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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (9 April) . . Page.. 851 ..

Employment levels

Discussion of matter of public importance

MR DEPUTY SPEAKER: Mr Speaker has received a letter from Ms Gallagher proposing that a matter of public importance be submitted to the Assembly for discussion, namely:

The need for labour force statistics to more accurately reflect levels of employment in the ACT.

MS GALLAGHER: (4.44) I raise this issue because employment, unemployment and the social and economic issues surrounding those states are so important to the ACT community. For many years now, levels of employment have been used as an economic indicator to determine the successes of a government, and on the whole this is a legitimate comparison. Healthy economies have high levels of employment that allow the population to participate both in the economy and in the community.

Unemployment is a social problem as much as an economic one and can lead to low self-esteem and alienation, notwithstanding the associated financial hardships. Governments should do all they can to lower levels of unemployment, and governments that succeed in genuinely increasing employment levels should be applauded.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I refer today to the fact that the employment statistics gathered by the Australian Bureau of Statistics and published in the labour force survey, and used by governments around Australia to measure economic health and success, are no longer an adequate measure of labour force participation. When the ABS first started collecting labour force statistics in 1960, full-time work was the norm, women's involvement in the workforce was approximately 35 per cent lower than it is now and concepts of casualisation had not yet surfaced. At that time, 90 per cent of those classified as "employed" were working full time.

In the 1960 labour market the categories of "employed", "unemployed" and "not in the workforce" were able to provide an accurate view of labour force participation. In 2002, these categories and their definitions have become outdated and are now an inadequate measure of labour market efficiency.

We have seen in the last decade a significant change in the demographics of the labour market. We have seen increased globalisation of production lead to labour market deregulation and a rise in part-time and casual work arrangements. As the labour market has evolved to cope with economic and technological developments, full-time work has declined, with only 74 per cent of employed people working full time compared to 90 per cent in 1960.

While the labour market has changed over the past 40 years, the Australian Bureau of Statistics' labour force survey and the way that governments use the statistics provided by that survey has not evolved with the labour market and can no longer provide an accurate picture of employment and unemployment, especially when a major contributor to unemployment is underemployment.

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