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Paid Work: Work and Indigenous people
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
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
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
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%).
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
Source: National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Survey, 1994: Detailed findings (4190.0)
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
(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)
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).