IN SEARCH OF THE TYPICAL TASMANIAN
In the weekly meeting my boss read out the latest State Accounts figures to a glazed-eyed audience. Quickly assessing the not-quite-awake mood of the room, he seized on my vulnerability. "Jane", he beamed at me with his wicked-but-benevolent-uncle smile, "what do you think these numbers will mean to the typical Tasmanian?"
"Not a lot," I replied. But unwilling to seem unenthusiastic, I followed it up with another question. "Who is the typical Tasmanian?"
“What a great idea, Jane! Find out who is the typical Tasmanian," he smirked.
It was too late, I realised I had just walked into a hole of my own digging.
So I huffed off to my coffee cup cluttered cubicle, and drummed desperate fingers on my keyboard. Where the heck do I start?
“There is no such thing as a typical Tasmanian. We're all different," I muttered to myself.
However, I soldiered on, and thought what better place to start than with the ABS?
Knowing that most of their statistics are available for free from their website www.abs.gov.au, I thought I'd withhold my cynicism for just a moment, and see what I could find.
The first thing I wanted to do was to give my average person a name, but what gender? Was my average Joe likely to be a Joe or a Jo? Using the Google search bar, I went straight to the latest Australian Demographic Statistics (ABS cat. no. 3101.0) for June 2009 and found that Tassie had 247,942 males and 254,685 females. So I was most likely looking for a Josephine, or Jo, for short.
Knowing that the ABS Population and Housing Census was the biggest and most detailed source of information on Australia's people and dwellings, I clicked straight into the Census theme page. A Basic Community Profile is a great collection of tables that can tell you heaps about any area in Australia. Downloading a Profile for Tasmania into Excel was the work of a few seconds and a couple of mouse clicks. It informed me that the median age of Tasmanians in 2006 was 39 years, so Jo was going to be well into the prime of her life. The Profile also showed that most of women in this age group (35-44 years) were married, living in a couple family, and most of them had two kids at that age, so that was confirmed.
So I knew that Jo was a married woman, living with a partner of some kind and a couple of kids. What did she do with herself? Did she work, was she a doctor or a hairdresser or a motor mechanic? To continue my research, I turned to the Labour Force, Australia publication (ABS cat. no. 6202.0). The latest monthly trend figures (October 2009) showed that 55.2% of Tasmania's women aged 15 years and over were either employed or looking for work. So Jo was in the labour force. Naturally not all women in that age group in Tassie work full-time. The same table showed me that only 48.7% worked full-time. I couldn't find out from the Labour Force publication how many hours she worked, but by using the new Statistics filter on the website I did find out, and unearthed a gem! I discovered a publication which brings together heaps of statistics from all across the ABS, all about Tasmania.
In this publication, Tasmanian State and Regional Indicators (ABS cat no 1307.6), under the Labour heading, I found out that the average part-time worker in Tasmania works 15.1 hours per week. So that left my unknown Jo with plenty of time to keep up with running the household, playing tennis (or maybe bowls) and having coffee with her girlfriends. Was that the reality?
A quick glance at the Census Community Profile again indicated that most employed women of the 35-44 year age group (5,811) were clerical and administrative workers, although another 5,172 were professionals. I guess that fits - office work would easily enable someone to work part-time, earn a bit of income to support the family budget, and still have time for other things.
Oh, wait a minute, I forgot. I didn't look at part-time workers, only employed women, so maybe most of those professionals were full-time. I rang the National Information Referral Service (ph: 1300 135 070), and was told that if I wanted to pay for a customised table, I could find out exactly how many of these 35-44 year old women professionals were full-time or part-time, and precisely what their occupations were as well, but I graciously declined. I was having too much fun finding out what I could for free from the website first.
Making the assumption that my target was working part-time in a clerical type office job, for around 15 hours per week, I wondered what other things occupied her time?
Going back to the Census again, Table 19 of the Community Profile informed me that the largest group of women in our age group (9,740) took on somewhere between 5 and 14 hours a week of unpaid domestic work. And another 9,463 of them did a whopping 30 hours or more of it!
In fact, I mused over a hot keyboard, life in Tassie didn’t look too bad. 71% of homes in Tassie were fully owned or being purchased, with median mortgage repayments checking in at $867 per week. I could afford to live here, I thought, on my meagre pay. And go kayaking or bushwalking on weekends. That’s if I kept my job...
Taking a look at the notes I had written without thinking, I had to laugh. With the help of the ABS, finding the typical Tasmanian was easy! I would tell my boss that the typical Tasmanian Jo, is female, 39 years old, married with two kids (presumably sending her mad), working part-time, doing a dozen or so hours of voluntary work each week, and was steadily paying off her mortgage.
Actually, that was such fun, I might offer to write another article one day...
Australian Demographic Statistics (ABS cat. no. 3101.0)
Labour Force, Australia (ABS cat. no. 6202.0)
Population by Age and Sex (ABS cat. no. 3235.0)
Regional Population Growth (ABS cat. no. 3218.0)
Tasmanian State and Regional Indicators (ABS cat. no. 1307.6)
2006 Census Basic Community Profile