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ABS data disaster is final proof Australia needs new measure of employment. <BR>Since Rudd was elected in 2007 part-time/casual employment has surged while full-time employment virtually unchanged

ABS data disaster shows Australia needs new measure of employment – Since Rudd elected in 2007 part-time employment has surged while full-time employment virtually unchanged. By Gary Morgan, Michele Levine & Julian McCrann

Yesterday Australians were told the ABS measures of employment and unemployment cannot and should not be ‘trusted’. This is what we have been saying for more than 20 years.

Since 2007 there has been a huge shift to greater part-time/casual employment. In November 2007 – when Kevin Rudd was elected Prime Minister – full-time employment represented 70.7% of employed Australians (7.16 million) while part-time/casual employment represented 29.3% of employed Australians (2.97 million). The Roy Morgan September employment estimates show Australian full-time employment now represents 65.1% of employed Australians (7.17 million) and part-time/casual employment represents 34.9% of employed Australians (3.85 million).

These figures are extraordinary and show that over the last seven years Australian full-time employment has barely changed whilst part-time/casual employment has increased by about 900,000. In raw percentage terms part-time/casual employment has increased 29.6% whilst full-time employment is virtually unchanged.

This staggering analysis of the changing composition of the workforce underlines how the measurement of employment and unemployment in Australia needs to be comprehensively reformed.

The current methods used by the ABS to measure the Australian labour force and estimate Australian unemployment and under-employment are based in post-World War 2 thinking – nearly 70 years ago. The questions used are flawed for many reasons – typified by saying a person who works just one hour a week is employed! (Article: Roy Morgan Research closer to reality than ABS according to majority of Australians).

The composition of the workforce has changed greatly over the last 70 years. Today workers are far more transient, changing jobs frequently and doing extensive travelling. The part-time/casual workforce has increased steadily over this period whilst full-time work has dropped substantially as a percentage of employment.

The latest Roy Morgan September Unemployment estimates show Australian unemployment (9.9% - 1.2 million Australians) and under-employment (8.3% - 1.0 million Australians).

In our opinion the ABS survey as it operates today needs to be ‘closed down’ and the data collection put out to tender. This would both save money and lead to more accurate estimates for important indicators like Australian unemployment and under-employment which will in turn lead to Government, and the Reserve Bank of Australia, implementing the right policies to improve the Australian economy in a real sense.

Roy Morgan measures unemployment on a monthly basis surveying about 4,000 Australians who are asked a number of questions on their present job status and other employment information. The unemployed are asked a simple question: “Are you now in paid employment?” If no, “Are you now looking for a paid job?” The data shows trends although there are some fluctuations mainly due to seasonal reasons, e.g. bad weather.

We believe Australian businesses and Governments desperately need more accurate data on business intentions and reasons for those attitudes. The same also applies to Asian countries.


Note 1: The shift to part-time/casual employment coincides with the election of the Rudd ALP Government in November 2007 and WorkChoices being dismantled soon after.

*The ‘under-employed’ are those people who are in part-time/casual work or consultants who are looking for more work. (The ABS does not release this figure in their monthly unemployment survey results.)

For further information: 




Gary Morgan:     

+61 3 9224 5213  

+61 411 129 094

Michele Levine:       

+61 3 9224 5215  

+61 411 129 093

Unemployment Data Tables

Roy Morgan Research Employment Estimates (2001-2014)

Roy Morgan Research Unemployment & Under-employment Estimates (2007-2014)

Roy Morgan Research vs ABS Employment Estimates (1992-2014)

ABS Employment Estimates (1992-2014)

Roy Morgan Unemployment - September 2014 - 9.9%

Roy Morgan September Quarter Unemployment - 9.6%

Roy Morgan September Under-employment - 18.2%



The Roy Morgan Unemployment estimate is obtained by surveying an Australia-wide cross section by face-to-face interviews. A person is classified as unemployed if they are looking for work, no matter when.

The results are not seasonally adjusted and provide an accurate measure of monthly unemployment estimates in Australia.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Unemployment estimates are obtained by mostly telephone interviews. Households selected for the ABS Survey are interviewed each month for eight months, with one-eighth of the sample being replaced each month. The first interview is conducted face-to-face. Subsequent interviews are then conducted by telephone.

The ABS classifies a person as unemployed if, when surveyed, they have been actively looking for work in the four weeks up to the end of the reference week and if they were available for work in the reference week.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics Unemployment estimates are also seasonally adjusted.

For these reasons the Australian Bureau of Statistics Unemployment estimates are different from the Roy Morgan Unemployment estimate. Gary Morgan's concerns regarding the ABS Unemployment estimate is clearly outlined in his letter to the Australian Financial Review, which was not published.

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