1370.0 - Measures of Australia's Progress, 2010  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 15/09/2010   
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Paid work is the way in which most people obtain the economic resources they need for day-to-day living. Having paid work contributes to a person's sense of identity and self-esteem, while people's involvement in paid work also contributes to economic growth and development.

The number of people in Australia in paid employment has grown steadily over the past three decades. In 1979, there were 6.1 million employed people in Australia. By 2009, largely due to population growth, this had increased to 10.8 million. Since 1979, the employment to population ratio, that is the proportion of the population who are working, has increased from 57% to 62%.

Once in paid employment, there are many aspects of work that affect people's wellbeing, such as the hours they work, their levels of remuneration, job satisfaction and security, the opportunity for self development, and their interaction with people outside of the home. An ideal indicator of whether life in Australia is getting better would reflect these and other aspects of work to measure the extent to which Australians' work preferences are satisfied.

While a single indicator covering all these aspects is not available, useful indicators of progress may be obtained by looking at the extent to which people's aspirations for work, or more work, are satisfied. The unemployment rate is a widely used measure of underutilised labour resources in the economy. Other measures include: the long-term unemployment rate; the underemployment rate; the labour force underutilisation rate; the extended labour force underutilisation rate; and the volume labour force underutilisation rate.

An understanding of how the Australian labour market has changed over the past few decades, and how this has impacted on changes observed in the progress indicators, is useful in understanding whether life in Australia is getting better. This information is presented in the section 'A picture of the Australian labour market'.

For a full list of definitions, see the Work glossary.


  • Work glossary
  • Work references

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