2071.0 - Census of Population and Housing: Reflecting Australia - Stories from the Census, 2016  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 23/10/2017   
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Six in ten Australians aged 15 years and over were employed (60%) in 2016, according to the 2016 Census of Population and Housing. This data summary provides an overview of employment in Australia on Census night.

For the most authoritative and recent estimates of employment, refer to Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0).


The 2016 Census found that 56% of women in Australia were employed, compared with 65% of men. Women’s employment has increased significantly since the 1966 Census, when just over one-third of women were employed (34%). Over the same period, the proportion of men who were employed has declined from 83%.

Infographic showing the proportion of males and females employed in age groups for 2016 and females for 1966.

There have been some dramatic changes to women’s employment across the life cycle. In 1966, employment was highest for younger women, with 60% of young women aged 15-19 years being employed, with a noticeable dip during the peak child bearing years (31% of women aged 30-34 years were employed).

Over time, women’s employment levels have increased across most age groups and the pattern has become more similar to that of men. In 2016, the proportion of women employed was lower in the teenage years (43%), with a rise in the mid-twenties, a small dip in the child-bearing years, before increasing to relatively higher employment up until the fifties when employment levels begin to decline as women begin to retire.


The average number of hours worked in 2016 was 39 hours per week for men and 30 hours for women, the same as the 2011 Census. Women worked fewer hours in paid employment than men across all age groups.

The average hours worked was lowest for teenagers, as they start their working life, and next lowest for people aged 75 years and over, as they transition towards retirement. The highest average hours was for men aged 35-54 years (42 hours per week).

Infographic showing the Average hours worked in week prior to Census for males and females by age groups.


Employed women did more hours of unpaid domestic work such as housework, grocery shopping, gardening and repairs than employed men.

Infographic showing the weekly hours of unpaid domestic work for employed males and females.

In 2016, over half of employed men did nil or less than five hours per week of unpaid domestic work (60%) compared with a third of employed women (36%). Men were also less likely than women to do 15 hours or more per week of unpaid domestic work (8% of men and 27% of women). This pattern applied across all hours of paid work, even for those working more than 49 hours per week.


Just over six in ten adults born in Australia were employed, according to the 2016 Census (62%), compared to 56% of people born overseas.

The employment levels in Australia varied widely by country of birth, reflecting immigration policies and waves of migration. Four out of five adults born in Nepal were employed at the time of the 2016 Census (79%), followed by Zimbabwe (76%) and Brazil (74%).

Infographic showing Nepal, Zimbabwe, Brazil, South Africa and Canada as countries of birth with the highest proportion of people employed.


Four-fifths of employed Australians worked in industries providing services (80%), such as health care, education and retail. This has grown slightly since 2011 (78%).

Infographic showing the top four industries of employment for males and females.

Computer system design was the top industry for men in 2016 (122,500 men or 2.3% of employed men), and Hospitals was the top industry for women (321,900 or 6.6% of employed women). Road freight transport was another top industry of employment for men, and men made up over four-fifths of people in this industry (85%). Aged care residential services was a top industry for women, and this industry was dominated by women (84%).


Over one-fifth of employed men (22%) worked as tradespeople or technicians in 2016. Electricians and Carpenters and joiners were two of the top four occupations for men in 2016. Sales assistant was the most common occupation for both men (170,200 or 3.1%) and women (355,900 or 7.1% of employed women). Women made up about two-thirds (68%) of people in this occupation.

One-quarter of employed women (26%) worked in professional occupations, with Registered nurses the second most common occupation.

Infographic showing the top four Occupations for males and females.


Driving a car to work was the most common method of travel to work at 62%. Throughout Australia, 3.5% of people walked to work and 1.0% rode a bicycle. These results are very similar to those in the 2011 Census. Hobart was the capital city with the most people who walked to work (5.5%) and Canberra had the most people who rode (2.6%).


Almost four in five employed Australians (79%) worked in the eastern mainland states and territories, consistent with the Census count that 79% of Australians lived in these areas. Almost all Australians lived in the same state or territory in which they worked (99% in each of the states in 2016). The main exceptions were the Australian Capital Territory, where 87% of people who worked there also lived there, and the Northern Territory (92%).


This data summary is based on usual residence Census counts and excludes overseas visitors in Australia for less than a year.

For information about the differences between the Census and the Labour Force Survey, see Understanding the Census and Census Data (cat. no. 2900.0).

People who did not state their labour force status in the Census have been excluded from the statistics in this data summary sheet.

The 'not stated' category for a particular data item has been excluded from most proportions calculated in this data summary. The main exceptions are Hours of unpaid domestic work and Method of travel to work, which included 'not stated' responses to these data items when proportions were calculated. Figures for the 'not stated' categories are available in the Employment data cube, which is in the Downloads tab at the top of the 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.

A print-friendly version is available from the Downloads tab at the top of the page.

Data contained in this data summary and further related data can be found in the Downloads tab at the top of the page.