December 8 2011 - 1.7 million Australians over 18 are prevented from working as much as they want for a variety of reasons, according to a new Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) study.

The study, based on June 2011 figures show that most (1.4 million) of these people were unemployed and wanted a job. A further 273,500 normally worked fewer than 16 hours each week and wanted to work for additional hours.

454,000 women were not in the workforce but wanted a job and were available to take up work - but they were not looking. Of these, 115,000 were not looking because they were caring for children. Their most common justifications were:

  • that they preferred to look after their children (42%)
  • their children were too young for childcare (23%)
  • no available childcare (15%)

Further details are available in Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation, Australia, July 2010 to June 2011 (cat. no. 6239.0).

Underemployed Part-time Workers

A survey of part-timers conducted by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) in September 2010 found that almost three quarters of a million (733,900) were underemployed.

This figure represents almost a quarter (22%) of all part-time workers in Australia. More than half (55%) of those who considered themselves to be underemployed would have preferred to work full-time - at least 35 hours per week.

In fact, over a half of part-time workers were seeking more hours of work. Most commonly, they were trying to find more work by:

  • asking their current employer (62%)
  • contacting a prospective employer (53%)
  • searching the internet (51%)

59% of all underemployed part-time workers indicated that they would have preferred to work more hours with their present employer.

The longest durations of underemployment tended to be experienced by older workers. 52%% of underemployed part-time workers aged 55 years or over and 49% of those aged 45-54 years, had been underemployed for one year or more. This compared with the 25% of underemployed workers aged 15-19 years who had been underemployed for a year or more.

More information is available in Underemployed Workers, Australia, September 2010 (cat. no. 6265.0) available from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.