Department of Family and Community Services

1.1 Workforce participation

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Labour force and employment participation rates

Current position

In January 2013, 57 percent of NSW women were participating in the labour force (that is, they were either employed or looking for work). This compares to 70 percent of NSW men.

Of the NSW adult population, 54 percent of NSW women were employed (part or full-time) compared with 67 percent of NSW men.

Gender gap

  • Women’s labour force participation rate is 13 percentage points lower than men’s.
  • Women’s employment rate is 13 percentage points lower than men’s.
The direction of
change over time

There has been little change since last year’s Report. Both women’s employment and labour force participation rates have remained constant (comparing January dates each year).

However, NSW women’s participation in the labour force, and the percentage of NSW women employed as a ratio of the adult population have both increased significantly over time. By contrast, men’s participation in the labour force, and their employment rate, have fallen over time (see Figure 4.1).

In 1978, the gender gap in labour force participation was 36 percentage points compared to 13 percentage points today, due in part to men’s falling participation.

When we look at employment participation, the gender gap has reduced by 21 percentage points in 1978 to 13 percentage points today. Around one-third of the reduction is due to men’s employment rate falling by 8 percentage points in the period.

Discussion

Labour force participation varies significantly by birthplace. Table 4.1 shows the rates for working age women from the top 10 most numerous birthplace groups of women arriving in the last two decades, since 1992 (these are discussed in Chapter One).

Of these groups, South African, Filipino, New Zealand and English working-age women were more likely to be in the workforce than the Australian-born and other overseas-born women.

Women from China, Vietnam, South Korea and Iraq were among the groups with relatively low labour force participation.

Within birthplace groups, gender gaps in the labour force participation diverge widely. Australia-born women and men have the smallest participation gap of the top 10 groups at 11 percentage points, and Iraqi women and men have the largest at 28 percentage points.

Labour force participation by age is shown in Figure 4.2. Women’s and men’s rates are closest when women are young (20 to 24) or in their middle years (45 to 54) when the gap is 12 percent. Women’s participation dips during the peak child-bearing years when the gender gap is 18 percent. Among 60 to 64 year-olds the gap is also relatively large at 17 percent, reflecting women’s earlier retirement from the workforce.

Two indicators measure the extent to which people of working age are participating in the workforce. The labour force participation rate reflects the extent to which people are active in the paid labour force: that is, employed, engaged in business, or looking for work. The employment rate is a ratio of those people who are currently employed (that is, have worked in a paid job for at least one hour during the last week) to the civilian population aged 15 years and over.

Year collected: January 2013.
Data source: ABS (2013) Labour Force, Australia, January 2013. Cat no. 6202.0. Trend series data. More information is available at www.abs.gov.au Understanding Labour Force page.

Figure 4.1 Labour force participation rate, by sex, NSW, 1978 to 2013

Fig 4.1

Note: All data are trend data, and a trend line is shown.
Population: Civilian population 15 years and over.
Source: ABS (2013) Labour Force, Australia, Jan 2013. Cat no. 6202.0.

Table 4.1 Labour force participation of working-age women by selected birthplace

Birthplace 

Labour force participation % 

Women 

Gender gap in labour force participation % 

South Africa 

78

15,159

15

Philippines 

77

35,647

13

New Zealand 

77

42,734

13

England 

75

70,102

12

Australia 

74

1,297,660

11

India 

71

34,912

22

Indonesia 

69

12,068

17

China 

61

70,181

14

Vietnam 

56

33,431

21

South Korea 

54

18,205

24

Iraq 

26

10,935

28

All birthplaces 

71

1,992,996

13

Note: Listed birthplaces are Australia plus the 10 birthplaces from which most women emigrated to Australia between 1992 and 2011 (see Chapter One). Those who didn’t provide a response (‘not stated’) are not included in the total but make up nearly 6 percent of the total population.
Population: NSW women aged 20 to 64 years from selected birthplace groups.
Source: ABS Census of Population and Housing 2011.

Figure 4.2 Labour force participation rate, by sex and age, NSW, 2012-13

Fig 4.2

Population: Civilian population from selected age groups.
Source: ABS Labour Force, Australia, Feb 2012 to Jan 2013. Cat no. 6202.0. Supercube ST GM1.