Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 4 Hansard (9 April) . . Page.. 857 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
Unemployment, underemployment and overwork are important problems which are unlikely to be solved quickly or easily. However, without accurate data on the nature and extent of these problems, adequate policy responses are impossible.
MS TUCKER (5.04): We use statistics in an odd way. Obviously over the years we have talked about gross domestic product being a measure of the wellbeing of the community. We have had discussions in this place about how such statistics need to become much more sophisticated, because they focus on the exchange of services and money rather than qualitative information. The GDP of the country can look good as a result of activities which are destructive to the people and the environment. An attempt is now being made in this place to have an Office of Sustainability, where we will see indicators that more truly reflect the state of wellbeing of people in this city. That is, of course, something that the Greens are very supportive of and have called for consistently.
This debate today is similar in that it is saying, "If we want to have an understanding of what is happening in terms of employment we have to have an analysis which is something a little bit closer to the reality of the situation." That is certainly not the case at the moment, as Ms Gallagher and Ms Dundas have clearly articulated. It is quite shocking really when you realise and reflect on the fact that you are collecting statistics on employment that are based on such a really sloppy analysis. People are asked what hours they worked in a week, and if it was one hour they could be classified as being employed. This is seriously misleading in terms of understanding what is going on.
Other members have spoken at length about the question of underwork and overwork. There is a serious social issue for people who are doing either of those things. The underwork issue is well documented now in terms of an analysis of poverty in this country. The increase in the number of so-called working poor in this country is always a feature of any discussion on poverty. Any discussion on social wellbeing brings into focus the question of overwork. The pressure and trend to overwork impacts on people's individual lives and family lives.
I agree with other speakers that it is important that we have a much more detailed understanding, and that understanding will be improved through the more sophisticated collection of statistics. The solutions are not simple. For quite a number of years concerns about overwork and underwork, and the impact of deregulation of the labour market, have been raised in various fora.
Another issue that comes up is the need to have a gender analysis of policy, because that is one of the classic areas where deregulation of the labour market has certainly had a greater impact on women who are the ones more likely to be doing part-time or casual work. That has implications not only for their capacity to have a positive experience of work and life, but also it has a long-term impact on their capacity to support themselves in old age. Obviously, the question of casual and part-time work is related to capacity to accumulate money for old age through superannuation or whatever. Of course, we need to take into consideration all the people who do not work at all. In particular, a lot of women are working on a voluntary basis, and this is not taken into account either in the understanding of work and what work is.