6210.2 - Workforce Participation and Workplace Flexibility,Victoria, Dec 2010 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 11/08/2011  First Issue
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Contents >> Introduction


This publication presents results from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2010 State Supplementary Survey—Workforce Participation and Workplace Flexibility, Victoria 2010. The survey collected information from Victorian households about labour force participation, barriers to employment, work preferences, and the use of flexible work arrangements.


The labour force participation rate is the labour force (employed and unemployed) as a percentage of the usually resident civilian population aged 15 years and over (ABS 2011). Individual participation choices can be influenced by a range of social and economic factors, including education and training, availability of childcare, workplace culture, workplace policies and procedures and employer attitudes (DIIRD 2008).

Labour market participation has been identified as an emerging policy challenge for Australia. The Commonwealth Treasury (2010) has acknowledged slower population growth and an ageing population as long-term risks for national and state economies, as more people leave the workforce and labour supply pressures increase with declining participation rates.

Research has suggested that understanding working preferences and actual participation in the labour market may help identify potential for improving participation (Abhayaratna and Lattimore 2006). Exploring the barriers to work—particularly for groups such as mature-aged people and women with families—as well as the prevalence of conditions which could reduce those barriers, may serve to highlight opportunities to minimise the impact of declining participation rates (Commonwealth Treasury 2010. BCA 2007).

One factor affecting participation in work is the availability of flexible working arrangements. Victoria’s Workforce Participation Taskforce reported in 2005 that greater flexibility in the workplace, along with improved choices for individuals to balance work and family responsibilities, can assist those shifting into or out of the workforce (DVC 2005). The Commonwealth Treasury (2010) has also identified lack of workplace flexibility, among other factors, as a potential barrier to participation for those who wish to join or remain in the workforce.

Flexibility in the workplace includes arrangements such as flexible work hours, time off to attend to personal and family matters, part-time work, job sharing, and work-from-home. In recent decades, as more women have moved into the workforce, demand has increased for flexible arrangements to help both women and men manage family commitments (Drago et al 2009). International organisations such as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the European Union and the International Labour Organisation have promoted the use of flexible work arrangements to ease labour market rigidity, encourage employment, and assist work-life balance and gender equity in the workplace (Zeytinoglu et al 2009).

The Workforce Participation and Workplace Flexibility Survey provides data about the extent of flexible working arrangements in the Victorian labour market, the experiences and needs of Victorians for flexible work arrangements, and barriers to participation for those not in the labour force. Through providing data on working preferences, participation and the prevalence of opportunities for participation through flexible arrangements, the Workforce Participation and Workplace Flexibility Survey supports informed decision-making for addressing challenges to labour force participation and improving work-life balance for Victorians.


The Workforce Participation and Workplace Flexibility survey was conducted during December 2010 in Victoria as a supplement to the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS). There are some unique characteristics of the survey that should be taken into account when making comparisons to other ABS publications.

Persons of two labour force status definitions were included in the survey: 'Employed' and 'Persons not in the Labour Force'. However, as this survey describes workforce participation and flexibility, these populations have been defined slightly differently to how they are defined in the Labour Force Survey, and other ABS publications (for more information, see the Glossary).

The ABS normally categorises persons on long-term unpaid leave for four weeks or more as persons "not in the labour force". For the purposes of the Workforce Participation and Workplace Flexibility Survey, as these people have been granted long-term unpaid leave from a job, and are in a position to provide data about flexible working arrangements they have been grouped together with employees, in the “Employees, or persons not in the labour force on long-term unpaid leave” category. These people on long-term unpaid leave have therefore been excluded from the persons not in the labour force category, labelling this group as “Persons not in the labour force, not including persons on long-term unpaid leave”.

Figure 1 illustrates the conceptual framework for the Workforce Participation and Workplace Flexibility Survey:

Figure 1. Conceptual Framework

* Excluded from the scope of this survey:
    • Unemployed persons
    • Persons under 18 years of age
    • Full time students under 25 years of age
    • Persons 65 years and older permanently not intending to work
    • People working in their own business
    • People permanently unable to work
    • Voluntary or unpaid workers waiting to start a new job
    • Persons in very remote Indigenous Community Frame (ICF) collection districts (CD) or in Special Dwellings
    Note: Percentages are a proportion of the total population for all persons in Victoria aged 18 years and over in scope of the survey.

      Exclusions were also made to the scope of the survey. In particular, due to the survey’s interest in employees' access to and need for flexible working arrangements, those employed in their own businesses were excluded. As a result, the survey refers to in-scope employed persons as ‘employees’1 to distinguish them from the standard definition of ‘employed persons’.

      The survey also excludes sub-populations which were unlikely to be affected by the availability of flexible working arrangements: people actively looking for work; people permanently unable to work; people 65 years and over not intending to work, and full-time students under 25 years of age.

      The two main populations included in the survey results are therefore:
      • Persons not in the labour force, not including persons on long-term unpaid leave;
      • Employees, or persons not in the labour force on long-term unpaid leave


      1The definition of 'employee' in this publication differs from the standard Labour Force definition by its exclusion of a 'person who operates their own incorporated enterprise with or without hiring employee', and therefore direct comparisons should not be made (see Glossary).


      Abhayaratna, J., and Lattimore, R.2006. Workforce Participation Rates – How Does Australia Compare?. Commonwealth of Australia Productivity Commission Staff Working Paper, online, viewed 5 July 2011,

      Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 2011, 6202.0 – Labour Force, Australia, May 2011, Commonwealth of Australia, online, viewed 5 July 2011,

      BCA (Business Council of Australia). 2007. Engaging our Potential: The Economic and Social Necessity of Increasing Workforce Participation, online, viewed 5 July 2011,

      Commonwealth Treasury, 2010, The 2010 Intergenerational Report, Commonwealth of Australia, online, viewed 5 July 2011,

      DIIRD (Department of Innovation, Industry and Regional Development), 2008, Working Victoria: Victoria’s Workforce Participation Strategy, State of Victoria

      Drago, R., Wooden, M., Black, D., 2009, ‘Who wants and gets flexibility?
      Changing work hours preferences and life events’, Industrial and Labor Relations Review, Vol. 62, No. 3, Pp. 394-414.

      DVC (Department for Victorian Communities), 2005, Victoria: Working Futures: Report of Victoria’s Workforce Participation Taskforce 2005, State of Victoria

      Zeytinoglu, I., Cooke, G., Mann, S. 2009, ‘Flexibility: Whose Choice Is It Anyway?’, Industrial Relations, Vol. 64, No. 4, pp. 555-574.

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