1288.0 - Standards for Labour Force Statistics, 1996  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 13/11/1996   
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Contents >> Labour Force Status >> Underlying concepts


7. The name of the variable is 'Labour Force Status'.


Nominal definition

8. Labour Force Status is a classification of the civilian population aged 15 years and over into employed, unemployed or not in the labour force. The definitions conform closely to the international standards adopted by the International Conferences of Labour Statisticians.

9. 'Labour Force Status' is an attribute of the counting unit 'Person'.

Operational definition

10. 'Labour Force Status' is measured by establishing whether a person aged 15 years or over is employed, unemployed or not in the labour force (according to the relevant definitions) during a specified reference week.

11. 'Labour Force Status' is established according to a set of priority rules whereby employment takes precedence over unemployment and unemployment over economic inactivity. The priority rules provide unambiguous labour force measures, regardless of other activities that may be undertaken at the same time. For example, a person at work may also be actively seeking other employment; they are currently contributing to economic production and are therefore classed as employed, not withstanding their job search.

12. The broad principles for the determination of labour force status are outlined in Labour Force Framework: Underlying Concepts. A more detailed discussion of the labour force framework and concepts is presented in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no 6102.0).


13. In comparison with the estimates of labour force aggregates from the Labour Force Survey, the reduced questionnaire module recommended for use in personal interviews results in higher estimates of employed, lower estimates of unemployed and higher estimates of persons not in the labour force. This arises from the simplified treatment of certain categories of persons:

  • the reduced questionnaire module for personal interviews does not ask respondents who were not available to start work the reasons they were not available during the reference week. Therefore, the reduced questionnaire module does not identify persons who looked for work in the four weeks to the end of the reference week but were not available to start work in the reference week because they were waiting to start a new job within four weeks from the end of the reference week (and could have started in the reference week if the job had been available then). Using the reduced questionnaire module such persons are classified as not in the labour force rather than as unemployed (about 1% of unemployed);
  • in the Labour Force Survey, persons on workers' compensation 'last week' and not returning (or who do not know if they will be returning to work), persons working without pay in a family business (contributing family workers) who are away from work, and persons away from work for four weeks or more without pay, are classified as either unemployed or not in the labour force. Where the reduced questionnaire module is used, all persons absent from work, but who usually work one hour or more a week, are classified as employed (about 0.1% of employed).

14. The self-enumerated questionnaire module also produces different estimates of employment, unemployment and not in the labour force, compared with the Labour Force Survey questionnaire. Some differences result from the shortened set of questions which, like the questions recommended for use in personal interview, cannot determine labour force status as precisely as the Labour Force Survey does. Other differences result from the self-enumerated nature of the questions and the inevitable differences in interpretation among respondents. As a result, labour force status from the self-enumerated questionnaire module is best used as an explanatory variable to explain other phenomena, rather than for detailed analysis of the labour force itself. The Census of Population and Housing uses the self-enumerated questionnaire module.

15. More detailed discussion of the differences between the Labour Force Survey and other Household Surveys is presented in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no 6102.0).

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