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CHAPTER 7. NOT IN THE LABOUR FORCE
MARGINAL ATTACHMENT TO THE LABOUR FORCE
7.5 The international guidelines (Thirteenth International Conference of Labour Statisticians 1982) suggest that, where the standard definition of employment is used, countries develop classifications of people not in the labour force according to the relative strength of attachment to the labour market. The International Labour Organisation, in its manual Surveys of Economically Active Population, Employment, Unemployment and Underemployment, states that people marginally attached to the labour force are those not economically active under the standard definitions of employment and unemployment, but who, following a change in one of the standard definitions (of employment or unemployment, such as active job search or availability to start a job), would be reclassified as economically active.
7.6 The guidelines recognise that, though not precise in concept (nor defined in the international guidelines), the term 'discouraged workers' generally refers to people who want a job and are currently available for work but have given up any active job search because they believe they cannot find a job.
DEFINITIONS USED IN ABS SURVEYS
7.7 The ABS produces estimates of persons not in the labour force in a number of household surveys. The definition used is consistent with the concepts outlined above except for people aged less than 15 years, who are generally excluded from ABS measures of labour force status. Persons not in the labour force are therefore generally defined in ABS household collections as 'persons aged 15 years and over who are neither employed nor unemployed'. Those not in the labour force include people who are:
7.9 Estimates of persons not in the labour force produced from the reduced questionnaire module (used in most Special Social Surveys) are higher than those produced from the Labour Force Survey. This is due to differences in the treatment of certain categories of people:
MARGINAL ATTACHMENT TO THE LABOUR FORCE, DISCOURAGED JOB SEEKERS
7.11 Measures of persons marginally attached to the labour force and discouraged job seekers are collected by the ABS annually in a supplementary survey to the Labour Force Survey, Persons Not In the Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6220.0). Definitions used in this survey are outlined below.
7.12 People with marginal attachment to the labour force comprise those people who are not in the labour force, who wanted to work, and:
7.13 This definition is consistent with that suggested by the international guidelines, and involves relaxing the criteria used to determine unemployment in the Labour Force Survey as follows:
Discouraged job seekers
7.14 Discouraged job seekers are defined as people with marginal attachment to the labour force who want to work and could start work within four weeks if offered a job, but who have given up looking for work for reasons associated with the labour market. This group includes people who believe they would not find a job for any of the following reasons:
This definition of discouraged job seekers is consistent with the definition of discouraged workers outlined in international guidelines.
7.15 Diagram 7.1 illustrates the concepts of not in the labour force, unemployed, marginally attached, and discouraged job seekers, as measured in the Persons Not In the Labour Force Survey.
7.1 CONCEPTUAL FRAMEWORK: PERSONS NOT IN THE LABOUR FORCE
7.16 Estimates of persons not in the labour force are available from:
7.17 The Labour Force Survey is the official source for Australian employment and unemployment statistics and defines persons not in the labour force according to the definitions outlined above, using the full questionnaire module. Persons not in the labour force are further classified as:
7.18 Estimates of reason for inactivity, marginal attachment and discouraged job seekers are impractical to collect in the Labour Force Survey, because of cost, time and respondent burden. These topics are therefore measured in an annual supplement to the Labour Force Survey, as noted below. Notwithstanding this, quarterly estimates of the number of marginally attached people who had actively looked for work, were not available to start work in the reference week, but were available to start within four weeks, are available from the Labour Force Survey. For more details on the content and methodology of the Labour Force Survey refer to Chapter 20.
SUPPLEMENTARY SURVEY: PERSONS NOT IN THE LABOUR FORCE
7.19 The supplement to the Labour Force Survey, the Persons Not In the Labour Force Survey, is the main source of detailed information on persons not in the labour force. Persons not in the labour force are defined as for the Labour Force Survey, but excluded people living in very remote parts of Australia. The exclusion of these people will have only a minor impact on any aggregate estimates that are produced for individual states and territories, except the Northern Territory where such people account for around a quarter of the population. In addition, the supplementary surveys exclude institutionalised people, and this group of people represent approximately 4% of people not in the labour force. The survey produces estimates of persons marginally attached to the labour force, of discouraged job seekers, and of persons not in the labour force classified by reasons for inactivity. The definitions for marginal attachment and discouraged job seekers used in the survey are discussed above. For further information on the content and methodology of the survey refer to Chapter 21.10.
CENSUS OF POPULATION AND HOUSING
7.20 The Census of Population and Housing uses the self-enumerated questionnaire module and defines persons not in the labour force as 'persons aged 15 years and over who, during the week before census night, were neither employed nor unemployed'. As discussed previously, the self-enumerated questionnaire uses a limited set of questions to collect labour force status and measures persons not in the labour force more broadly than collections using the full questionnaire modules. The Labour Force Survey and its supplementary topic Persons Not In the Labour Force both use the full questionnaire. When comparing estimates from the Census with those from the Labour Force Survey, or the Persons Not In the Labour Force Survey, users should also note differences in scope and methodologies across the collections. Estimates of persons not in the labour force from the Census are available down to the statistical local area level (footnote 1). See Chapter 19 for more information on the Census of Population and Housing.
SPECIAL SOCIAL SURVEYS
7.21 The Special Social Surveys generally use the reduced questionnaire module and define persons not in the labour force as 'persons who were neither employed nor unemployed during the reference period'. Estimates are generally only produced for people (in scope of the survey) aged 15 years and over. As discussed previously, the reduced questionnaire module uses a limited set of questions to determine labour force status, and measures 'not in the labour force' less precisely than collections using the full questionnaire modules, including the Labour Force Survey and its supplementary topic Persons Not In the Labour Force. When comparing estimates from the Special Social Surveys with the Labour Force Survey, or with Persons Not In the Labour Force, users should also note differences in scope and methodologies across the collections.
7.22 For further details contact the Labour Market Statistics Section, on Canberra (02) 6252 7206 or email <firstname.lastname@example.org>.
1. Statistical local areas (SLAs) consist of one or more Census collection districts. In aggregate, SLAs cover the whole of Australia without gaps or overlaps. An SLA consists of a single local government area, or part thereof, or any unincorporated area. For more information see Chapter 16.