4714.0 - National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, 2014-15  
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FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH ABORIGINAL AND TORRES STRAIT ISLANDER PEOPLE BEING OUT OF THE LABOUR FORCE


INTRODUCTION

Any reference to males, females or persons in this article refers to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people aged 15 to 64 years unless otherwise specified.

There is considerable interest in the social and economic circumstances of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who are not in the labour force. A person is considered to be out of the labour force if they are:

  • not employed
  • not actively looking for work and not available to start work.

People of working age (15 to 64 years) may be out of the labour force at any particular time for a wide variety of reasons — for example, a person may have left the labour force to undertake childrearing, or may want to work but has given up looking for work. This article:
  • looks at the socio-demographic characteristics of people who were out of the labour force at the time of interview in the 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey, including the reasons they were not looking for work
  • identifies which characteristics are most strongly associated with a person being out of the labour force at that time.


ACKNOWLEDGMENT

This article was a collaboration between Dr Yonatan Dinku and Associate Professor Janet Hunt, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research (CAEPR), and the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

CAEPR’s expertise significantly enhanced the policy value of the analysis by identifying the factors most strongly associated with being out of the labour force and providing contextual information to support the analysis.


KEY STATISTICS
  • Nearly four in 10 (39%) people were out of the labour force in 2014–15.
  • More than half (53%) of the people out of the labour force reported they did not need to work, did not want a job or were permanently unable or not intending to work.
  • A person’s age or where they lived (non-remote or remote) did not affect the likelihood of them being out of the labour force, when controlling for all other variables.
  • The analysis suggested the most significant factors associated with being out of the labour force were living with disability, previous experience of incarceration, being female, and having Year 9 or below as the highest level of education.
  • The presence of dependent children in the family increased the likelihood that a female would be out of the labour force.
  • Speaking an Indigenous language as the main language at home increased the likelihood that a person would be out of the labour force in remote areas only.
  • Being single and difficulties with transportation were significant factors associated with being out of the labour force for males and for people living in non-remote areas only.


CHARACTERISTICS OF PEOPLE WHO WERE OUT OF THE LABOUR FORCE

Before looking at which factors were most strongly associated with being out of the labour force, it is useful to look at the broad characteristics of people who were out of the labour force in 2014–15. Information about additional characteristics not discussed here can be found in Tables 32 to 37.

More females than males were out of the labour force

Almost four in 10 (39%) people were out of the labour force. Of these, about six in 10 (61%) were females.
  • The proportion of males out of the labour force ranged from less than three in 10 for those aged 18–24 years (22%), 25–34 years (21%) and 35–44 years (25%) to about six in 10 for those aged 15–17 years (62%).
  • The proportion of females out of the labour force was more consistent across age groups, sitting at around four in 10 for all age groups except those aged 25–34 years (51%) and 55–64 years (58%).


Figure 13.1 Persons out of the labour force(a), by age group and sex — 2014–15

Graph shows distribution of males and females not in the labour force as a proportion of total males or total females in each age group.
(a) As a proportion of total males or total females in each age group. (b) Difference between males and females is not statistically significant.

Source: 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey


Proportion of people out of the labour force highest in remote areas

The proportion of people out of the labour force was:
  • lowest in Major Cities (33%) and Inner Regional (36%) [1]
  • highest in Remote (45%) and Very Remote (51%) [1].


Figure 13.2 Persons out of the labour force(a), by detailed remoteness area — 2014–15

Graph shows distribution of persons not in the labour force as a proportion of total population in each remoteness area.
(a) As a proportion of total population in each remoteness area. (b) The differences between Major Cities and Inner Regional, Inner Regional and Outer Regional, Outer Regional and Remote, and Remote and Very Remote are not statistically significant.

Source: 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey


Majority had Year 11 or below as their highest level of education

Of people out of the labour force:
  • seven in 10 (70%) had Year 11 or below as their highest level of education
  • one in 10 (10%) had Year 12
  • less than two in 10 (16%) had an Advanced Diploma, Diploma or Certificate III or IV
  • 2% had a Bachelor degree or higher.

Two in 10 people not in the labour force were currently studying

Just over two in 10 (22%) people out of the labour force were currently studying. Of these:
  • about six in 10 (59%) were females and four in 10 (40%) were males
  • over half (55%) were people aged 15–17 years.

More than half did not need or want a job

More than half (53%) of the people out of the labour force reported they did not need to work, did not want a job or were permanently unable or not intending to work.
  • The proportion was the same for those living in non-remote and remote areas (both 53%).
  • Females were more likely than males to report these reasons for not looking for work (56% compared with 48%).

More than half lived in a household with dependent children

Over half (53%) of people out of the labour force lived in a household with dependent children.
  • Females (61%) were more likely than males (42%).
  • There was no difference between people living in non-remote (53%) and remote areas (56%) [1].

More than half living with disability

More than half (54%) of the people out of the labour force reported disability. This was similar for both males and females.

Nearly three in 10 (26%) people out of the labour force had provided care to a person with disability, a person with a long-term health condition or an elderly person in the four weeks prior to interview.
  • Females (29%) were more likely to provide care than males (22%).
  • People living in remote areas (31%) were more likely to provide care than those in non-remote areas (24%).

About one in 10 had been incarcerated

About one in 10 (13%) people out of the labour force had been incarcerated in their lifetime.
  • Males (23%) were more than three times as likely as females (7%).
  • People living in non-remote areas (12%) were just as likely as those living in remote areas (17%) [1].


FACTORS ASSOCIATED WITH BEING OUT OF THE LABOUR FORCE

After looking at a broad range of characteristics for people who were out of the labour force in 2014–15, logistic regression modelling was used to identify which of those characteristics were most strongly associated with a person being out of the labour force at that time. Further information about the variables used and the full results, including significance levels, can be found in Appendix 5.

Significant factors for all people aged 15–64 years

A person’s age, where they lived (non-remote or remote) and whether they were currently studying did not affect the likelihood of them being out of the labour force, when controlling for all other variables. (All other results should also be interpreted as having this restriction which, for brevity, is not mentioned each time.)

According to the modelling, people were significantly more likely to be out of the labour force if they:
  • were living with disability (17 percentage points)
  • had previous experience of incarceration (16 percentage points)
  • were female (15 percentage points more likely than males)
  • had either Year 9 or below or Year 10 or 11 as their highest level of education (14 and 8 percentage points more likely than those with Year 12 respectively)
  • were a member of a household that could not raise $2,000 in a week in an emergency, or did not know whether their household could do so (12 and 11 percentage points respectively)
  • were single (11 percentage points)
  • experienced difficulty with transportation (7 percentage points) [2]
  • reported they had not experienced unfair treatment because they were Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander (5 percentage points).


Figure 13.3 Persons out of the labour force, most significant factors associated with being out of the labour force — 2014–15

Graph shows the most significant factors for being out of the labour force for all persons were living with disability, previous experience of incarceration, female, Year 9 or below, and household financial constraints.
(a) Highest level of educational attainment. (b) Member of household that could not raise $2,000 in a week in an emergency. (c) Difference from reference category — further information can be found in Appendix 5.

Source: Findings based on use of 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey microdata


A person’s previous experience of incarceration may possibly increase the probability of them being out of the labour force due to:
  • losing useful work skills and experiences while in prison
  • employment discrimination against people with criminal records
  • parole conditions or other restrictions (such as home detention, not entering particular areas or being subject to curfew) which may make it more difficult to find suitable work.

There are a couple of possible reasons why members of households facing financial constraints were more likely to be out of the labour force.
  • Members may not be able to afford to acquire the necessary skills required for employment or the cost of work-related expenses such as suitable clothing.
  • Financial constraints may indicate the presence of more than one household member who is unemployed or out of the labour force. If so, working-age members in such households may have limited access to labour market information. The presence of additional members of the household who are unemployed or out of the labour force may also indirectly discourage labour force participation.

As noted, a person who had not experienced unfair treatment was more likely to be out of the labour force. This finding does not necessarily mean that experiences of unfair treatment will increase labour force participation. Instead, it suggests:
  • being out of the labour force may reduce a person’s exposure to situations where unfair treatment may occur such as in a workplace or when searching for a job
  • previous experience of unfair treatment was not a reason for a person to be out of the labour force.

Significant factors for males and females

As noted, females were significantly more likely than males to be out of the labour force. This section explores the factors that were most strongly associated with a male or a female being out of the labour force, when controlling for all other variables.

According to the modelling, living with disability, previous experience of incarceration, and being a member of a household that could not raise $2,000 in a week in an emergency were the most significant factors associated with being out of the labour force for both males and females.
  • Males living with disability were much more likely than females living with disability to be out of the labour force (21 percentage points for males and 13 percentage points for females). Disability may affect employment options for males more than females due to the impact of gender segregated employment and the physical skills required for employment in traditionally male-dominated industries such as construction, transport, etc.
  • Females who had previous experience of incarceration were almost three times more likely than their male counterparts to be out of the labour force (31 and 11 percentage points respectively).
  • Female members of households that could not raise $2,000 in an emergency were more likely than their male counterparts to be out of the labour force (14 and 9 percentage points respectively).


Figure 13.4 Persons out of the labour force, most significant factors associated with being out of the labour force by sex — 2014–15

Graph shows the most significant factors for being out of the labour force for both males and females were living with disability, previous experience of incarceration and household financial constraints
(a) Member of household that could not raise $2,000 in a week in an emergency. (b) Difference from reference category — further information can be found in Appendix 5.

Source: Findings based on use of 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey microdata


Some characteristics were strongly associated with being out of the labour force only for males or only for females. For males only, the likelihood of being out of the labour force also increased if they:

  • were single (17 percentage points)
  • had difficulty with transportation (7 percentage points).

For females only, the probability of being out of the labour force also increased if:
  • their highest level of education was either Year 9 or below or Year 10 or 11 (18 and 10 percentage points more likely than those with Year 12 respectively)
  • there were dependent children in the family (11 percentage points)
  • they were not currently studying (8 percentage points).

The higher probability of females being out of the labour force if there were dependent children in the family reflects gender roles which remain quite clearly defined.

Significant factors for people living in non-remote and remote areas

As noted, people living in non-remote areas were just as likely as those living in remote areas to be out of the labour force. This section explores the factors that were most strongly associated with a person living in a non-remote or a remote area being out of the labour force, when controlling for all other variables.

According to the modelling, the following characteristics were the most significant factors associated with being out of the labour force in both non-remote and remote areas:
  • being female (15 and 16 percentage points respectively)
  • living with disability (16 and 15 percentage points respectively)
  • having Year 9 or below as the highest level of education (9 and 21 percentage points more likely than those with Year 12 respectively)
  • having previous experience of incarceration (15 and 13 percentage points respectively)
  • being a member of a household that could not raise $2,000 in a week in an emergency (12 and 13 percentage points respectively).


Figure 13.5 Persons out of the labour force, most significant factors associated with being out of the labour force by remoteness — 2014–15

Graph shows the most significant factors for being out of the labour force for both non-remote and remote areas were female, living with disability, Year 9 or below, previous experience of incarceration and household financial constraints
(a) Highest level of educational attainment. (b) Member of household that could not raise $2,000 in a week in an emergency. (c) Difference from reference category — further information can be found in Appendix 5.

Source: Findings based on use of 2014–15 National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Survey microdata


For people living in non-remote areas, additional factors associated with being out of the labour force were:
  • being single (13 percentage points)
  • difficulties with transportation (8 percentage points).

For people living in remote areas, the probability of being out of the labour force also increased if:
  • they had Year 10 or 11 as their highest level of education (11 percentage points more likely than those with Year 12)
  • the main language they spoke at home was an Indigenous language (9 percentage points more likely than people who mainly spoke English at home)
  • they did not provide care for a person with disability, long-term health condition or old age in the four weeks prior to interview (8 percentage points)
  • they had not participated in selected cultural activities in the 12 months prior to interview (8 percentage points) [3].

People who mainly spoke an Indigenous language at home may be more likely to be out of the labour force due to limited English skills. The medium of instruction in most jobs is English, so those who speak Indigenous languages as their main language may find it more challenging to find a job.

Caring for a person with disability, long-term health condition or old age can interfere with labour force participation because of increased domestic duties. It can also motivate labour force participation by imposing financial burdens. These results suggest the financial burden of caring dominates overall, as those with care giving responsibilities were more likely to be in the labour force.

The results also suggest participation in selected cultural activities may widen opportunities for labour force participation through the production of cultural goods and services, as well as via participation in activities such as hunting, fishing and gathering.


Footnotes
1. The difference is not statistically significant.
2. People who reported they could not get to, or sometimes or often had difficulty getting to, places they needed to go.
3. Includes fished, hunted, gathered wild plants/berries, made Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander arts or crafts, performed any Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander music, dance or theatre, and written or told any Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander stories.