5240.0 - Unpaid Work and the Australian Economy, 1997  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 10/10/2000   
   Page tools:


In most economies, large amounts of unpaid work fall outside conventional definitions of economic production. Although most of this unpaid work constitutes production in a broad sense, international statistical standards recommend its exclusion from defined production because of conceptual and measurement difficulties. The unpaid work cannot be valued in the same way as recorded production and there are unresolved issues surrounding the boundary between unpaid work and leisure activities and between unpaid work and personal care activities.

There is nevertheless a strong interest among analysts in monitoring the value, composition and growth of this unpaid work. This paper has been prepared to provide the latest available measures (relating to calendar year 1997) of such unpaid work in the Australian economy. It is the third paper on this subject prepared by the ABS. However, the estimates of unpaid work for 1986–87 included in the first paper were considered experimental. The estimates for 1992 in the second paper were not experimental but have been revised in this paper to take account of conceptual changes arising mainly from changes to international statistical standards for the national accounts.

Preparation of estimates of the value of unpaid work requires data on the volume of unpaid work of various types undertaken by Australian residents. Reliable information of this type is currently only available from the periodic time-use surveys conducted by the ABS. The surveys involve asking a random sample of households to record their time spent on various activities over specified periods. The estimates for unpaid work included in this paper are based on the time-use surveys conducted for 1992 and 1997.

The unpaid work that is the subject of this paper consists of two broad types: services produced by households for their own consumption (e.g. meal preparation, child care) and volunteer and community work (e.g. care of aged relatives) provided free of charge to others. Separate estimates are provided for these categories and are classified according to the types of activities constituting unpaid work, the gender, marital status and employment status of people undertaking the work, and the various methods for estimating the value of the work.

Besides providing the latest estimates for unpaid work the paper includes a discussion of issues associated with the valuation of unpaid work and the boundary between unpaid work and leisure activities. Information is also provided on factors that can cause shifts between unpaid work and measured production.

Also included (in Appendix 1) is a discussion paper on the closely related topic of household satellite accounts within the national accounts framework. Readers who would like to see measures of unpaid work integrated within the framework of the national accounts should find this appendix of particular interest.

The ABS would welcome any comments and suggestions that readers might have on the content of the paper, particularly regarding the possible future directions for development of this field of statistics that are discussed in Appendix 1.