The untold story: SA's hidden jobless and underemployed
As a professional resume writer working in business services, I know the official unemployment statistics for South Australia hides a bigger problem – massive under employment and people who have dropped out of the workforce. My story which appeared in InDaily in Adelaide, is about them.
The Maori’s navigated vast stretches of the Pacific by memorising star positions and keeping their canoes at specific angles to the waves. We navigate the economy by using statistics.
Last year there were doubts whether the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) employment and unemployment data were reliable estimates of the labour market. While Treasury and the Reserve Bank still use ABS data, they also turned to private sector measures, such as the ANZ Bank’s job ads and the National Australia Bank’s business conditions survey, to gauge the strength of the labour market.
Part of the reason was that back in July 2014, the ABS changed the ‘actively looking for work’ criteria. It dropped two criteria: registering for Centrelink as a job seeker and checking noticeboards for jobs. The two new criteria were: attending a job interview and starting your own business. The ABS thought the two it dropped and the two it added would offset each other —but this hasn’t been tested. What are the effects? We don’t know.
There are more significant problems with the ABS definition of being unemployed. The monthly Labour Force figures are created from a survey of about 26,000 households across Australia. It follows international conventions, created in the 1980s, which defined the unemployed as those people aged 15 years and over who are not employed during the reference week of the survey and “had actively looked for full-time or part-time work at any time in the four weeks up to the end of the reference week and were available for work in the reference week.”
So according to the definition, if you worked one hour per week in Adelaide, you were ‘employed’. If you worked one hour per week for one week during the survey week and were then fired, you were also employed. It’s absurd to suggest that working one hour per week means that an individual is ‘employed’, but in a statistical sense, the definition is accurate. Instead of attacking the problem of unemployment, the problem was defined away.