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BUSINESS OWNER MANAGERS ACROSS AUSTRALIA
Owner managers of businesses can be the 'lifeblood' of rural, regional or suburban economies, providing local employment opportunities, a cultural hub, even a launching pad for wider socio-economic activity. Yet beyond such impressions, little is known about Australia's business owner managers. What demographic and socioeconomic characteristics do they share? In which regions are they more likely to live? What proportions are large employers, or employ few or no other people? Are they a culturally homogenous group? Are they prodigious in terms of hours worked? Is their work and life balance affected as a result? What else distinguishes them as a group, from other employed people?
This article discusses statistics from the Census of Population and Housing. Using the new Status in Employment classification, available for 2016 Census data, it provides insights into Australia's business owner manager population - its composition, changing nature and diversity - for the decade up to 2016. It complements the Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0) and the Australian Labour Account (cat. no. 6150.0) - Australia's official statistical collection and framework designed to measure movements over time in industry and occupation of employment for Australia's workers. Also, see The 2016 Census and the Labour Force Survey (cat. no. 2900.0) for information on how best to use these different sources for data analysis and decision making.
COUNTS OF BUSINESS OWNER MANAGERS
At the 2016 Census, 14% (or 1,531,161) of all employed persons in Australia identified as owner managers of businesses. This was slightly less than the 15% recorded in 2011, or 16% in 2006. In contrast, the share of employees (relative to total employed) has grown from 81% in 2006 to 83% in 2016.
Footnote(s): (a) Includes contributing family workers and status in employment 'not stated'.
Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2006-2016
While owner manager share of total employed persons has declined slightly, their overall number increased by 2.6%, between 2006 and 2016.
WHERE BUSINESS OWNER MANAGERS LIVE
Almost 33% (or 502,397) of all business owner managers in Australia were residents of New South Wales, followed by 26% in Victoria and nearly 20% in Queensland. The less populous jurisdictions - Tasmania, Australian Capital Territory and Northern Territory - contributed 1.9%, 1.2% and 0.6% respectively.
The following map shows the distribution of counts of Australia's business owner managers by their Statistical Area Level 4 (SA4) region of usual residence:
BUSINESS OWNER MANAGERS - SA4 OF USUAL RESIDENCE, AUSTRALIA, 2016
As the map and inserts indicate, the following SA4 regions had the most business owner managers in their state/territory:
At the smaller Statistical Area Level 2 (SA2) geographic level, these regions comprised Australia's top ten, in having the most owner manager residents. Double Bay-Bellevue Hill was the leader, having 3,409 resident business owner managers.
While the more populous SA2 regions within capital cities dominated in having more business owner managers, the following rural, regional and coastal SA2s (tabled below) formed a 'top ten' of their own. Over 20% of their total resident population aged 15 to 64 years were business owner managers. For example, almost 27% of residents in the wheat belt region of Kulin, 280 km south-east of Perth, were business owner managers. Similarly prominent was Naracoorte, a farming and tourism region in south-east South Australia, with 26% of its 'working age' residents being owner managers. The only urban SA2 qualified to join this 'top ten' was Avalon-Palm Beach, north of Sydney's CBD, where 23% of its 'working age' residents were business owner managers in 2016.
A small number of Australia's business owner managers (1,330) were classified as having "no usual address" or "migratory, offshore and shipping". Whether fishing business operators, travelling entertainers or oil riggers, their place of usual residence was changeable or indeterminate, in August 2016.
With the "usual address one year ago" indicator, the Census can snapshot migration patterns and unique settler populations - including those residing in a new region (who had lived elsewhere in Australia or perhaps overseas, one year before). These Statistical Level 4 (SA4) regions were prominent in attracting business owner managers as new residents, in the 12 months to August 2016.
Brisbane Inner City SA4 was most prominent in attracting owner managers as new residents. In August 2016, over 17% (or 3,482) of its owner manager residents (20,016 persons in total) had been living elsewhere in Australia, a year previously. Another 1.5% (or 297 people) had been living overseas.
Coastal regions such as the Gold Coast (Qld), Sunshine Coast (Qld), Mandurah (WA) and Moreton Bay-North (Qld) also recorded a recent influx of new business owner managers.
OWNER MANAGERS BY ENTERPRISE TYPE
Business owner managers do not necessarily employ people. In 2016, the majority of business owner managers in Australia (57%, or 871,419) employed nil persons. Almost 72% of this same (nil employing) group operated unincorporated enterprises. In contrast, relatively few owner managers (4.2%, or 64,395) employed 20 or more persons.
The following table shows employee size ranges for business owner managers, by Greater Capital City Statistical Area (GCCSA) of usual residence. Not unexpectedly, Australia's two most populous GCCSA regions - Greater Sydney and Greater Melbourne - had the highest proportion of owner managers with nil, 1-19, or 20 or more employees. For example, Greater Sydney had just over 21% of Australia's owner managers who employed 1-19 people, followed by 19% for Greater Melbourne.
The Rest of Queensland (outside Greater Brisbane) was also prominent in having almost 11% of Australia's owner managers with nil employees. It also had just over 11% of owner managers with 1-19 employees, and almost 10% of those employing 20 or more.
In August 2016, 20% of Australia's business owner managers worked in the Construction industry. Other prominent industries included Professional, Scientific and Technical services (with 13% of all business owner managers counted at the Census), Health Care and Social Assistance (8.1%), Other Services (7.8%), Retail Trade (7.0%) and Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (6.4%). In contrast, business owner managers were less prevalent in Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services (0.4% of all owner managers), Mining (0.4%) and Public Administration and Safety (0.7%).
AGE AND SEX
There has been a recent increase in female involvement as business owner managers. In 2006, 31% of all business owner managers in Australia were female and 69% male. A decade forward, and 33% were female and 67% male. Also, the number of female owner managers rose by 7.6% (up to 504,838) between 2006 and 2016, while the corresponding male increase was just 0.3% (up to 1,026,327). Notably, the number of female owner managers of incorporated enterprises increased by 8.2% over this period.
In 2016, the median age of all business owner managers (persons) was 48 years, ten years more than the median for employees (38 years). Also, the median ages for male owner managers (all enterprise types) was 48 years compared with 47 years for females. While both sexes recorded a median age of 48 years for incorporated enterprises, females operating unincorporated enterprises tended to be younger, with a median of 46 years (compared with 49 years for males).
Male and female owner managers in Australia's Capital City regions (combined, including the ACT) were considerably younger than those living in the "Rest of Australia" (all regional and rural locations combined). The medians were: Australian Capital Cities - Males 47 years, Females 46 years, compared with the Rest of Australia - Males 50 years, Females 49 years.
Younger and older owner managers
Two particular age groups are worth highlighting: young owner managers who are starting out (aged 18-24 years); and those with the most experience (aged 65 and over). In part, they encapsulate the regenerative energy and accumulated knowledge of entrepreneurship.
In 2006, only 2.5% of all owner managers were aged 18-24 years. By 2016, this share had declined slightly to 2.3% (or 35,834 persons). In contrast, 5.9% of all owner managers in 2006 were aged 65 and over. By 2016, this age group's share had grown considerably to 9.8% (or 150,407 persons). A similar trend was also observed for employees, in both age groups. Multiple factors, ranging from the greater tendency for some young people to prolong their education, to increased life expectancy, or more flexible working arrangements, may have had some effect.
COUNTRY/REGION OF BIRTH
In 2016, over two thirds (67%) of Australia's business owner managers were Australian born. Also prominent were North-West Europe (particularly England and Scotland) and North East Asia (notably, China and India), which contributed 7.8% and 4.5% of business owner managers, respectively. Australian born persons also comprised 66% of all owner managers of incorporated enterprises - and over 68% of owner managers for unincorporated enterprises.
ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLE AS BUSINESS OWNER MANAGERS
At the 2016 Census, there were 11,587 business owner managers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin, comprising 0.8% of all owner managers in Australia. The number of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business owner managers in 2016 has increased markedly - by almost 72% - over the 2006 count of 6,756 persons.
The majority of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business owner managers ran unincorporated enterprises - at 63% (or 7,342 persons) in 2016. Nevertheless, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander ownership within the incorporated business sector grew by almost 117%; from a small base of 1,961 persons in 2006, to 4,246 persons in 2016.
Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2006-2016
In 2016, business owner managers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin tended to be younger than their Non-Indigenous counterparts. This was also apparent when looking at median ages for owners of incorporated and unincorporated enterprises. The median age of the Non-Indigenous group however, remained the same - regardless of the enterprise type being examined.
In 2016, these SA4 regions had the highest number of residents who were owner managers of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander origin:
In 2016, almost 28% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander business managers worked in the Construction industry. There were almost 11% working in Other Services, followed by Administrative and Support Services (9.3%), Professional, Scientific and Technical Services (7.6%) and Health Care and Social Assistance (6.0%).
WORK, INCOME AND LIFE
Occupation at work
At the 2016 Census, employed persons were asked to write their occupation - and a brief description of its main tasks - for example "selling clothes in a department store". Interestingly, just 25% (374,501) of Australia's 1,531,161 business owner managers reported being 'Managers' in their main occupation. Some may have been involved in multi-task activities - or there may have been very specific, technical skills associated with their work. For example, 22% (or 329,001) business owner managers reported as Professionals while another 22% (or 328,031) were Technicians and Trade workers.
Australia's business owner managers were less likely to be Sales Workers (5.1%) or Machinery Operators and Drivers (4.8%).
In 2016, median weekly total personal income for business owner managers in Australia was $1,028, compared with $1,023 for all employees. There was a marked difference in median income between owner managers of incorporated and unincorporated enterprises - at $1,291 compared with $836. It should be noted that other sources of income (additional to wages and salaries) are included in the Census income data.
Business owner managers in the Northern Territory, Australian Capital Territory and Western Australia dominated in terms of having the highest median weekly incomes - at $1,251, $1,229 and $1,150 respectively. Owner managers in Tasmania and South Australia recorded the lowest medians of $904 and $950, respectively.
Interestingly, the median weekly incomes of employees exceeded those of business owner managers in three jurisdictions - the Australian Capital Territory ($1,352 employees, $1,229 owner managers), New South Wales ($1,043 employees, $1,035 owner managers) and Tasmania (employees $908, owner managers $904).
Footnote(s): (a) Median calculations exclude income 'not stated'. (b) Includes details for the Other Territories.
Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016
The Census records the numbers of hours worked by employed persons in all jobs in the week up to Census night. Thus hours worked by owner managers and employees in other (multiple) jobs are included in the following data.
In 2016, the median hours worked by business owner managers was 40 hours a week, compared with 38 hours for employees. These medians have remained unchanged over the 2006, 2011 and 2016 Censuses.
Median hours worked by business owner managers tended to increase with the number of employees. In 2016, those with nil employees recorded a median of 35 hours worked per week, compared with 40 hours for those with 1-19 employees and 48 hours for 20 or more employees.
Overwork or over-employment can affect work-family life balance, with personal repercussions of 'burn out'. In 2016, business owner managers were more likely to do 'extra' work in the higher hourly brackets than employees. For example, 14% of all owner managers worked 50-59 hours (in the Census reference week) compared with 7.5% of all employees.
Footnote(s): (a) Owner managers and employees working less than 40 hours are included in the calculations.
Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016
Over the decade to 2016 however, owner managers may have become less inclined to work extra long hours, weekly. For example, the proportion working 60-69 hours has declined from 11% in 2006 to 9% in 2016.
Footnote(s): (a) Owner business managers working less than 40 hours a week are included in the calculations.
Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2006, 2011, 2016
Other facts about the work and life of business owner managers, from the 2016 Census:
BEING QUALIFIED FOR BUSINESS
Highest non-school qualification for owner managers
In 2016, almost 31% of Australia's business owner managers held a Certificate Level (as their highest, completed, non-school qualification), followed by 19% with Bachelor Degrees, then 12% with an Advanced Diploma or Diploma Level and almost 7% with Postgraduate Degree Levels.
Conversely, 28% (or 426,237) of owner managers were classified as 'not applicable'. They were either without non-school qualifications, had not completed one, or held 'out of scope' qualifications. For employees, the corresponding proportion with qualifications 'not applicable' was considerably higher at 34%.
Qualifications by employment size
Business owner managers with 20 or more employees were more likely to have a Bachelor Degree or Higher (as their highest completed non-school qualification) than those with fewer or no employees. The relative proportions were 42%, compared with 29% (for owner managers with 1-19 employees) and 27% (for those with nil employees). In contrast, only 19% of owner managers with 20 or more employees held a Certificate Level (as their highest non-school qualification), compared with 30% of those with 1-19 employees and 32% of those with no employees.
Footnote(s): (a) Owner managers who did not state their qualifications have been excluded from the calculation of proportions. (b) Includes Graduate diploma, Graduate certificate and Postgraduate degree. (c) Includes persons without a non-school qualification or a completed qualification. Also those with an 'out of scope' qualification.
Source(s): ABS Census of Population and Housing, 2016
Looking regionally, the following SA4 regions had the highest proportions of business owner managers without non-school qualifications (or with 'out of scope' or uncompleted levels):
Conversely, these regions had the lowest proportions:
Field of study
In 2016, only 5.2 % of all owner managers in Australia had their highest (non-school) qualification in Business and Management. Even fewer nominated the fields of Accounting (3.4%), Sales and Marketing (1.8%), Banking, Finance and Related fields (1.4%) or Other Management and Commerce (0.2%). While these proportions seem low, some people may have more than one non-school qualification, spanning different levels and fields of study.
This article focuses solely on business owner managers, the people - not business enterprises, per se. Counts of owner managers will differ from counts of active businesses, for a variety of reasons. For example: people can own more than one business; some businesses can have multiple owners; and the details of overseas owner managers of active Australian businesses are 'out of scope' for the Census, and other statistical collections.
Variations in scope, definitions, the timing of collections, their methodology and statistical error, all contribute to differences between the Census and other semi-related data sources such as Counts of Australian Businesses, Entries and Exits (cat. no. 8165.0), Counts of Australian Business Operators, (cat. no. 8175.0), Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, (6291.0.55.003), Employee Earnings and Hours, (6306.0) and Estimates of Personal Income for Small Areas, (6524.0.55.002). The Census concept of personal income, for example, includes multiple sources (ranging from wages and salaries to rent, interest, investment and government payments) whereas the focus of the Survey of Employee, Earning and Hours is average cash earnings from work. Readers are encouraged to explore the Explanatory Notes of these outputs, for more information.
The 'not stated' category for a particular data item has been included in most proportions calculated in this article. The main exceptions are industry and occupation in employment and non-school qualifications by level and field of study, where 'not stated' responses were excluded from the calculations. They have also been excluded when deriving median income and median hours worked. Data for the 'not stated' categories are included in the Business Owner Managers data cube, available from the Downloads tab at the top of this page.
For definitions of the terms used above, see the Census of Population and Housing: Census Dictionary, 2016 (cat. no. 2901.0). Selected items are also included in the Glossary from the Explanatory Notes tab at the top of this page. For more information about 2016 Census data release and products, go to www.abs.gov.au/census.
Data contained in this article and further related data can be found in the Downloads tab at the top of this page.
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2071.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia - Stories from the Census, 2016
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 27/03/2018