemployed people may become disheartened and disengage from the search for work. It is therefore not surprising that these two measures might move with some level of unison.
Employment patterns of males and females have changed over time. The proportion of employed females has increased between 2001-02 and 2010-11 due, in part, to changing social attitudes and smaller families. A greater proportion of females now have higher education qualifications.
Between 2001-02 and 2010-11, the growth in the employment to population ratio for 20-74 year old females (up five percentage points), outpaced that of their male counterparts (up three percentage points). Despite this difference, in 2010-11 there was still a gap of 14 percentage points in the employment to population ratio of males and females aged 20-74 years (77% and 62% respectively).
An increase in the proportion of females in employment between 2001-02 and 2010-11 was evident across all age groups, but most notable in older age groups. The employment to population ratio for females aged 55-64 years increased by 16 percentage points and by almost eight percentage points for the 45-54 year age group. For males, the greatest increases in the employment to population ratio during this period were for the 55-64 year age group (up 11 percentage points) and the 65-74 year age group (up nine percentage points).
As with labour force participation, the proportion of females in employment declines in the child bearing ages. In 2010-11, the employment to population ratio for females in the 25-34 and 35-44 year age groups was low (70% and 72% respectively) compared to 76% in the 45-54 year age group.
A range of factors influence a female's decision to seek employment through life cycle stages as well as the type of job she would consider. These factors include age, educational qualifications, family/caring commitments, financial security and the availability of suitable child care and suitable work. The increased availability of part-time work has widened opportunities for females to balance paid work and family responsibilities, participate in education, or make the transition to retirement. For example, a woman with very young children may seek part-time employment, as might some older females as they approach retirement. Females with school-aged children may also curtail their labour force participation, but to a lesser degree. Some may return to, or take up paid employment following separation or divorce. A more detailed analysis on part-time employment and average hours worked is included in Employment Conditions commentary.
In 2010-11, 55% of the employed population aged 20 to 74 years were males compared to 45% females.
In 2010-11, the largest proportion of the employed population aged 20 to 74 years of age (12%) worked in the Health Care and Social Assistance industry. This industry also employed the largest proportion of the female workforce (21%), while 5% of employed males worked in this industry. Of those employed in this industry 79% were females. Of those people employed in Education and Training industry, 70% were females, and 55% of those employed in Retail Trade were females.
Overall, some industries are clearly dominated by males. Of people employed in the Construction industry in 2010-11 88% were males. Other male dominated industries include Mining (85% of the work force was male), Transport, Postal and Warehousing (78%), Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services (77%), and Manufacturing (74%).
EMPLOYED BY OCCUPATION
In 2010-11, Professionals comprised over a quarter (27%) of the female workforce aged 20 to 74 years, while a further 25% worked as Clerical and Administrative workers. Almost a quarter (24%) of the male workforce in this age group were employed as Technician and Trade workers, and one in five (20%) were employed as Professionals. Overall, 10% of the female workforce worked as Managers compared to 16% of the male workforce.
In 2010-11, 75% of all those aged 20-74 years employed as Clerical and Administrative workers were females, while 66% of all employed as Managers were males. Females comprised just over a third (35%) of all labourers (the least skilled occupation) aged 20-74 years.
1. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010, Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010, cat. no. 1370.0, ABS, Canberra, <www.abs.gov.au>.
2. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2008, Australian Social Trends, 2008, cat. no. 4102.0, ABS, Canberra, <www.abs.gov.au>.
3. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2010, Year Book Australia, 2009-10, cat. no. 1301.0, ABS, Canberra, <www.abs.gov.au>.
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This page last updated 2 August 2012