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Teresa Ooi | January 24, 2009
Article from: The Australian
THE number of people in the jobless queue is much higher than official figures because more than 800,000 part-time workers are desperate to work more hours.

“Unfortunately, under-employment is an issue that has not been understood by the Government or by those trying to predict the economic outlook for Australia,” Roy Morgan Research chief executive Michele Levine said.

“The Government needs to understand real unemployment and the even more insidious problem of under-employment. There’s a crucial issue of part-time employment (people who are working part-time but want to work full-time, or at least more hours than they are currently working).”

Industries hit worst by under-employment include the retail sector, in which about 170,000 people, or 14 per cent, are part-time workers looking to work more hours, and the hospitality and recreational sectors, which have about 177,000, or 20 per cent, under-employed.

“A further 254,000 people, or 9.5 per cent of those employed in community services, are also under-employed,” she said.

The jobless rate has risen to a two-year high of 4.5 per cent, with more than 500,000 people in the unemployed queue.

The economy shed 44,000 full-time jobs last month, eclipsing a gain of 42,000 part-time positions, but Ms Levine said the unemployment figure was closer to 6.4 per cent in December because Roy Morgan Research classified those looking for work as unemployed.

Ms Levine said 77 per cent of the male workforce was working full-time, but only 48 per cent of the female workforce was full-time.

“One in 10 women are part-timers looking for more work. This is twice the number of under-employed male workers,” she said.

“Public servants are more likely to be employed full-time than those in the private sector. They are also less likely to want to work more hours.

“The public sector is clearly much more comfortable, with 73 per cent in full-time positions and only 5 per cent wanting more hours than their present part-time work.

“Almost one in 10 (629,000) people employed in the private sector are part-timers looking to work more hours while about half that number — one in 20 people (126,000) — employed in the public service are wanting to work more hours.”

The research showed that under-employment was higher among younger people and that 30 per cent of the workforce younger than 24 rented their homes and had poorer education.

Up to late 2007, Australia’s booming economy and relatively low levels of unemployment had experienced labour and skills shortages.

As a result of the global financial crisis and the fallout from the deteriorating economic conditions, the unemployment outlook is expected to worsen.

Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard said recently the Government expected the jobless rate to rise from the December figure of 4.5 per cent to 5 per cent by mid-year.

According to the Australian National Retailers Association, the economic downturn has already resulted in the loss of at least 50,000 jobs in the retail sector.

“We are now on the cusp of a recession, with the prospect of even more pressure on retail jobs,” association chief executive Margy Osmond said. “This could be particularly concerning for small and medium retailers, where many of these job losses may occur.”

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/business/story/0,,24954039-20142,00.html

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