4160.0 - Measuring Wellbeing: Frameworks for Australian Social Statistics, 2001  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/10/2001   
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Contents >> Chapter 6: Work >> Summary


How does work relate to individual wellbeing?

Work allows individuals to contribute to their community and can enhance their skills, social networks and identity. Paid work is a major source of economic resources and security for most individuals. People without paid work may be at risk of poverty and isolation. People's wages, working conditions, job tenure, and the amount of opportunity or risk associated with their work, can also affect their wellbeing.

How does work relate to wellbeing at the societal level?

The goods and services necessary for life and material comfort must be produced through work, just as the care and nurture of children and other family and community members requires work. Work has the capacity to generate and support communities through the goods and services it creates, and through the training, infrastructure and socialisation it provides. The labour force is a fundamental input to economic production, and its size and composition are crucial factors in economic growth.

What are some key social issues?
  • Matching the skills, education and employment needs of the population to employment opportunities and the needs of industry and society.
  • Ensuring remuneration practices provide people with sufficient earnings for their work, and that employment and working conditions are fair, safe and non-discriminatory.
  • Ensuring people's work meets their need for income, security, stability, job satisfaction and career opportunity, and provides adequate means to accrue savings for retirement.
  • Monitoring trends in unemployment, underemployment and overwork, and changes in technology, industry or working arrangements and practices, to inform social policy.
  • Access to employment opportunities for all population groups.
  • Through effective employment programs and strategies, assisting groups in need (e.g. the long term unemployed) to find work and to reduce their dependency on welfare.
  • Monitoring productivity of the labour force and its contribution to economic growth.

What are some key definitional challenges?

There can be challenges in establishing criteria that universally differentiate between categories of labour force activity, and interpretation of what comprises underutilised labour supply may vary depending on the purpose of analysis. In some cases, indicators of marginal attachment to the labour force (e.g. number of discouraged jobseekers) or of underemployment, may be used to produce supplementary measures for analysis along with the unemployment rate. Defining working arrangements that are still evolving, (e.g. some casual and contract working arrangements) can be challenging. Where individuals operate their own business, classifying these people to 'employer' or 'employee' may also present challenges.

What are the main measurement issues?
  • Work and labour frameworks need to be stable over time to support time series analysis, but also need to be relevant to contemporary labour market phenomena such as emerging working arrangements that depart from contractual or structural norms.
  • Differences between labour force statistics derived from different sources can be explained but are generally difficult to reconcile.
  • It can be difficult to quantify and value unpaid and voluntary work.

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