1301.0 - Year Book Australia, 2004  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/02/2004   
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Underemployed workers

Underutilised labour resources are often viewed as comprising people who are out of work, whether unemployed or out of the labour force completely. However, underutilised labour can also include some people who are in work: specifically, those who work fewer hours than they want to - the underemployed.

The ABS defines two categories of underemployed people: part-time workers who want, and are available for, additional hours of work; and full-time workers who worked part-time hours in the survey reference week for economic reasons (e.g. they had been stood down, put on short time or there was insufficient work available for them).

6.27 UNDEREMPLOYED WORKERS - September 2002

Part-time workers wanting more hours who were available
to start work with more hours
Full-time workers who worked less than 35 hours in the
reference week for economic reasons

Source: Underemployed Workers, Australia, September 2002 (6265.0).

In September 2002, there were 574,300 underemployed persons (table 6.27). Of these, 8% (47,900 persons) worked part-time hours for economic reasons, for example stood down. Men were more likely than women to be underemployed for these reasons (15% of underemployed men in September 2002, compared with 3% of underemployed women).

Most underemployed people (92%) were part-time workers wanting more work. The 526,400 underemployed part-time workers accounted for 20% of all part-time workers. The majority of underemployed people were women. This is partly because women are far more likely to be working part-time than men. In September 2002, there were 1.9 million women working part-time, compared with 748,600 men.

Men working part-time are more likely to be underemployed than women working part-time. In September 2002, 27% of all male part-time workers were underemployed, compared with 17% of female part-time workers. In September 1994, these proportions were 33% and 17% respectively (graph 6.28).

Graph - 6.28 Part-time workers, Proportion who were underemployed

Preference for full-time work

While all underemployed workers want to work more hours, not all want to work full-time. Underemployed men are more likely to want full-time work than underemployed women. In September 2002, almost three-quarters (73%) of all underemployed male part-time workers wanted full-time work, compared with nearly half (49%) of underemployed female part-time workers.

Job search activities

In September 2002, more than half (56%) of all underemployed part-time workers had actively looked for additional hours of work in the previous four weeks. The most common steps taken by these people to find additional work were contacting prospective employers (66%), looking in newspapers (57%) and asking their current employers for more work (53%). Almost one-quarter (24%) had registered with Centrelink (graph 6.29).

Graph - 6.29 Underemployed part-time workers, By job search activity - September 2002

Difficulties in finding work

In September 2002, almost one in three (30%) underemployed part-time workers looking for additional hours of work said their main difficulty in finding work with more hours was that there were no vacancies in their line of work, or simply no vacancies at all. For an additional 29%, the main difficulty was that there were too many applicants for available jobs, that they were considered too young or too old by employers, or that they lacked necessary skills or education.

Men were more likely than women to mention one of these five reasons as their main difficulty in finding additional work (62% of male part-time workers looking and available for additional work compared with 56% of females). Women were more likely than men to cite difficulties related to a lack of necessary skills or education (9% of males compared with 12% of females) and unsuitable hours (6% of males compared with 10% of females) (graph 6.30).

Graph - 6.30 Underemployed part-time workers, Main difficulty in finding additional work - September 2002


Australian Bureau of Statistics, Underemployed Workers, Australia, cat. no. 6265.0, various issues, ABS, Canberra.