Department of Family and Community Services
A woman working on some technical equipment.

1.2 Unemployment and underutilisation

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The unemployment and underemployment rates for women in the labour force

Current position

In January 2013, NSW women’s unemployment rate was similar to men’s – 5.0 percent for women compared to 5.1 percent for men.

Underutilisation (including people who wanted to work more hours) was higher for women at 13.7 percent compared to 10.5 percent of the labour force for men (November 2012 figures).

Gender gap

  • There was no gender gap in unemployment but women experienced 3.2 percentage points more underutilisation in the labour force than men.
The direction of
change over time

Since last year’s Report, women and men’s unemployment rates have moved closer. However, the patterns of change varied across regions. Unemployment (not reported in Women in NSW 2012) is far higher for Aboriginal women.1

As in 2012 women’s unemployment rate remains highest in Canterbury-Bankstown; Gosford-Wyong; and Fairfield-Liverpool and Outer South Western Sydney. However, unemployment has decreased significantly in the first two of these regions.

Across the state over the last year, unemployment fell most in the Gosford-Wyong and the Murray-Murrumbidgee regions, where it fell by almost twice the state average. See Table 4.2.

NSW Aboriginal women’s unemployment rate was 15 percent at the time of the 2011 Census. This was nearly three times higher than that of non-Aboriginal women (6 percent) at the same time, but lower than the 18 percent unemployment rate recorded by Aboriginal men.

Underutilisation rates improved for both sexes, with a greater improvement for women (1.6 percentage points) than men (0.3) measured for the year to November 2012.1


In the period following the Global Financial Crisis, women’s unemployment rates tended to exceed men’s. This changed around mid-2012, and today women and men’s rates are similar.

Underutilisation combines the people who are unemployed with those who are underemployed, either because they are full-time workers working short hours, or because they are part-time workers wanting to work more hours.

In the November 2012 data cited above, most of the gap between women and men is due to women’s higher rates of underemployment.

Figure 4.3 shows that, although labour force underutilisation closely follows the economic cycle, women’s rates are consistently higher than men’s.

The proportion of people in the paid labour force who are unemployed and underemployed are reported in this indicator. The unemployed are people who were actively looking for work and available to start immediately. The underemployed are those who are already working (part-time and full-time) and would like to, and are able to within four weeks, work more hours. These two groups together are referred to as people who are underutilised in the labour force.

Year collected: January 2013 for unemployment rates, November 2012 for underutilisation rates, 2011 for Aboriginal data.
Data source: ABS (2013) Labour Force, Australia, Jan 2013, Cat no. 6202, Trend series. ABS (2012) Australian Labour Market Statistics July 2012, ABS Cat no. 6105.0, ABS Census of Population and Housing 2011. More information is available at Understanding Labour Force page.

1Please note that in this chapter changes to the data series used last year have occurred for some indicators. For example, in some cases we are now using trend rather than last year’s original series data. This results in slight changes to the earlier figures which were published in Women in NSW 2012. Historic changes discussed in this section use the new data sources.

Table 4.2 Female unemployment by region

Sydney or NSW region

Women %

Change since 2012 %




Fairfield-Liverpool and Outer South Western Sydney






Richmond-Tweed and Mid-North Coast



North Western Sydney



Central Western Sydney



Illawarra and South Eastern






Northern, Far West-North Western and Central West






Northern Beaches



Inner Sydney and Inner Western Sydney



Central Northern Sydney



Lower Northern Sydney



St George-Sutherland



NSW total




Note: These regions are ABS dissemination regions based on the Australian Standard Geographical Classification 2006.
Population: Women 15 years and over.
Source: ABS (2013) Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Jan 2013. Cat no. 6291.0.55.001.

Figure 4.3 Labour force underutilisation, by sex, NSW, 1982 to 2012

Fig 4.3

Note: Underutilisation refers to people who are unemployed or underemployed.
Population: Civilian population 15 years and over.
Source: ABS (2013) Labour Force, Australia, Jan 2013. Cat no. 6202.0.