Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (9 April) . . Page.. 855 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
circumstances. My own wife is one of those people, and there are many people in the community who are in similar circumstances.
But there are undoubtedly also, as Ms Gallagher suggests, people who seek greater hours of employment but cannot obtain them-people who are seriously disadvantaged because they do not have access to a number of concessions and benefits available to unemployed people that would relieve their position. "The working poor" is one expression that I think is at least partly picked up in the sentiments that Ms Gallagher has expressed today.
The question of reliability of the methods used by the ABS to record unemployment is a real issue. This territory has been beset in past years at least by quite alarmingly fluctuating figures for youth unemployment, based on survey systems used by the ABS. The results have possibly been distorted by sample sizes and the way in which questions are constructed and so on, leading I think to a fairly high degree of scepticism about the reliability of those figures. Certainly, at least in the past, their wild fluctuations would suggest that they were not particularly useful.
So there is a case, at least prima facie, for reconsidering the way in which labour force statistics are collected and documented, and that much I think has been made clear in the debate today. But in the absence of other arguments that can be presented away from the table, Mr Deputy Speaker, I think there is a need for a more informal debate about this and perhaps that could be conducted within another framework, such as a motion before the house.
MS DUNDAS (4.59): The concepts of working life and employment have changed dramatically over the past 40 years and the labour force statistics have not kept up with the changes. It is true that those statistics need to accurately reflect the levels of employment in the ACT. In fact, the only thing that has remained constant in the Australia labour market over the last 40 years are the statistics used to describe it.
The current system of labour force stats is based around an outdated and rigid structure whose main function is to classify people into one of three categories-employed, unemployed, and not in the labour force. Governments at state and federal levels need social policies that are based on a clear picture of the employment statistics of the community, a clear picture of the overworked, the underemployed, the unemployed, the youth employment levels and the forced retirement of our mature workers.
A major labour market problem in recent years has been the extent of overwork. While hundreds of thousands of people are looking for more work, more people than ever are working longer than 60 hours a week. There is a serious mismatch between the hours people want to work and the hours that they are actually working.
In February of last year, the Australian Institute's Richard Denniss put forward a model for employment stats that would more accurately reflect the labour force. The then federal shadow minister for employment illustrated the current problem by making the point-I believe it has also been made today-that if a million workers were involuntary switched from full-time to part-time work there would be no impact on the measured unemployment rate.