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Where have all the jobs gone?


Full-time jobs are disappearing for South Australian men, and women are struggling to find the amount of work they want and need.

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In just under four decades – from February 1978 to March 2016 – the number of men working in part-time positions in South Australia has more than quadrupled.

An InDaily analysis of Australian Bureau of Statistics labour-force trend figures since consistent records began has found men in part-time positions has shot up from 17,700 in February 1978 to 89,500 for March this year – a five-fold increase or twice the rate of women.

Since 1978, the number of women in part-time employment has jumped 2.5 times.

In 1978, women had the lion’s share of the part-time work, filling 71,500 positions, but those positions have grown about two-and-a-half times to 194,700 in March this year.

The statistics show that women in 2016 are the most under-utilised group, with 19.2 per cent not employed to their full capacity.

Nationally, the March unemployment rate sits at 5.8 per cent.

Unemployment in South Australia has barely moved in 40 years. In 1978, SA had a population of 1.16 million and 39,600 unemployed, or 6.7 per cent. In 2016, the state has a population of 1.67 million and 62,800 unemployed, or 7.2 per cent.


SA unemployment hit double digits in June 1991 and remained over 10 per cent until August 1995.

Almost 40 years ago, some 10,300 women were under-employed – today there are 49,000. When questioned by the ABS, 41,700 of those women were working part time and preferred more hours.

The figures are no better for men. In 1978 some 6800 men were under-employed and today the figure sits around 40,600.

While part-time work for men has skyrocketed, full-time positions for men have increased by only 4900 jobs over 40 years.

The number of women in the workforce (full time and part time) has almost doubled from 200,400 almost four decades ago to 381,800 registered for March this year.

Men are twice as under-utilised at 14.6 per cent compared with 7.8 per cent in 1978.

Gone missing

Of the 34,100 men (original) who were registered unemployed during March this year, 26,000 said they were looking for work full time and 8000 said they were looking for part-time work.

Of the 30,000 women registered as unemployed last month, 18,700 were listed as looking for full-time work and 11,400 were registered as looking for part-time work.

These figures, Business SA chief executive officer Nigel McBride said, were just the “tip of the iceberg”.

“If you’ve got one hour of work you’re not unemployed,” he said.

McBride said increased part-time work and under-employment were the hidden statistic.

South Australian Council of Social Service (SACOSS) chief director Ross Womersley agreed.

“Unemployment is one thing but under-employment is a huge other,” he said.

Added McBride: “There are people who desperately want more work to meet their family needs and also the economy’s needs. These are the unemployed and under-employed.

“If they are unemployed and under-employed, they’re going to be conservative with their spending and we’re seeing that in the last few years.

“It is hitting what they spend and that’s going to affect all parts of our economy.

“Large parts of the population are not committing to large purchases such as homes, cars and holidays.”

Womersley said the employment situation was “a good illustration of the transitioning economy, which is impacting on the types of jobs that are available to people”.

McBride said the whole nature of employment had changed in 40 years, driven by a 24-7 economy.

“People have two to three jobs now but there’s been a massive casualisation of the workforce.”

McBride and Womersley said the state and federal governments were too focused on the unemployed and not the under-employed.

“It’s hard to rationalise [the unemployment rate of 7.2 per cent] that it’s just a small bump in the road,” Womersley said.

“The Employment Minister should come out and say what they’re going to do about it. There’s no time to justify and rationalise.

“However you dress it up, it’s a very serious situation.”

Womersley said South Australians were accepting part-time work or reduced hours, which were becoming our “new normal”.

“I’m pretty convinced it’s not about lifestyle choice; it’s about lifestyle force.

“When men hit their 50s they find they’re unemployed; they face years till they can get their age pension.

“The whole business of working used to be into our 50s or even our 70s. You could think about having a job for life, especially men – you were the breadwinner. You worked full time for life.”


Employed February 1978
Men 355,200
Women 200,400
Full-time men 337,100
Full-time women 128,300
Part-time men 17,700
Part-time women 71,500
Employed March 2016
Men 429,300
Women 381,700
Full-time men 342,000
Full-time women 187,100
Part-time men 89,500
Part-time women 194,700
Unemployed February 1978
Total 39,600
Men 21,300
Women 18,300
Unemployed March 2016
Total 62,800
Men 34,400
Women 28,400
Underemployed February 1978
Total 17,000
Men 6,800
Women 10,300
Underemployed February quarter 2016
Total 89,600
Men 40,600
Women 49,000
Underutilised February Quarter
1978 Men 7.8 per cent
1978 Women 13.1 per cent
2016 Men 16.4 per cent
2016 Women 19.2 per cent

How ABS defines Employed, Unemployed and Not In The Labor Force


Employed aged 15 years and over who during the week:


Unemployed is someone aged 15 years and over who was not employed during the reference week, and:


People not in the labour force are those aged 15 years and over who are neither employed or unemployed. Those not in the labour force include:

All ABS statistics published in this article are trend figures.

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