6226.0 - Participation, Job Search and Mobility, Australia, Feb 2019 Quality Declaration 
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 29/10/2019   
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FROM THE ARCHIVES: Underemployment, 1985 vs 2019

THE FIRST UNDEREMPLOYED WORKERS SURVEY

In May 1985, the ABS ran its first survey dedicated to exploring the conditions of underemployment - the Underemployed Workers Survey (UEW). This article presents excerpts from the Summary of Findings of the first publication (cat. no. 6265.0), published on 6th March 1986. A digitised copy of the publication is available here

The summary data presented is also compared against the latest data from the 2019 Participation, Job Search and Mobility (PJSM) Survey.


SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

May 1985: SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

In May 1985 there were 6,632,300 employed persons aged 15 and over (55.6 per cent of the civilian population in this age group). Of these, most were fully employed (96.6 per cent) and 3.4 per cent (226,700) were underemployed.

199,600 (88.0 per cent) of these underemployed workers were part-time workers who indicated that they would prefer to work more hours. The remaining 27,100 persons were full-time workers who did not work full-time hours in the reference week due to economic reasons.

22.9 per cent of part-time employed males were underemployed, compared with 14.9 per cent of part-time employed females. For both males and females, 0.5 per cent of full-time employed workers were underemployed.


DIAGRAM 1. EMPLOYED PERSONS: RELATIONSHIP OF UNDEREMPLOYED WORKERS TO FULLY EMPLOYED WORKERS, MAY 1985
(Source of data: Table 2, May 1985)
DIAGRAM 1. EMPLOYED PERSONS: RELATIONSHIP OF UNDEREMPLOYED WORKERS TO FULLY EMPLOYED WORKERS, MAY 1985
(a) For the definition of fully employed. See Explanatory Notes paragraph 8 (excerpt below).
(b) Underemployed part-time workers who had been looking for work with more hours at some time in the four weeks up to the end of the survey week and were available to start such work within four weeks.


NOTE: Fully employed workers are defined as those persons who are voluntarily working part-time, or who worked full-time hours in the reference week, or who are full-time workers who did not work full-time hours in the reference week for non-economic reasons. It should be noted that persons who are normally underemployed but who worked full-time hours in the reference week are classified as fully employed.

Today, under the current definition, fully employed workers also include part-time workers who prefer more hours, but were unavailable to work any extra hours. These are not included in the data from 1985 and are instead included amongst the underemployed, unless otherwise noted.


Feb 2019: SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

In February 2019, there were 12.7 million employed persons. This was 63.3% of the population, up from 55.6% in 1985. Of these:
    • 91.4% were fully employed, down from 96.6% in 1985
    • 8.6% (1.1 million) were underemployed, up from 3.4% in 1985

92.4% of the underemployed were part-time workers who preferred and were available to work more hours, up from 88.0% in 1985.
    • 31.4% of part-time males were underemployed, up from 22.9% in 1985
    • 22.9% of part-time females were underemployed, up from 14.9% in 1985

The remaining underemployed (7.6%) were full-time workers who involuntarily worked part-time hours because they was not enough work or were stood down by their employer.
    • 1.1% of full-time males were underemployed, up from 0.5% in 1985
    • 0.7% of full-time females were underemployed, up from 0.5%


DIAGRAM 1b. UNDEREMPLOYED VS. FULLY EMPLOYED, FEB 2019
(Source of data: Tables 2 & 3, Feb 2019)
DIAGRAM 1b. UNDEREMPLOYED VS. FULLY EMPLOYED, FEB 2019
(a) Underemployed part-time workers who had been looking for work with more hours at some time in the four weeks up to the end of the survey week and were available to start such work within four weeks.


UNDEREMPLOYED AND UNEMPLOYED

May 1985: Underemployed workers and unemployed persons

While most underemployed workers were females (66.0 per cent), most unemployed persons were males (59.5 per cent). Approximately 35 per cent of underemployed workers were aged 15 to 24, while about 45 per cent of unemployed persons were in this age group. About 25 per cent of both underemployed workers and unemployed persons were aged 25 to 34. The remaining 40 per cent of underemployed workers and 30 per cent of unemployed persons were in the older age group of 35 and over.

116,600 or 51.4 per cent of underemployed workers were husbands or wives, of whom 75,100 had children aged 0 to 14 present, while 219,500 or 36.1 per cent of unemployed persons were husbands or wives, of whom 147,800 had children aged 0 to 14 present. 23.1 per cent of underemployed workers were children of family heads, compared with 33.3 per cent of unemployed persons.

The underemployment and unemployment rates were 3.1 per cent and 8.4 per cent respectively, yielding an underutilisation rate of 11.5 per cent.


Feb 2019: UNDEREMPLOYED AND UNEMPLOYED
  • The underemployment rate was 8.2% in 2019 which was higher than the 3.1% in 1985
  • The unemployment rate was 5.3% in 2019 which was lower than the 8.4% in 1985
  • The underutilisation rate was 13.5% in 2019 which was higher than the 11.5% in 1985


UNDEREMPLOYED (1.1 million)
  • Most underemployed were female (59.0%)
  • 34% were aged 15 to 24
  • 21% were aged 25 to 34
  • 45% were aged 35 and over
  • 44.1% were husbands, wives or partners
  • 21.2% were partners with children under 15
  • 30.6% were working age children living with parents


UNEMPLOYED (680,000)
  • Most unemployed were male (52.8%)
  • 37% were aged 15 to 24
  • 20% were aged 25 to 34
  • 43% were aged 35 and over
  • 33.0% were husbands, wives or partners
  • 16.5% were partners with children under 15
  • 36.5% were working age children living with parents


AVERAGE DURATION OF UNDEREMPLOYMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT

May 1985: Average duration of current period of underemployment/unemployment

Underemployed part-time workers who had been looking for work with more hours and were available to start such work within four weeks had, on average, been underemployed for 36.1 weeks. Underemployed full-time workers had experienced an average duration of 12.6 weeks.

These two groups combined had an average duration of current period of underemployment of 30.7 weeks, which was lower than the average duration of current period of unemployment (50.2 weeks). The average duration of underemployment for males (31.9 weeks) was only slightly higher than that for females (29.9 weeks). However, males had experienced a much higher average duration of unemployment (57.2 weeks) than females (39.9 weeks).

Persons with post-school qualifications had been underemployed for an average of 35.6 weeks compared with persons without post-school qualifications, who had been underemployed for an average of 28.2 weeks.


DIAGRAM 2. UNDEREMPLOYED WORKERS(a) AND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS: AVERAGE DURATION OF CURRENT PERIOD OF UNDEREMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT MAY 1985
(Source of data: Table 3, May 1985)
DIAGRAM 2. UNDEREMPLOYED WORKERS(a) AND UNEMPLOYED PERSONS: AVERAGE DURATION OF CURRENT PERIOD OF UNDEREMPLOYMENT/UNEMPLOYMENT. MAY 1985
(a) Excludes underemployed part-time workers who either had not been looking for work with more hours at some time during the four weeks up to the end of survey week or were not available to start such work within four weeks.


NOTE: Duration of current period of underemployment is the period from the time the person became underemployed to the end of the survey week. Average (mean) duration is obtained by dividing the aggregate number of weeks a group has been underemployed by the number of persons in that group. Median duration is that which divides underemployed persons into two equal groups, one comprising persons whose duration of underemployment is above the median and the other, persons whose duration is below it.

The duration of current period of underemployment was measured differently in 1985 to 2019. In 1985, respondents were asked to recall the number of weeks they had been both working less than 35 hours and looking for more work. In 2019, respondents were asked to recall the number of weeks they had been both working less than 35 hours and wanting to work more hours.


Feb 2019: AVERAGE DURATION OF UNDEREMPLOYMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT

Average duration of underemployment was 86.5 weeks in 2019, higher than the 30.7 weeks in 1985.
  • Average duration of part-time underemployment was 56 weeks higher in 2019 compared to 1985, while the average duration of full-time underemployment was just 0.6 weeks higher.
  • Average duration of underemployment rose for both males and females between 1985 and 2019. Males rose from 31.9 weeks to 77.3 weeks, and females rose from 29.9 weeks to 92.9 weeks.
  • Average duration of underemployment for those with a post-school qualification was 88.6 weeks, higher than the 35.6 weeks in 1985. For those without a post-school qualification, average duration of underemployment was 83.5 weeks, higher than the 28.2 weeks in 1985


Average duration of unemployment was 45.9 weeks in 2019, lower than the 50.2 weeks in 1985.
  • The average duration of male unemployment fell nearly 10 weeks between 1985 and 2019, while the reverse is true for female average duration of unemployment, which rose 4 weeks over that time.


DIAGRAM 2b. DURATION OF UNDEREMPLOYMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT, MAY 2018 vs FEB 2019
(Source of data: TableBuilder)
DIAGRAM 2b. AVERAGE DURATION OF UNDEREMPLOYMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT


Feb 2019: MEDIAN DURATION OF UNDEREMPLOYMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT

Median duration of underemployment was 30 weeks in 2019, higher than the 12 weeks in 1985.
  • Median duration of part-time underemployment was 22 weeks higher in 2019 compared to 1985, while the median duration of full-time underemployment was just 1 week higher.
  • Median duration of underemployment rose for both males and females between 1985 and 2019. Males rose from 8 weeks to 26 weeks, and females rose from 13 weeks to 34 weeks.
  • Median duration of underemployment for those with a post-school qualification was 32 weeks, higher than the 14 weeks in 1985. For those without a post-school qualification, the median duration of underemployment was 30 weeks, higher than the 12 weeks in 1985.


Median duration of unemployment was 10 weeks in 2019, lower than the 22 weeks in 1985.
  • The median duration of male unemployment fell 15 weeks between 1985 and 2019. Median duration of unemployment for females also fell by 8 weeks over the same period.


DIAGRAM 2c. DURATION OF UNDEREMPLOYMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT, MAY 2018 vs FEB 2019
(Source of data: TableBuilder)
DIAGRAM 2c. MEDIAN DURATION OF UNDEREMPLOYMENT AND UNEMPLOYMENT

INDUSTRY

May 1985: Industry (ASIC 83) of underemployed and fully employed workers

Industries accounting for the most underemployed workers were Wholesale and Retail Trade (24.3 per cent), Community Services (21.4 per cent) and Recreation, Personal and Other Services (17. 7 per cent). These same three industries also had high proportions of their workers underemployed, 9.1 per cent in Recreation, Personal and Other Services and slightly over 4 per cent in both Community Services and Wholesale and Retail Trade. In the Manufacturing sector, 1.4 per cent of workers were underemployed, representing 7.2 per cent of all underemployed persons.


DIAGRAM 3. EMPLOYED PERSONS: WHETHER UNDEREMPLOYED OR FULLY EMPLOYED AND INDUSTRY (ASIC 83). MAY 1985
(Source of data: Table 4, May 1985)
DIAGRAM 3. EMPLOYED PERSONS: WHETHER UNDEREMPLOYED OR
(a) Comprises Mining; Electricity, Gas and Water: and Public Administration and Defence.


Feb 2019: INDUSTRY (ASIC 83)

Industries with the most underemployed workers:
    • Recreation, Personal and Other Services (28.7%), which is up from 24.3% in 1985
    • Community Services (23.9%), which is up from 21.4% in 1985
    • Wholesale and Retail Trade (22.6%), which is down from 24.3% in 1985

Industries with the highest proportion of underemployment:
    • Recreation, Personal and Other Services (17.6%), which is up from 9.1% in 1985
    • Wholesale and Retail Trade (12.8%), which is up from 4.2% in 1985
    • Community Services (8.6%), which is up from 4.3% in 1985

3.0% of all underemployed workers were in Manufacturing, which is down from 7.2% in 1985.

3.8% of workers in Manufacturing were underemployed, which is up from 1.4% in 1985.


DIAGRAM 3b. UNDEREMPLOYMENT BY INDUSTRY (ASIC 83), MAY 85 vs FEB 2019
(Source of data: TableBuilder*)
DIAGRAM 3b. UNDEREMPLOYMENT BY INDUSTRY (ASIC 83).
*Using ASIC 83 to ANZSIC 06 concordance
(a) Comprises Mining; Electricity, Gas and Water: and Public Administration and Defence.


Feb 2019: INDUSTRY (ANZSIC 06)

Industries with the most underemployed workers:
    • Retail Trade (20.7%), up from 17.2% in 1985
    • Accommodation and Food Services (15.8%), up from 12.6% in 1985
    • Health Care and Social Assistance (13.8%), up from 9.4% in 1985

Industries with the highest proportion of underemployment:
    • Accommodation and Food Services (19.2%), up from 8.7% in 1985
    • Retail Trade (17.4.%), up from 5.5% in 1985
    • Arts and Recreation Services (16.3%), up from 7.5% in 1985

2.9% of all underemployed workers were in Manufacturing, down from 6.8% in 1985.

3.8% of workers in Manufacturing were underemployed, up from 1.4% in 1985.


DIAGRAM 3c. UNDEREMPLOYMENT BY INDUSTRY (ANZSIC 06), FEB 2019
(Source of data: TableBuilder)
DIAGRAM 3c. UNDEREMPLOYMENT BY INDUSTRY (ANZSIC 06)
(a) Comprises Mining; Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services; Wholesale Trade; Information Media and Telecommunications; Financial and Insurance Services; Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services; and Other Services.


USUAL HOURS AND EXTRA HOURS WANTED

May 1985: Usual number of hours worked and preferred number of extra hours

Of those underemployed part-time workers who had been looking for work with more hours and were available to start such work within four weeks, 35,500 (39.1 per cent) usually worked from 1 to 10 hours, 34,400 (37.9 percent) usually worked from 11 to 20 hours and the remaining 21,000 (23.1 per cent) usually worked from 21 to 34 hours.

Of those who usually worked from 1 to 10 hours, 43.7 per cent reported that they would prefer to work 30 or more extra hours, while only 11.8 per cent preferred less than 10 extra hours.

55.8 per cent of those persons who usually worked from 11 to 20 hours would like to work 20 to 29 extra hours, while a further 29.9 per cent of these persons would like to work 10 to 19 extra hours.

The majority of persons who usually worked from 21 to 34 hours reported that they would prefer 10 to 19 extra hours (72.4 per cent), while a further 23.8 per cent preferred less than 10 extra hours.

Underemployed part-time workers who had been looking for work with more hours and were available to start such work within four weeks reported that they would prefer to work an average of 20 extra hours. The total quantum of underemployment for these persons was 1,785,500 hours per week.


DIAGRAM 4. UNDEREMPLOYED PART-TIME WORKERS WHO HAD BEEN LOOKING FOR WORK WITH MORE HOURS(a) AND WERE AVAILABLE TO START SUCH WORK WITHIN FOUR WEEKS: USUAL NUMBER OF HOURS WORKED AND PREFERRED NUMBER OF EXTRA HOURS, MAY 1985
(Source of data: Table 9, May 1985)
Pie chart of preferred extra hours of those who usually work 0-10  hours Pie chart of preferred extra hours of those who usually work 11-20  hours Pie chart of preferred extra hours of those who usually work 21-34 hours
(a) At some time during the four weeks up to the end of survey week.


NOTE: Quantum of underemployment is the sum of the preferred number of extra hours reported. It measures the number of potential hours of work lost due to underemployment.

It is known today as a Volume measure of underemployment.


Feb 2019: USUAL HOURS AND EXTRA HOURS WANTED

The average number of extra hours that part-time underemployed workers were looking for was 15 more hours per week (median of 13 hours). This is less than the average of 20 extra hours sought in 1985.

The total volume of additional hours preferred was 7,503,000 hours per week.

In 2019, the usual hours of part-time workers looking for more work were greater than in 1985:
    • 29.0% usually worked 10 or fewer hours, less than the 39.1% in 1985
    • 37.8% usually worked from 11 to 20 hours, about the same as in 1985
    • 33.3% usually worked from 21 to 34 hours, more than the 23.1% in 1985

Of those who usually worked 10 or fewer hours:
    • 26.3% wanted an extra 30 or more hours, less than the 43.7% in 1985
    • 21.5% wanted less than 10 extra hours, more than the 11.8% in 1985

Of those who usually worked from 11 to 20 hours:
    • 37.6% wanted an extra 20 to 29 hours, less than the 55.8% in 1985
    • 37.1% wanted an extra 10 to 19 hours, more than the 29.9% in 1985

Of those who usually worked from 21 to 34 hours:
    • 58.4% wanted an extra 10 to 19 hours, less than the 72.4% in 1985
    • 39.7% wanted less than 10 extra hours, more than the 23.8% in 1985.


DIAGRAM 4b. USUAL HOURS AND EXTRA HOURS WANTED, MAY 1985 vs FEB 2019
(Source of data: TableBuilder)
DIAGRAM 4b. USUAL HOURS AND EXTRA HOURS WANTED,


PREFERRED HOURS

May 1985: Preferred total number of hours

25,200 (27.8 per cent) underemployed part-time workers who had been looking for work with more hours and were available to start such work within four weeks reported that they would prefer to work more part-time hours. This comprised 19,100 who would like to work a total of less than 30 hours and 6,100 who would like to work from 30 to 34 hours.

The remaining 65,600 (72.2 per cent) persons would prefer to work full-time hours, comprising 23,800 persons who would like to work a total of from 35 to 39 hours and 41,800 persons who would like to work 40 hours or over.


Feb 2019: PREFERRED HOURS

42.6% of part-time workers looking for more work preferred to work more part-time hours, more than the 27.8% in 1985:
    • 65.9% preferred less than 30 hours, less than the 76% in 1985
    • 34.1% preferred 30 to 34 hours, more than the 24% in 1985

57.4% preferred to work full-time, less than the 72.2% in 1985:
    • 53.5% preferred to work 35 to 39 hours, more than the 38% in 1985
    • 46.5% preferred to work 40 hours or more, less than the 62% in 1985


UNDEREMPLOYMENT PUBLICATIONS, 1966 TO 1995

The publication Underemployed Workers, Australia (cat. no. 6265.0) has digitised back issues dating back to September 1996, which can be found here.

The remaining issues from before 1996 have now been digitised and are were recently made available on the ABS website.


FURTHER INFORMATION

For more information on these on any other labour statistics, contact the ABS Labour Statistics branch via labour.statistics@abs.gov.au.