Insecure Work in Australia Fact #2: Underemployment

For many Australians, having a job is no guarantee that they will receive enough hours of work to meet their income requirements. The Australian Bureau of Statistics measures underemployment among individuals who report wanting to work additional hours.[1] The underemployment ratio (underemployed workers as share of total employment) has jumped by 1.5 percentage points over the last five years. This reflects the compulsion facing workers in a weak labour market to accept less desirable jobs, in order to earn at least some money while awaiting better opportunities. Over 9 per cent of all employed workers in 2017 prefered to work more hours — the highest underemployment ratio ever.

Underemployment as Share Total Employment

Centre for Future Work calculations from ABS Catalogue 6291.0.55.003, Table 19.

The problem of underemployment is closely tied to the growth of part-time work. 27 per cent of part-time workers would prefer to work more hours — and one-third of male part-time workers want more hours. This confirms that the growth of part-time work has been driven largely by a lack of full-time opportunities, rather than by a preference by workers for part-time schedules.

Read Full Report on Dimensions of Insecure Work

[1] This measure does not consider the problem of workers whose jobs do not fully utilise their skills and capacities, which is another dimension of “underemployment.”

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