4363.0 - National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2017-18  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 30/04/2019   
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Labour force characteristics


This section looks at a variety of items related to labour force status.

    • Persons were classified as either employed, unemployed or not in the labour force based on criteria relating to whether the person had a job in the week prior to interview, whether those who did not have a job were actively seeking work, and whether those actively seeking work were available to start work.
    • Employed persons were those aged 15 years and over who reported that in the preceding week they had worked in a job, business or farm, or who had a job but were absent during that week. Excludes people who usually work less than 1 hour, or who have unpaid volunteer work arrangements, or were away from work due to workers compensation and were not, or did not know if, they were returning to work for their employer.
    • Unemployed persons were those aged 15 years and over who were not employed in the reference week (or who fall into an exclusion category for employed) and actively looked for work some time during the previous four weeks and were available to start, or waiting to start within the following four weeks.
    • Persons not in the labour force were those aged 15 and over who were not employed or unemployed, as defined.

For the majority of employment related items, data relate to the respondent's main job. For respondents who had more than one job at the time of the interview, main job was defined as the paid job in which they usually worked the most hours.


Information was obtained for persons aged 15 years and over in the 2017-18 NHS.


Information was collected using the short-form version of the questions used in the ABS Monthly Labour Force Survey.

Labour force status

Using the detailed definitions identified above, the labour force status item is categorised as:
    • Employed, working full-time (if usually work 35 hours or more a week (in all jobs))
    • Employed, working part-time (if usually worked one hour to less than 35 hours a week (in all jobs))
    • Unemployed, looking for full-time work (actively seeking full-time work in last 4 weeks)
    • Unemployed, looking for part-time work (actively seeking part-time work only in last 4 weeks)
    • Unemployed, looking for full-time or part-time work (actively seeking full-time or part-time work only in last 4 weeks)
    • Not in the labour force.

In 2017-18 NHS respondents were asked about actively seeking full-time or part-time work in last 4 weeks.

Status in employment

This item refers to a respondent's position in relation to the main employment (job) in the enterprise in which they work. Output categories are:
    • Employee
    • Owner managers of incorporated enterprise with employees
    • Owner managers of incorporated enterprise without employees
    • Owner managers of unincorporated enterprise with employees
    • Owner managers of unincorporated enterprise without employees.

Working arrangements

This item refers to the working or payment arrangements of the respondent in their current main job. Data are reported against the following categories:
    • Contractor/Subcontractor
    • Own business / Partnership
    • Commission only
    • Commission with retainer
    • Family business without pay
    • Payment in kind
    • Paid by piece/item produced
    • Wage/salary earner
    • Other.

During the interview the list for the respondent included unpaid voluntary work and unpaid trainee work categories, as these are not considered employed they are not included in the output data item above.


For this survey, occupations have been classified according to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Classification of Occupations (ANZSCO), Version 1.2, 2013 (cat. no. 1220.0). An occupation is a collection of jobs that are sufficiently similar in their title and tasks, skill level and skill specialisation, which have been grouped together for the purposes of classification. An occupation code was assigned, based on the description of the type of work performed by the respondent in their main job. An output item has also been included for occupations classified to the ANZSCO 2009.

The major groups of occupations according to ANZSCO are:
    • Managers
    • Professionals
    • Technicians and Trades Workers
    • Community and Personal Service Workers
    • Clerical and Administrative workers
    • Sales Workers
    • Machinery Operators and Drivers
    • Labourers.

For most output purposes, occupation is classified to these eight major groups or to sub-major group level (see Appendix 3: ABS Standard Classifications of this Users' Guide).

Industry of employment

For this survey, industry of main job was office coded to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (Revision 2.0) (cat. no.1292.0) based on the description provided by the respondent of the business or activity carried out by their business/employer, and the name of the business/employer. Industry was classified to the 3 digit Group level of the ANZSIC, and details can be made available at this level on request, although for many groups observations in the survey are relatively few, and therefore the reliability of that data would be significantly reduced.

For most output purposes, industry is classified to the following divisions:
    • Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing
    • Mining
    • Manufacturing
    • Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services
    • Construction
    • Wholesale Trade
    • Retail Trade
    • Accommodation and Food Services
    • Transport, Postal and Warehousing
    • Information Media and Telecommunications
    • Financial and Insurance Services
    • Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services
    • Professional, Scientific and Technical Services
    • Administrative and Support Services
    • Public Administration and Safety
    • Education and Training
    • Health Care and Social Assistance
    • Arts and Recreation Services
    • Other Services.

For more details on ABS standard classifications used in the 2017-18 NHS, see Appendix 3: ABS Standard Classifications of this Users' Guide.

Industry sector

This item was coded for respondents who were wage and salary earners, or owners of a limited liability company in their main job, and refers to the sector (public or private) in which their business/employer operates.
    • The public sector includes all government entities including local, state and federal government departments, non-market non-profit institutions that are controlled and mainly financed by government, and corporations and quasi-corporations that are controlled by government.
    • The private sector includes all institutions that employ people who are not controlled by government.

Hours worked

Refers to reported hours usually worked (in all jobs) per week by persons currently employed. Hours in single units are recorded and are available for output. Standard groupings of hours are:
    • 1-15 hours
    • 16-24 hours
    • 25-34 hours
    • 35-39 hours
    • 40 hours
    • 41-48 hours
    • 49 hours or more.

For the 2017-18 NHS the continuous variable is a 2-digit item.

Reason absent from work

For employed respondents who identified that they were not at work in the week prior to interview, the reason they were absent was asked. Categories available are:
    • Holiday / Flextime / Study / Personal reasons
    • Own illness or injury / Sick leave
    • No work available / Not enough work
    • Standard work arrangements / Shift work
    • On strike / Locked out / Industrial dispute
    • Stood down
    • Bad weather / Plant breakdown
    • Other.

Duration of unemployment

Derived for persons classified as unemployed at the time of the survey.

To collect data for the items related to duration of unemployment respondents were asked to provide the date they began looking for work, and date they last worked for at least 2 weeks in a job of 35 hours or more a week. The format of the date was dependent on how long ago this date was and some date components were standardised as follows:
    • Less than 2 years, the exact date (day/month/year) was requested
    • 2 to less than 5 years, the month/year were requested and day was standardised to the 1st of the month
    • 5 years or more, the year was requested and day/month was standardised to the 1st June.

Duration of unemployment refers to the period from the time a person began looking for work or was stood down, to the date of interview. For persons who began looking for work while still employed, the item refers to the period from the time the person last worked full-time for two weeks or more until the date of interview. The item is a continuous variable, measured in completed weeks.

For standard output, periods are grouped as follows:
    • Less than 4 weeks
    • 4 to less than 8 weeks
    • 8 to less than 13 weeks
    • 13 to less than 26 weeks
    • 26 to less than 52 weeks
    • 52 weeks or more.

Long-term unemployment is defined as unemployment for a period of 52 weeks or more.

Information on 'Number of weeks since last worked full-time' is also available separately for persons classified as unemployed.

Data items

The questionnaire, data items and related output categories for this topic are available in pdf / Excel spreadsheet format from the Downloads page of this product.


Points to be considered in interpreting this topic include the following:
    • Information about employment was obtained about persons aged 15 years and over using a short-form version of the questions used in the ABS Monthly Labour Force Survey. Use of the reduced set of questions may have resulted in small differences in classification of labour force status and full-time/part-time employment, compared with the results that would have been derived had the full standard question module be used.
    • Due to the collection methodology for dates, data for time since last worked full-time and duration of unemployment should be used with care when using the continuous variables and reporting on timeframes greater than 2 years.

Comparability with 2014-15

Labour force characteristics data are considered directly comparable between the 2017-18 and 2014-15 NHS. A question relating to shift work was removed from the 2017-18 NHS, and the question about Australian Defence Force Service was moved to the Department of Veteran's Affairs client status module.

More information regarding comparisons between 2014-15 NHS and previous cycles is available in the National Health Survey: Users' Guide, 2014-15 (cat. no. 4363.0.).