6265.0 - Underemployed Workers, Australia, Sep 2008 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 24/02/2009   
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For information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.


Underemployed workers are employed people who would prefer, and are available for, more hours of work than they currently have. They comprise:

  • part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours and were available to start work with more hours, either in the reference week or in the four weeks subsequent to the survey
  • full-time workers who worked part-time hours in the reference week for economic reasons (such as being stood down or insufficient work available). It is assumed that these people would prefer to work full-time in the reference week and would have been available to do so.

    The number of underemployed workers contribute to measures of underutilised labour resources.

    The Underemployed Workers Survey collects a range of information about underemployed workers, including the number of hours usually worked, number of preferred hours, steps taken to find work with more hours, and difficulties in finding work with more hours.

    The Underemployed Workers Survey is conducted annually during September as a supplement to the monthly Labour Force Survey. The main product from the survey is the publication, Underemployed Workers, Australia (cat. no. 6265.0).


    The publication is released approximately six months after the completion of enumeration in September. The Underemployed Workers Survey is expected to be conducted again in September 2009.


    Estimates from the Underemployed Workers Survey, including those presented in the publication, are subject to sampling and non-sampling errors.

    The Underemployed Workers Survey was designed primarily to provide estimates at the Australia level. Broad estimates are available for State or territory of usual residence and State capital city/Balance of state/territory, though users should exercise caution when using estimates at this level because of the presence of high sampling errors.

    From September 2008, there has been a reduction in the LFS sample size when compared to September 2007. This is due to an 11% sample reduction that was implemented from November 2007 to June 2008 based on the 2006 sample design, and an additional 24% sample reduction implemented in July 2008. Detailed information about the sample reduction is provided in Information Paper: Labour Force Survey Sample Design, Nov 2007 (Second edition) (cat. no. 6269.0).


    The Underemployed Workers Survey is one source of ABS data source on underemployment. Summary information is also collected in the Labour Force Survey on a quarterly basis.

    The conceptual framework used for this survey is described in Chapter 5 of Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0.55.001). The statistics in this survey are comparable with other labour statistics produced by the ABS. The ABS definition of underemployment is consistent with the International Labour Organisation definition of time-related underemployment adopted in 1998.

    The ABS has been conducting the Underemployed Workers Survey irregularly since 1985, and annually since 1994. Key changes made to the Underemployed Workers Survey since 1994 include:
  • In 2008, changes to questions being asked of part-time workers were made to align with the Labour Force Survey. This has caused a break in series of part-time workers who preferred more hours and underemployed workers.
  • Revisions were made to population benchmarks for the Labour Force Survey and supplementary surveys in 2004 to take account of the 2001 Census of Population and Housing. Estimates from supplementary surveys conducted from and including February 2004 are based on the revised benchmarks.
  • Changes to improve alignment with recommendations from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) were made in 1994 for underemployment and in 2001 for formal job attachment.

    For more information on changes to the survey see Chapter 21.14 of Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods (cat. no. 6102.0.55.001).


    The Underemployed Workers publication contains tables with footnoted data and a Summary of Findings to aid interpretation of the results of the survey. Detailed Explanatory Notes, a Technical Note and a Glossary are also included providing information on the terminology, classifications and other technical aspects associated with these statistics.

    Further commentary is often available through articles and data published in other ABS products, including:
  • Australian Labour Market Statistics (cat. no. 6105.0) - refer to Appendix 2 for past articles.
  • Australian Social Trends (cat. no. 4102.0) - refer to the Cumulative list of articles for past articles
  • Year Book, Australia (cat. no. 1301.0) - refer to the 'Work' chapter.


    Underemployed Workers, Australia (cat. no. 6265.0), released electronically via the ABS website as a PDF publication. Additional data may be available on request (subject to data quality). For a list of data items available see Appendix 2 of the publication. Note that detailed data can be subject to high relative standard errors, and in some cases, may result in data being confidentialised.

    Labour underutilisation measures are published annually in the April issue of Australian Labour Market Statistics (cat. no. 6105.0), in Measures of Australia's Progress: Summary Indicators (Edition 2) (cat. no. 1383.0.55.001) and have been presented in Underemployed Workers, Australia (cat. no. 6265.0) since 2006.

    For further information about these or related statistics, contact the National Information and Referral Centre on 1300 135 070 or the Labour Market Section in Canberra on (02) 6252 7206.