Latest release

Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation, Australia

Factors that influence how people participate in the labour market and the hours they work

Reference period
2018-19

Key statistics

The 2018-19 Multipurpose Household Survey (MPHS) revealed that of the 19 million people aged 18+ years there were 10.5 million people who did not work full-time.

  • 17% not participating in the labour force would like a job
  • 1 in 3 people working less than 16 hours would like to work more hours
     

Preference for more hours or work

  Employed Not employedTOTAL
 Usually works 16-34 hours per weekUsually works fewer than 16 hours per weekUnemployedNot in the labour force
People aged over 18 years
2,741,500
1,160,500
600,300
6,066,400
10,568,700
Would like to work more hours / Would like a job
639,400 (23%)
396,800 (34%)
600,300 (100%)
1,044,100 (17%)
2,680,600
Did not want more hours / Did not want a job
2,102,000 (77%)
763,800 (66%)
-
5,022,300 (83%)
7,888,100
 

Wanted a job or preferred to work more hours

There were 2.7 million people who did not work full-time and wanted a job or preferred to work more hours. Determining whether these people wanted a job or were available to work more hours is important because those who are available have a greater potential to participate or increase their participation in the labour force than those who are not available.

Of the 2.7 million people who wanted a job or preferred to work more hours, most were available to start within 4 weeks (2.3 million).

267,800 people were not available to start a job or work with more hours within four weeks.

  • the main reason women were unavailable to start work was "Caring for children" (48%)
  • the main reason men were unavailable to start work was "Long term sickness or disability" (32%).
     
Download

Note: Availability refers to the reference week or within four weeks.
 

Difficulty finding a job or work with more hours

Of the 2.3 million people who wanted a job or more hours and were available to start, only about half were actively looking for work (1.2 million).

The main difficulties reported for finding work or more hours included:

  • Too many applicants for available jobs (16%)
  • No jobs with suitable conditions/arrangements (13%)
  • No jobs or vacancies in locality/line of work/at all (12%).
     
Download

Were available and looking for a job or more hours

There were 1.2 million people who wanted a job or work with more hours, were available and were looking, of whom:

  • 600,300 (52%) people were classified as unemployed
  • 67,600 (6%) were not in the labour force (these people were not classified as unemployed because they were not available to start work in the reference week, but were available to start within 4 weeks).
  • 495,400 (42%) were employed and usually worked less than 35 hours.
     

Incentive to join/increase participation in the labour force

Incentives to join/increase participation in the labour force were asked of people aged 18-75 years who were either:

  • Not in the labour force, excluding those permanently unable to work and those permanently retired
  • Unemployed
  • People who usually worked part-time (less than 35 hours).
     

Incentives that were rated as 'very important' included:

  • Work related incentives
  • Skill related incentives
  • Childcare related incentives
     

The most important incentive for women was "Access to childcare place" (52% of women rates this as "very important") while for men it was "Financial assistance with childcare costs" (37% of men).

Download

Note: Only includes incentives that were considered ‘Very important’.
 

The most important incentives for people;

  • Not in the labour force was "Financial assistance with childcare costs" (49% rated this "very important")
  • Unemployed was "Getting a job that matches skills and experience" (66%)
  • Employed was "Ability to work part-time hours" (52%)
     

Were available and not looking for a job or more hours

There were 1.1 million people who wanted a job or work with more hours, were available but were not looking. 62% of these people were women and they commonly reported that "Caring for Children" was the main reason for not looking for a job or work with more hours (85% compared to 15% for men)

Did not want a job or more hours

    Approximately 7.8 million people who were not in the labour force or who worked fewer than 35 hours reported that they did not want a job or more hours.

    The main reason people not in the labour force did not want a job included:

    • Permanently retired from full-time work/will not work full-time again (37%)
    • No need/satisfied with current arrangements/retired from full-time work (for now) (22%)
    • Long-term sickness or disability (17%)
       
    Download

    For people who usually worked part-time, the main reason for not wanting more hours included:

    • No need/satisfied with current arrangements/retired from full-time work (for now) (40%)
    • Caring for children (20%)
    • Studying/returning to studies. (20%)
       
    Download

    Conceptual framework

    Overview

    To understand potential barriers to increased labour force participation there are three groups of persons who are of particular interest:

    • unemployed (600,300 persons);
    • persons not in the labour force (6.1 million); and
    • employed persons who usually worked less than 35 hours (3.9 million).
       

    Persons not in the labour force includes persons who wanted a paid job and those who did not want a paid job.

    The 2018–19 Multipurpose Household Survey (MPHS) revealed that of persons working between 16 and 34 hours, 639,400 persons preferred to work more hours and 613,300 persons were available to start work or more hours. For persons working less than 16 hours, 396,800 preferred to work more hours and 368,000 were available to start work or more hours. The Survey also revealed that of persons not in the labour force, 1.0 million wanted a paid job and 678,400 persons were available to start work.

    The following conceptual framework identifies these groups of people.
     

    The conceptual framework showing estimates of the population within the Labour force and not within the Labour force
    The conceptual framework shows that among the 19,009,100 civilian population aged 18 years and over (a)(b), 12,942,600 were in the Labour force and 6,066,400 were persons not in the Labour force.

    Of persons in the labour force, 12,342,300 are employed and 600,300 are unemployed

    Of persons employed, 8,440,300 were persons who usually worked 35 hours or more per week, 2,741,500 were persons who usually worked 16-34 hours per week, and 1,160,500 were persons who usually worked 0-15 hours per week.

    Of persons who usually worked 16-34 hours per week, 639,400 preferred to work more hours and 2,102,000 did not prefer to work more hours (c).

    Of persons who usually worked 16-34 hours per week and preferred to work more hours, 613,300 were available to start work with more hours (e) and 26,200 were not available to start work with more hours (e)(f).

    Of persons who usually worked 16-34 hours per week and were available to start work with more hours(e), 289,000 looked for more hours and 324,200 did not look for more hours.

    Of persons who usually worked 0-15 hours per week, 396,800 preferred to work more hours and 763,800 Did not prefer to work more hours (c).

    Of persons who usually worked 0-15 hours per week and preferred to work more hours, 368,000 were available to start work with more hours (e) and 21,100 were not available to start work with more hours (e)(f).

    Of persons who usually worked 0-15 hours per week and were available to start work with more hours (e), 206,300 looked for more hours and 161,700 did not look for more hours.

    Of persons not in the labour force, 1,044,100 wanted a paid job (d) and 5,022,300 did not want a paid job (c).

    Of persons who wanted a paid job (d), 678,400 were available to start work (e) and 220,500 were not available to start work (c)(e).

    Of persons who were available to start work (e) 67,600 were actively looked for work (g) and 610,800 did not actively look for work.
    1. Estimates shown in the conceptual framework relate to the 2018-19 financial year.
    2. For exclusions see paragraph 7 on the Methodology page.
    3. Includes persons who reported "Did not know".
    4. Includes persons who reported "Maybe/It depends".
    5. Availability referred to reference week or within four weeks.
    6. These persons reported they did not look for more hours.
    7. These persons were not available to start work in the reference week so they are defined as not in the labour force rather than unemployed.
       

    Changes this issue

    Weighting and rebenchmarking

    From this issue, the Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation (B&I) was weighted to benchmarks that were based on a 12 month average of population estimates across the financial year reference period (July 2018 to June 2019). These benchmarks included populations categorised by geography of usual residence, sex and age, as well as employed, unemployed and not in the labour force populations. They were sourced from the results of the Labour Force Survey (LFS) as reported in the December 2019 issue of Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0).

    Previously, population benchmarks were based on a single point in time instead of a 12 month average (December for the 2016-17 issue, and March for previous issues). Using a 12 month average removes the seasonality from the employed, unemployed and not in the labour force benchmarks and is more representative of the period of collection across the financial year.

    Estimates from the LFS have been used as benchmarks for B&I since the 2014-15 issue, to improve coherence between the two publications. Previously, they were used in tandem with independent benchmarks from Estimated Resident Population (ERP). LFS estimates are also benchmarked to ERP, and since 2015 have been revised and rebenchmarked on a quarterly basis to the latest population estimates. From this issue, B&I benchmarks are based solely on LFS estimates, since they already include the latest information from ERP.

    TableBuilder

    Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation 2018-19 microdata will be available today (28th August 2020) via TableBuilder (cat. no. 6238.0.55.001).

    For more information see About TableBuilder.

    Perturbation

    Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation data in published outputs will no longer have perturbation applied, an approach consistent with other ABS Labour statistics publications.

    Table name changes

    In order to make the data easier to use, table names have been changed to shorter and more concise names that better describe the contents of each table. The content and the layout of each table has not changed.

    Data downloads

    Data item list

    Table 1. Labour force status by sex

    Table 2. Whether wanted a job or more hours

    Table 3. Occupation and industry of current or last job

    Table 4. Unavailable workers and job seekers

    Table 5. Main reason not looking for a job or more hours by sex

    Table 6. Main reason not looking for a job or more hours by age

    Table 7. Main difficulty in finding a job or more hours

    Table 8. Not in the labour force by preferred number of hours

    Table 9. Part-time workers by preferred number of hours

    Table 10. Main reason for not wanting a job or more hours

    Table 11. Main reason for not wanting a job by age

    Table 12. Main reason for part-time workers not wanting more hours by age

    Table 13. Incentives to participate by sex

    Table 14. Incentives to participate by labour force status

    Table 15. Whether would return to work and main reason

    Table 16. Population by state or territory of usual residence

    Questionnaire

    All data cubes

    Previous catalogue number

    This release previously used catalogue number 6239.0.