Workforce participation

A friend sent me a link to the productivity commission’s latest survey on workforce participation rates. It is a look at different age groups, and their degree of participation in the workforce.

 A few interesting trends:

  • the participation rate of men at nearly all ages has dropped fairly uniformly over the last 25 years – by roughly 5% – slightly higher at the close to retirement ages, and it’s actually increased (from a low base) after the age of 60
  • the participation rate of women has increased at all ages – by an average of 12%, but with the biggest increase in the peak childbearing years
  • the report, weirdly, shows the different participation rate of women by marital status, but not by parental status.
  • 15% of men working now work part-time, whereas 25 years ago it was only 6%.
  • Women working part-time have increased also, but not as dramatically, from 38%to 46% of total workers.
  • Average hours worked for full time workers have increased by around 2 hours a week for both men and women – 42% of male and 18% of female full time workers work more than 40 hours a week
  • 65% of men working part time would have preferred to work fulltime, and interestingly, 41% of women working part time would have preferred to work full time

I am amazed by the last statistic the most. Combining it all,  around 10% of all women aged over 15 work part time, and would like to work full-time and would be available to do so in the next four weeks. So these women aren’t being stopped by lack of childcare from working (assuming they answered the survey correctly) – they are available for full time work and want to work.

All the anecdotes are about women who would like to work part-time, but aren’t working, because they can’t find part-time work, or who for some other reason can’t work (e.g. difficulty in finding childcare). According to the statistics, this is up to 5% of all women, a much lower proportion, but the one that gets the most attention.


Paul Watson has a rant about the commentary ignoring the plight of Gen X men.

  1 comment for “Workforce participation

  1. January 21, 2007 at 4:28 am

    So do you think they’re just assuming that all married women are mothers? Or that husbands still prevent women from working to save their own pride? Either way, it doesn’t seem like the greatest idea not to track parents’ (of both genders) workforce participatoin.

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