6220.0 - Persons Not in the Labour Force, Australia, Sep 2003  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/03/2004   
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1 The statistics in this publication were compiled from data collected in the Persons Not in the Labour Force Survey that was conducted throughout Australia in September 2003 as a supplement to the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS). Respondents to the LFS who were in scope of the supplementary survey were asked further questions.

2 The publication Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) contains information about survey design, sample redesign, scope, coverage and population benchmarks relevant to the LFS, which also apply to supplementary surveys. It also contains definitions of demographic and labour force characteristics, and information about telephone interviewing relevant to both the LFS and supplementary surveys.

3 From April 2001 the LFS has been conducted using a redesigned questionnaire containing additional questions and some minor definitional changes. These changes also affect the supplementary surveys. For further details, see Information Paper: Implementing the Redesigned Labour Force Survey Questionnaire (cat. no. 6295.0) and Information Paper: Questionnaires Used in the Labour Force Survey (cat. no. 6232.0).


4 The conceptual framework used in Australia's Labour Force Survey aligns closely with the standards and guidelines set out in Resolutions of the International Conference of Labour Statisticians. Descriptions of the underlying concepts and structure of Australia's labour force statistics, and the sources and methods used in compiling these estimates, are presented in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0) which is also available on the ABS web site (About Statistics - Concepts and Classifications).


5 The scope of the LFS is restricted to persons aged 15 years and over and excludes the following persons:

  • members of the permanent defence forces
  • certain diplomatic personnel of overseas governments, customarily excluded from census and estimated populations
  • overseas residents in Australia
  • members of non-Australian defence forces (and their dependants).

6 Students at boarding schools, patients in hospitals, residents of homes (e.g. retirement homes, homes for persons with disabilities), and inmates of prisons are excluded from all supplementary surveys.

7 This supplementary survey was conducted in both urban and rural areas in all states and territories, but excluded approximately 120,000 persons living in very remote parts of Australia who would otherwise have been within the scope of the survey. The exclusion of these persons will have only a minor impact on any aggregate estimates that are produced for individual states and territories, except the Northern Territory where such persons account for over 20% of the population.

8 Persons aged 70 years and over were also excluded from this survey.


9 The estimates in this publication relate to persons covered by the survey in September 2003. In the LFS, coverage rules are applied which aim to ensure that each person is associated with only one dwelling and hence has only one chance of selection in the survey. For further information see Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0).


10 Estimates in this publication are subject to sampling and non-sampling errors:

  • sampling error is the difference between the published estimate and the value that would have been produced if all dwellings had been included in the survey. For more information see the Technical Note.
  • Non-sampling errors are inaccuracies that occur because of imperfections in reporting by respondents and interviewers, and errors made in coding and processing data. These inaccuracies may occur in any enumeration, whether it be a full count or a sample. Every effort is made to reduce the non-sampling error to a minimum by careful design of questionnaires, intensive training and supervision of interviewers, and efficient processing procedures.


11 The estimates are based on information collected in the survey month, and, due to seasonal factors, may not be representative of other months of the year.


12 Occupation data are classified according to the ASCO - Australian Standard Classification of Occupations, Second Edition, 1997 (cat. no. 1220.0).

13 Country of birth data are classified according to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 1998 (cat. no. 1269.0).


14 Historical estimates of the civilian population for reference periods 1996 to 1999 were revised in the 2000 publication to exclude institutionalised persons, sparsely settled and remote parts of Australia.


15 Revisions are made to population benchmarks for the LFS after each five-yearly Census of Population and Housing. The 2003 Persons Not in the Labour Force Survey estimates have been compiled using benchmarks based on the 1996 Census of Population and Housing.

16 Supplementary surveys are not always conducted on the full LFS sample. Since August 1994 the sample for supplementary surveys has been restricted to no more than seven-eighths of the LFS sample. Since it was introduced, this survey has been conducted on various proportional samples. Therefore, sampling errors associated with previous surveys may vary from the sampling error for this survey.

17 Persons Not in the Labour Force Surveys conducted up to and including September 1987 included all persons aged 15 years and over. From September 1988, the survey excluded all persons aged 70 years and over.

18 Comparability of 2001 to 2003 estimates with previous years, for persons who wanted to work, including discouraged jobseekers, may have been affected by the following:

  • As part of the LFS redesigned questionnaire, implemented in April 2001, persons aged 65 and over can specify that they are permanently not intending to work, and as a result were not asked for details about wanting to work and looking for work in the 2001, 2002 and 2003 Persons Not in the Labour Force surveys. It is likely that, if they had answered these questions, some of these persons may have been classified as persons who wanted work, and also as discouraged jobseekers.
  • A further change in the redesigned LFS questionnaire is that it more accurately identifies 'future starters'; that is, persons waiting to start, within four weeks of the end of the reference week, a new job that they have already obtained (and could have started in the reference week if the job had been available then). Under International Labour Organisation (ILO) guidelines these persons do not have to be actively looking for work to be classified as unemployed, and therefore are not asked questions related to job search activities. If they had been asked why they were not looking for work, it is possible that some may have given reasons other than 'had a job to go to', and as a result could have been classified as wanting to work, and also as discouraged jobseekers.
  • Persons who are permanently unable to work have been classified as a separate group within Persons Not in the Labour Force Surveys for many years. In the 2003 survey, the number of people in this group was considerably higher than in 2002.


19 Due to differences in the scope and sample size of this supplementary survey and that of the LFS, the estimation procedure may lead to some small variations between labour force estimates from this survey and those from the LFS.

20 The difference between the estimates appearing in this publication and Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) is chiefly the result of excluding persons aged 70 years and over from the sample of this supplementary survey. Over one-quarter (28%) of the civilian population aged 15 years and over who were not in the labour force were excluded from answering questions from this supplementary survey because they were aged 70 years and over.

21 Core LFS series from April 1986 to March 2001 have been revised on the basis of the redesigned LFS questionnaire. Supplementary survey data have not been revised.

22 Further information on persons not in the labour force is available in Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0). Note that such information refers to all persons aged 15 years and over.


23 The Persons Not in the Labour Force Survey was first conducted in May 1975 and again in May 1977. From 1979 to 1987 the survey was collected twice a year (March and September). Since then it has been conducted annually. Results of previous surveys were published in:
  • Persons Not in the Labour Force, Australia, cat. no. 6220.0
  • standard data service Persons Not in the Labour Force, Australia, cat. no. 6220.0.40.001 for 1994 and 1995 (available in hardcopy only).


24 The ABS will conduct this survey again in September 2004.


25 Australian Bureau of Statistics publications draw extensively on information provided freely by individuals, businesses, governments and other organisations. Their continued cooperation is very much appreciated: without it, the wide range of statistics published by the ABS would not be available. Information received by the ABS is treated in strict confidence as required by the Census and Statistics Act 1905.


26 Other publications which may be of interest include:

  • Australian Labour Market Statistics, cat. no. 6105.0
  • Job Search Experience, Australia, cat. no. 6222.0
  • Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, cat. no. 6102.0
  • Underemployed Workers, Australia, cat. no. 6265.0

27 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are listed in the Catalogue of Publications and Products (cat. no. 1101.0). The Catalogue is available from any ABS office or the ABS web site . The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the web site which details products to be released in the week ahead.