Why are Aussies spending longer in their jobs?

Ross Greenwood speaks to Australian Bureau of Statistics Chief Economist Bruce Hockman as more than 10 million people have stayed in the same job within the last year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Ross Greenwood: More workers, despite what is suggested about young workers hopping from one job to another, more people than ever before are staying in the same job. More than 10 million according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. Now, they’ve come out with numbers today basically showing that a large number of people, in fact, almost half, did not take any steps to look for work or more hours during their time.

However, what there is, is a significant number of people who do not change jobs, want more hours, want more work, need more cash. Because we’ve told you about clearly the squeeze on wages, it’s taking place. Let’s pick up here, the Chief Economist from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Bruce Hockman, who’s on the line. Bruce, many thanks for your time.

Interview with: Bruce Hockman, Chief Economist, ABS

Bruce Hockman: You’re welcome Ross.

Ross Greenwood: Okay. Just explain the statistic and why you think this statistic is important right now.

Bruce Hockman: The number of people is actually probably a little bigger than what you were saying. 50% of the people who are actually over 15 years of age. It varies directly in the workforce. It’s more like about 70% of the people that are actually in the workforce, are in the same jobs as they were in a year ago. That’s about 10.3 million people, but alongside of that, you’ve got 1.1 million of those people that are actually wanting to work more hours as well. Most of those actually work part-time and want to continue to work part-time. Although we also know from other statistics, that there’re about a million jobs out there that are being filled by people who are in a second or third job.

Ross Greenwood: Because when we look at the employment statistics, one thing that is a feature of that is the record high participation rate. In other words, there are more Australians joining the workforce, seeking work. Now, some of the anecdotal evidence is, these might be older Australians who are concerned about their savings running out and so they come to the workforce and work for longer times. There is also more women entering the workforce, and in many cases, that’s about trying to take pressure off family budgets, especially when wages are very low. Does that also get picked up in some of this work you’ve done here?

Bruce Hockman: Yes, it’s certainly inclusions mostly. Although we can actually pick up a lot or take a lot of that just in the– chaining that from labor force statistics. We know that the participation rate of women has been rising. It’s really a secular rise over decades really, but the new feature has been, as you pointed out, the participation rate of people over 65 is certainly rising at the moment.

We don’t necessarily get into the reasons for that. Some of the data we have today, they were able to look at why people are staying in jobs or moving between jobs, but in general, we’re actually seeing those live springs and what we really heard, was ironically, is we have more people employed, more people that are underemployed, they want to work more hours and there are more people working in more than one job.

Ross Greenwood: That’s another trend, isn’t it? Because that also says something maybe about cost of living pressures, or maybe it’s even the flexibility of work these days that allows them to do it. You make a couple of observations. Of the around 6.7 million Australians who do not participate in the workforce. Now you indicate here, as a result of this survey, about 1.1 million of those 6.7 million people are becoming available for work. This is the participation rate again.

In other words, these people, if they was work around for them, they might consider taking it on. They might be retirees, they might be women looking after kids, whatever it might be, but that’s another aspect of our labor force right now.

Bruce Hockman: That’s certainly the case. We’ve got, the labor force itself is just the employed and the unemployed. We then have a group of people who are not available within the next four weeks to work, that’s 75,000 of those, and nearly 800,000 people who are either discouraged, who haven’t been actively looking for work, but would actually like work and they’re probably keeping an eye on what’s happening in the labor market. All of that says that labor supply is increasing and is probably, also a bit of an explanation about why wages are holding fairly steady as well. Because there’s plenty of labor to fill whatever vacancies come up.

Ross Greenwood: Now clearly, just to explain this to people, there’s obviously, there’s the kids, and so they make up a part of our population. There’s also about 12.8 million people who are in work, there’s about 677,000 people who are out of work and then on top, there’s the other 6.7 million people, who we just talked about there, who are not in the labor force right now. The one thing that I found a little disappointing, I guess about this, is of the 677,000 unemployed people, some 87% of them report having difficulty finding work. They are unemployed, but finding a job for those people is not easy. Notwithstanding, that when people have got a job, they tend to find that they hang on to that job for a very long period of time.

Bruce Hockman: That’s true and some of this data actually goes into some of the reasons for that. The three top reasons why people said they were having difficulty finding work was that there were just too many applicants for the vacancy they were going for, that they lacked the appropriate experience, or there weren’t actually jobs in the field in which they were looking. Those were the three main reasons given.

Ross Greenwood: Tell you what, it’s a really interesting study this one, abs.gov.au. You go and have a look at it because it just gives you some sense of our workforce right now, and about the way that people are going about looking for work. The Chief Economist at the Australian Bureau of Statistics is always great with his time. Bruce Hockman, I appreciate your time this evening.

Bruce Hockman: You’re welcome Ross.

Image source: 2GB

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