Number 15: Jobs in a new labour market: changes in type and distribution

Exploring the employment trends in Australia over the last 30 years, this paper suggests that the statistics recorded during this period were misleading, and created unfounded concern over employment security. Instead, the author suggests (a) statistics show a transition from one steady state of the economy and labour market to another steady state over the last thirty years and (b) changes in the economy and labour market were regular and reflected world wide trends

A sharp rise in Australian unemployment during 1974 was attributed to an exceptionally severe recession. In hindsight, it appears to mark a structural shift in the labour market, although not quite the beginning of that shift. By 2001, much had changed in the national economy, the composition of the labour force, and forms and conditions of employment.

Notable trends included:

  • relative decline in employment in production industries and corresponding growth in service industries;
  • growth of female employment, including women with children and women in older age-groups, and relative decline of male employment, especially but not only in older age-groups;
  • growth of part-time employment, especially of females but also of males, although from a low base;
  • unprecedented growth in proportions of adolescents and young adults of both sexes, but especially females, in full-time education; and
  • substantial and economically significant participation of full-time students in part-time employment.

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