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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2001 Week 8 Hansard (8 August) . . Page.. 2534..


Unpaid work statistics

MR WOOD (10.56): Mr Speaker, I move:

That this Assembly:

(1) notes the importance of unpaid work in our community;

(2) expresses its disappointment at the decision by the Federal Government to downgrade the Australian Bureau of Statistics' measurement of this activity from 5 years to 12 years;

(3) recognises that the new regime would mean that the data is at least 15 years out of date and will severely impact on policy planning and other government activities such as community services, industrial relations and transport; and

(4) advises the Federal Government of the ACT's request for relevant data to be collected in each census.

I have arranged for Kerrie Tucker to move a small amendment to the last part noting that five-yearly surveys, which can be quite comprehensive, are very important.

Members, last night you filled out a census form, or I expect you did, and answered 50 questions, a large number of questions. They were all very important questions; there is no doubt about that. We have all watched the advertising which, sensibly, says how important it is to collect this data, yet there was no data sought on the very important question of unpaid work. A very large number of hours is devoted each day to unpaid work, an enormous number by the end of the year. Hence, we have this motion before us.

If that data is not collected, if there are no records of it, that work goes unrecognised, to the detriment of the people who are providing that work and, more than that, to the detriment of the nation as it seeks to plan properly for the years ahead. That unpaid work makes an enormous contribution to the Australian economy. If the extent of it is not recorded, the data is not gathered, it is simply not measured in the gross domestic product.

Such material has been collected in time use surveys in other years. I believe that this data was collected in the censuses of 1992 and 1997. Let me tell you how the ABS itself viewed the collection of this data. I quote from an ABS paper dated February 1994 when the ABS was preparing for a collection:

Patterns of time use have assumed increasing importance over the last decade as a means of measuring the productive value of households as economic units. The data collected in this survey will be used by the ABS to derive a monetary value for all forms of unpaid work as part of the development of a system of satellite national accounts for the household economy.

The paper goes on:

As well as being an effective means of measuring household work, patterns of time use may also provide insights into the wellbeing of various groups of people by illustrating the existing balance between time spent on paid work, household work,


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