6265.0 - Underemployed Workers, Australia, Sep 2011 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 02/03/2012   
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1 The statistics in this publication were compiled from data collected in the Underemployed Workers Survey conducted throughout Australia in September 2011 as a supplement to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS). Respondents to the monthly LFS who were within the 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 monthly 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 monthly LFS and supplementary surveys.


3 The conceptual framework used in Australia's LFS aligns closely with the standards and guidelines set out in the 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. 6102.0.55.001).


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

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

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

6 This supplementary survey was conducted in both urban and rural areas in all states and territories but excluded people living in Indigenous communities in very remote parts of Australia.


7 The estimates in this publication relate to people covered by the survey in September 2011. 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. See Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) for more details.


8 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.

9 The initial sample for the September 2011 LFS consisted of 36,312 private dwelling households and special dwelling units. Of the 29,288 private dwelling households and special dwelling units that remained in the survey after sample loss (e.g. households selected in the survey which had no residents in scope for the LFS, vacant or derelict dwellings and dwellings under construction), approximately 27,365 or 93.4% were fully responding to the Underemployed Workers Survey. The number of completed interviews obtained from these private dwelling households and special dwelling units (after taking into account scope, coverage and subsampling exclusions) was 29,818.


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 effective 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 Country of birth data are classified according to the Standard Australian Classification of Countries (SACC), 2011 (cat. no. 1269.0).

13 Educational attainment data are classified according to Australian Standard Classification of Education (ASCED), 2001 (cat. no. 1272.0). See Appendix 1 for further information.


14 The Labour Force Survey estimates, and estimates from the supplementary surveys, are calculated in such a way as to sum to independent estimates of the civilian population aged 15 years and over (population benchmarks). These population benchmarks are based on Estimated Resident Population (ERP) data. Generally, revisions are made to population benchmarks after each five-yearly Census of Population and Housing (Census), however revisions were made to the population benchmarks from July 2010, including those used for the 2011 Underemployed Workers Survey, to reflect revisions to ERP. For more details on the population benchmarks, see the Explanatory Notes in Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0). and for details about the revisions made, see the article in the September 2010 issue of Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0).


15 In September 2008 there was a substantial increase in the number of part-time workers who preferred more hours and underemployed workers. This was due to a change in the question being asked of part-time workers. From September 2008, part-time workers were asked "Would you prefer to work more hours than you usually work?". In previous surveys part-time workers were asked "Would you prefer a job in which you worked more hours a week?". The question was altered to be consistent with the LFS and is now broader and more inclusive of people's situations as it relates to a preference for more hours of work.

16 This change contributed to an additional 115,800 people who were classified as part-time workers who preferred more hours and an additional 131,500 people who were classified as underemployed workers in 2008. Users need to exercise care when comparing the number of part-time workers who preferred more hours and underemployed workers from 2008 onwards with previous releases because of this break in series.

17 From July 2004, a change was made to the category 'considered too young or too old by employers' for the items 'all difficulties in finding work with more hours' and 'main difficulty in finding work with more hours'. The category has been split into 'considered too young by employers' and 'considered to old by employers'.


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


19 The ABS definition of underemployment is consistent with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) guidelines of time-related underemployment adopted in 1998. According to these guidelines, time-related underemployment exists when the hours of work of an employed person are below a threshold, and are insufficient in relation to an alternative employment situation in which the person is willing and available to engage. More specifically, people in time-related underemployment comprise all employed people (as defined) who satisfy the following three criteria:
  • willingness to work additional hours - want to work more hours than they currently work. The ILO recommends that those who have actively sought to work additional hours should be distinguished from those who have not
  • availability to work additional hours, within a specified period
  • worked less than a threshold (determined according to national circumstances) relating to working time - the ABS underemployment framework uses a threshold (35 hours in the reference week) based on the boundary between full-time and part-time work.

20 A more detailed discussion is included in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0.55.001), Chapter 5.


21 The Underemployed Workers Survey was conducted in May 1985, 1988 and 1991. In 1994, the survey became an annual survey, collected each September. Results of previous surveys were published in Underemployed Workers, Australia (cat. no. 6265.0); and the standard data service Underemployed Workers, Australia (cat. no. 6265.0.40.001) for 1994 and 1995.


22 The ABS plans to conduct this survey again in September 2012.


23 The ABS draws 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.


24 ABS publications which may be of interest include:
25 Current publications and other products released by the ABS are available free of charge from the Statistics Page on the ABS website. The ABS also issues a daily Release Advice on the web site which details products to be released in the week ahead.