Better health and ageing for all Australians

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - 2010

2.07 Employment status

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Why is it important?:

Participation in employment has important consequences for living standards and social and emotional wellbeing, including self-esteem, opportunities for self-development and participation in the community. There are also strong associations between socioeconomic factors such as employment status and health (Marmot & Wilkinson 2006). Mathers and Schofield concluded that there was ‘consistent evidence from different types of studies that un­employment is associated with adverse health outcomes and … unemployment [can have] a direct effect on health over and above the effects of socioeconomic status, poverty, risk factors, or prior ill health’ (Mathers & Schofield 1998). McLure (2000) noted that long periods out of the workforce can have negative effects on an individual’s health (both physical and psychological). A recent research project reported good health out­comes in people employed in Indigenous Natural and Cultural Resource Management programs (Garnett & Sithole 2007).

There are three key measures of employment participation: the labour force participation rate, the unemploy­ment rate and the employment to population ratio (or employment rate). The labour force includes all people contributing to, or willing to contribute to, the supply of labour. This includes the employed (people who have worked for at least 1 hour in the reference week and the unemployed (people who are without work, but are actively looking for work and available to start work within 4 weeks). The remainder of the population is not in the labour force. The labour force participation rate is calculated as the number of people in the labour force as a proportion of total people. The unemployment rate is calculated as the number of people unemployed as a proportion of the total labour force. The employment rate is the proportion of employed people as a proportion of the total population.

Under the recent changes to the Community Development Employment (CDEP) scheme, all new participants in the program are now classified as being in receipt of income support rather than being in receipt of CDEP wages. By 20 June 2011 all CDEP participants will be on income support. As a result of these changes, CDEP participants who do not have other paid employment, and who meet the criteria for being unemployed, will in future be classificed as unemployed. CDEP participants who have not been looking for other paid work and are not available to work, will be classified as not in the labour force.

Findings:

Labour force participation by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples remains lower than for other Australians. In 2008, the labour force participation rate for Indigenous persons aged 15–64 years was 65%, compared with 79% for non-Indigenous persons in the same age range. In the 2008 NATSISS the Indigenous employment rate was 54% compared with 76% for the non-Indigenous working age population. For the purposes of this survey Indigenous employed persons included those participating in the CDEP scheme, which accounted for 6% of the working age population. Of Indigenous people who were in the labour force, 17% were unemployed, which was over 4 times as high as the rate for other Australians (4%).

In 2008, labour force participation rates for Indigenous Australians ranged from 72% for those aged 35–44 years to 40% for those aged 55–64 years. These variations mirror the age-related variations in labour force participation by non-Indigenous persons. Proportions of Indigenous Australians participating in the labour force are lower than the corresponding proportions of non-Indigenous persons across all age groups. Participation rates are lower for Indigenous females (55%) than males (75%).

Between 2001 and 2008, Indigenous employment increased from 44% to 54% of the working age population. The overall workforce participation rate also in­creased from 52% to 65% of the working age population. However, at the same time the proportion of people unemployed increased from 7% to 11%.

In 2008, Indigenous employment was high in major cities compared with regional and remote settings (59% compared to 51% and 52% respectively). In remote areas, participation in CDEP programs was high (19%) compared with non-remote areas (1%). Most CDEP participants were employed on a part-time basis.

Implications:

Despite improving trends in Indigenous employment there is still a significant gap. In March 2008, COAG committed to halve the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous employment out­comes within a decade (COAG 2008a). Achieving the target will require concerted additional effort to:
  • build incentives and skills for those currently not in the labour force
  • increase the skills of the unemployed
  • up-skill those currently in a job for career development
  • ensure that Indigenous youth complete school and transition successfully into a job.
Transition from education into sustainable employment will be aided by the achievement of educational attainment targets set by COAG. As a large employer, the health sector has a role to play in assisting Indigenous Australians in this area.

Other initiatives which will support the halving of the employment gap include the National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Economic Participation and the Indigenous Economic Development Strategy (2010–18) which aims to improve work opportunities for Indigenous Australians across the private and public sectors. Through the Australian Employment Covenant, Australian employers, the Australian Government, and Indigenous people, aim to secure 50,000 sustainable jobs for Indigenous Australians and 50,000 workplace mentors. The reformed Indigenous Employment Program ($750 million over 5 years) includes capital assistance, wage subsidies, cadetships and individually tailored assistance to help Indigenous job-seekers prepare for, gain and retain jobs.

Figure 85 – Labour force status of persons aged 15–64 years, by Indigenous status, 2008 and 2007-08


Figure 85 – Labour force status of persons aged 15–64 years, by Indigenous status, 2008 and 2007-08
Source: ABS and AIHW analysis of 2008 NATSISS. Non-Indigenous data are from the 2008 and 2007-08 NHS
Text description of figure 85 (TXT 1KB)

Figure 86 – Persons aged 15–64 years: labour force participation, by Indigenous status and age, 2008 and 2007-08


Figure 86 – Persons aged 15–64 years: labour force participation, by Indigenous status and age, 2008 and 2007-08
Source: ABS and AIHW analysis of 2008 NATSISS. Non-Indigenous data are from the 2008 and 2007-08 NHS
Text description of figure 86 (TXT 1KB)

Figure 87 – Labour force status, by remoteness, Indigenous persons aged 15–64 years, 2008


Figure 87 – Labour force status, by remoteness, Indigenous persons aged 15–64 years, 2008
Source: ABS and AIHW analysis of 2008 NATSISS
Text description of figure 87 (TXT 1KB)

Figure 88 – Labour force status of persons aged 15–64 years, by Indigenous status, 2001, 2004–05 and 2008 and 2007-08


Figure 88 – Labour force status of persons aged 15–64 years, by Indigenous status, 2001, 2004–05 and 2008 and 2007-08
Source: ABS and AIHW analysis of 2001 NHS (Indigenous supplement), 2004–05 NATSIHS, 2004–05 NHS, 2008 NATSISS and 2007-08 NHS
Text description of figure 88 (TXT 1KB)

Table 43 – Labour force status of Indigenous persons aged 15–64 years, by remoteness, 2008

Remote
Non-remote
Australia
Labour Force Status
%
%
%
In the Labour Force (Participation Rate)
61.5
65.5
64.5
Employed CDEP
19.4
1.2
5.6
Employed non-CDEP
33.0
53.1
48.2
Total Employed
52.4
54.3
53.8
Unemployed (% of Total Population)
9.2
11.2
10.7
Unemployment Rate (% of Labour Force)
14.9
17.2
16.6
Not in the Labour Force
38.5
34.5
35.5
Total
100.0
100.0
100.0
Source: ABS & AIHW analysis of 2008 NATSISS

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