We need to find new ways to measure the Australian labour force – The Conversation

Extract from an article by Phil Lewis

How we track our economy influences everything from government spending and taxes to home lending and business investment. In our series The Way We Measure, we’re taking a close look at economic indicators to better understand what’s going on.


Over the last few years, we’ve seen a massive shift in the way we work. Thousands of Australians have abandoned the traditional 40-hour work week to work fewer hours or take on ad-hoc work, such as driving for Uber or doing odd jobs on Airtasker.

But the way we measure the labour market has not kept up. We still rely on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ labour force survey, a survey from the 1960s conducted according to international conventions that is no longer appropriate for today’s labour market.

Today’s economy – one of independent contractors, ad-hoc work, irregular and flexible hours – needs a new form of measurement.

How the government measures the workforce

Every month the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) surveys about 0.32% of the civilian population aged over 15 years about their employment status.

In short, you’re counted as employed if you completed at least one hour of paid work in the week before the survey…(continues)

SOURCE: Phil Lewis, “We need to find new ways to measure the Australian labour force”, The Conversation, 13 Jan 2016

Link to full article

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