Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework (HPF) 2012

Tier 2—Socio-economic factors—2.07 Employment

The HPF was designed to measure the impact of the National Strategic Framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health (NSFATSIH) and will be an important tool for developing the new National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Plan (NATSIHP).

Page last updated: 15 November 2012

Why is it important?:

The relationships between employment and health are complex and interconnected. Participation in employment has important consequences for social and emotional wellbeing and living standards for individuals, families and communities (Hunter 2000; Waddell et al. 2007). Mathers and Schofield (1998) 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'. Long periods out of the workforce and frequent changes in employment status can have negative effects on an individual's health (both physical and psychologi­cal) (McLure 2000). A number of studies report good health and wellbeing outcomes for those employed in caring for country programs (Garnett et al. 2007; Urbis Pty Ltd 2012). However, not all employment is equally 'healthy', e.g., lower skilled jobs, lack of job security (Lowry et al. 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 comprises all people contributing to, or willing to contribute to, the supply of labour. This includes the employed (people who have worked for at least one 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 four weeks). The remainder of the population is not in the labour force. The labour force participation rate is the number of people in the labour force as a proportion of total people. The unemployment rate is the number of unemployed people as a proportion of the labour force. The employment rate is employed people as a proportion of the total population.

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 Australians aged 15–64 years was 65%, compared with 79% for non-Indigenous people of working age. In the 2008 NATSISS, the Indigenous employment rate was 54% compared with 76% for the non-Indigenous working age population. In this survey Indigenous participants in the CDEP scheme were included as employed and accounted for 6% of the working age population. Of Indigenous people who were in the labour force, 17% were unemployed, more than four times the unemployment rate for non-Indigenous 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. However, proportions of Indigenous Australians participating in the labour force are lower than the corresponding proportions for non-Indigenous Australians 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.Top of page

Implications:

Despite improving trends in Indigenous employment there is still a significant gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous employment rates. To achieve the COAG target to halve the gap in employment outcomes from 21.2 percentage points in 2008, to 10.6 percentage points by 2018, approximately 100,000 additional Indigenous Australians will need to be in employment over and above the number that were employed in 2008.

To meet this target it is essential that more Indigenous Australians who are currently not in the labour force gain and retain employment, and young people make a successful transition from school to work. For example, based on measurements in 2008–09 there were around 110,000 Indigenous people aged 15–64 years who were not in the labour force, and 139,000 young Indigenous Australians who will be of workforce-age by 2018–19.

Census 2011 data due for release in late 2012 will provide the first opportunity to measure the gap in employment outcomes since the baseline year. Census data are not directly comparable with data from the 2008 NATSISS, but will provide an indication of progress towards meeting the employment target.

Transition from education into sustainable employment will be aided by progress towards meeting educational attainment targets set by COAG. As a sector employing a large number of people, the health sector has a role to play in assisting Indigenous Australians in this area.

The National Partnership Agreement on Indigenous Economic Participation aims to improve participation by Indigenous Australians in the economy. This Agreement includes a review of public sector Indigenous employment and career development strategies to achieve at least 2.6% employment across classifications by 2015 (equal to the Indigenous working age population). The Commonwealth has now raised this to 2.7% across the Commonwealth public sector.

The Indigenous Economic Development Strategy (2011–2018) aims to increase the personal and economic wellbeing of Indigenous Australians through a broad range of actions including in education, skills development and employment. Through the Australian Employment Covenant, Australian employers in partnership with the Australian Government and Indigenous people, aim to secure 50,000 sustainable jobs for Indigenous Australians.

The Government has announced a $1.5 billion new Remote Jobs and Communities Program that will help Australians living in remote communities get the skills they need to be work-ready and to provide funding for projects that strengthen these communities and create real jobs. The four main programs currently delivering employment and participation services and community development in remote Australia—Job Services Australia, Disability Employment Services, CDEP and the Indigenous Employment Program—will be rolled into the new integrated service. This program will commence on 1 July 2013. Top of page
Figure 100—Labour force status of persons aged 15–64 years, by Indigenous status, 2008 and 2007–08
Figure 100—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

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Figure 101—Labour force participation of persons aged 15–64 years: by Indigenous status and age, 2008 and 2007–08
Figure 101—Labour force participation of persons aged 15–64 years: 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

Figure 102—Labour force status of Indigenous persons aged 15–64 years, by remoteness, 2008
Figure 102—Labour force status of Indigenous persons aged 15–64 years, by remoteness, 2008

Source: ABS and AIHW analysis of 2008 NATSISS

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Figure 103—Labour force status of persons aged 15–64 years, by Indigenous status, 2001, 2004–05 and 2008 and 2007–08
Figure 103—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

Table 29—Labour force status of Indigenous persons aged 15–64 years, by remoteness, 2008
Labour Force StatusRemote (%)Non-remote (%)Australia (%)
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
100
100

Source: ABS & AIHW analysis of 2008 NATSISS

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