As well as the economic benefits of having a job, meaningful employment and a suitable work-life balance can contribute to a person’s wellbeing.
Context statement: Indicator reflecting a person’s resource base as having a job helps protect the household from poverty, and is a major contributor to personal wellbeing.
Since the late 1970s, when the current Labour Force series began, the employment rate has shown an upward trend, associated with rises in female labour force participation, while the male participation rate has been slowly declining. However, over this time, there were several economic downturns (the early 1980s and 1990s recessions, the 2008–09 global financial crisis (GFC) and the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in falls in the employment rate (ABS 2021).
Between 1978 and July 2021, the seasonally adjusted employment rate for people aged 15–64:
Since the current series of employment data collection began in the late 1970s, those aged 15–24 and 55–64 have consistently had lower employment rates than those aged 25–54. This is due to those in younger and older age groups transitioning into and out of work.
In May 2021, those aged 15–24 had the:
lowest employment rate – 62% compared with 66% for the 55–64 age group and 83% for the 25–54 age group.
For further information see Employment and unemployment.
For international comparisons, see International comparisons of welfare data.
Reference: ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2021. Labour force, Australia; Reference period: July 2021. Canberra: ABS.
Context statement: The unemployment rate is a useful measure of the underutilisation of the labour supply.
Since the late 1970s, the unemployment rate has fluctuated between 4–11% due to a number of economic downturns and recoveries (ABS 2021).
Between 1978 and July 2021, the seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for people aged 15 and over:
increased to 6% for most of 2009, following the global financial crisis, and has generally remained around 5–6% between January 2010 and March 2020.
The seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for people aged 15 and over increased from 5.3% in March 2020 to 7.4% in June 2020, the highest level in 22 years. It then gradually declined to 4.6% by July 2021, the lowest level since November 2008 (ABS 2021).
Context statement: Indicator of the underutilisation of the labour supply.
Since the late 1970s, the underemployment rate for the population aged 15 and over has trended upwards for males and females. It has been influenced by the economic downturns in the early 1990s and by the global financial crisis, fluctuating around 6–7% (seasonally adjusted) between 1991 and early 2009, increasing to 8% in 2009 then remaining around 8–9% throughout 2014 to March 2020.
Between March and April 2020, the underemployment rate rose steeply, from 8.8% to a peak of 13.6% in April 2020 (the highest on record since February 1978 and almost twice as high as the average rate observed over the previous 20-year period; 7.3%). The underemployment rate then gradually declined to 7.4% in May 2021 before rising to 8.3% in July 2021 (ABS 2021).
Context statement: Indicator of risk of economic hardship. Long-term unemployment also makes it harder for those affected to return to the workforce due to erosion of networks, skills and motivation.
Long-term unemployment can detrimentally affect a person’s financial resources and their job prospects (Cassidy et al. 2010).
For much for the 1990s, the long-term unemployed represented almost one-third of all unemployed people. This ratio decreased to less than 20% for the late 2000s and early 2010s. In April 2021, the long-term unemployed represented 33.5% of all unemployed people, a level not seen since the 1990s (ABS 2021).
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2021. Labour force, Australia, Detailed; Reference period: July 2021. Canberra: ABS.
Cassidy N, Chan I, Gao A & Penrose G 2020. Long-term unemployment in Australia. Canberra: Reserve Bank of Australia.
Context statement: Indicator of financial disadvantage and risk of disconnection from society for young people in the formative period of their lives.
The completion of full-time education and the transition to full-time employment are major milestones for young people. Youth unemployment trends can have implications for the ability of young people to successfully make the transition from study to work and can have negative long-term consequences on career prospects for young people (AIHW 2021).
From 1978 until 2021, the youth unemployment rate in Australia averaged around 13%, reaching a high point of 20.1% in October 1992 and a low of 7.6% in August 2008. Over the last 20 years the unemployment rate for those aged 15–24 has been more than twice that of the total unemployment rate (ABS, 2021).
In 2020, the 15–24 age group recorded the highest seasonally adjusted unemployment rate in over 2 decades – increasing from 11.6% in March 2020 to a peak of 16.4% in July 2020 (the highest rate since February 1997). It then generally declined and by July 2021 was 10.2% (ABS 2021).
For further information see Australia’s youth: Engagement in education or employment and Australia’s youth: COVID-19 and the impact on young people.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2021. Labour force, Australia; Reference period July 2021. Canberra: ABS.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2021. Australia’s youth: Engagement in education or employment Canberra: AIHW.
Context statement: Indicator of the effectiveness of the education and training sectors in preparing young people for work or further study, and also used as an indicator of youth engagement. The proportion of young people who are not in education, employment or training (NEET) is an indicator of how smooth the transition from education into work is for young people.
Young people who are NEET may be susceptible to long-term unemployment and disadvantage (AIHW 2021).
The proportion of people aged 15–24 who were NEET rose from 8.7% in May 2019 to 12.5% in May 2020 (ABS 2021). However, since May 2020, the proportion of young people who were NEET has fallen, with 8.7% of young people NEET in May 2021 (ABS 2021).
For further information see Australia’s youth: COVID-19 and the impact on young people and Australia’s youth: Engagement in education or employment.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2021. Labour Force, Australia, Detailed; Reference period: July 2021. Canberra: ABS.
AIHW (Australian Institute of Health and Welfare) 2021. Australia’s youth: Engagement in education or employment. References: Canberra: AIHW.
Context statement: Indicator of risk of economic disadvantage and reduced social opportunities for jobless families. Such disadvantage may impact on the wellbeing of family members.
The proportion of jobless families with children under 15 (as a percentage of all families with children under 15) increased from 10.0% in 2019 to 11.2% in 2020 (ABS 2020). In 2020, one-parent families with children under 15 were more likely to be jobless than couple families with children under 15 (36.1% compared with 5.3%) (ABS 2020).
For further information see Australia's children.
Reference: ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2020. Labour Force Status of Families; Reference period: June 2020. Canberra: ABS.
Context statement: Measure of [lack of] work–life balance. Working long hours has an obvious effect on employee’s free time and can cause physical and mental ailments due to stress or neglecting a healthy lifestyle.
The proportion of employed persons working more than 50 hours per week decreased from 18.0% in April 2001 to 12.2% in March 2020, around the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The percentage of employed persons working more than 50 hours per week then fell to 11.6% in September 2020, increasing to 12.4% by April 2021 (ABS 2021).
Overall, more males work very long hours. The proportion of employed males working more than 50 hours per week decreased from 26.2% in April 2001 to 16.6% in September 2020, with only a 2 percentage decrease for females over the same period (ABS 2021).
For international comparisons see International comparisons of welfare data.
Context statement: Subjective aggregate measure of how workers perceive their job. Given most people spend a major part of their life at work, job satisfaction is an important element of wellbeing.
From 2001 to 2019, the average overall job satisfaction score on a 0 to 10 scale has remained stable at 7.6 to 7.7 (HILDA 2021).
Reference: The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey: Selected findings from Waves 1 to 19, 2021.
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