There are currently two million Australians who are unemployed and are chasing 182,000 vacancies. Of the two million, 1.75 million are on one of the six different dole payments and are subject to the “works test” administered by Centrelink.

Why do I say that there are two million unemployed? Because the head of the ABS, the Australian Statistician, Brian Pink, says so in his annual or real unemployment surveys “Persons Not In The Labour Force” and “The Multi-Purpose Household Survey”.

His predecessor, Dennis Trewin, is publicly quoted as saying “that the official (‘Labour Force’ or monthly survey) measure of unemployment does not reflect the true jobless rate.”

There are two other ABS surveys which come closer to revealing what the real numbers are:

  1. The Persons not in the Labour Force” survey (729,000 hidden unemployed)
  2. “The Multi-Purpose Household Survey” (977,00 hidden unemployed) which found that, of the 6.3 million people not employed or who worked only a few hours, around 1.8 million stated that they would like to work more hours, 977,000 of which were not in the labour force, according to the ABS in their monthly “Labour Force” survey.

On this point Senator Penny Wong, Labor’s then Shadow Workforce Participation Minister in 2007 said in a letter to me:

There are over two million Australians who are either officially unemployed, are employed but want more work, or want to work but don’t show up in the official unemployment figures.

Let’s look at how the more than two million unemployed are made up:

Monthly or headline unemployed: 465,000 approx.

Then the following Australians are excluded from the monthly figures:

Those actively looking for work: 729,000 / or 977,300, but are not available to start work in the survey week but are able to start work within four weeks of the survey date. Pretty well all of these unemployed are on the dole and subject to the “works test” or “mutual obligation” as the current fancy title refers.

Some of the reasons why they cannot start in the survey week and therefore are excluded are:

  • Some are discouraged or “given up” workers – not counted. They want a job but no matter what they do (brilliant resume, best “Sunday” clothes at interview, get up at 6am to look for (non) existent jobs), no job is forthcoming.
  • Workers who wanted to work but lacked childcare – not counted.
  • Those with short-term (less than one month) health problems so they couldn’t work in the survey week – not counted.
  • Those on short-term or less than a month training courses, usually in order to improve their job prospects (e.g. resume writing) and usually arranged by Job Network – not counted.
  • Single parents (200,000 plus) who are currently being forced off the Parent Pension and on to Newstart – not counted as yet.
  • Disability Support Pension recipients (200,000 plus) who are currently being forced off the DSP and on to the dole (Newstart is the number one dole payment but there are five others) – not counted as yet.

Finally, on this point we can add at least 400,000 who work between one and 14 hours who are counted as being employed. The vast majority want to work more hours. They are counted as being “employed” in Australia, but in many other countries would be counted as being unemployed. For example in Singapore or Germany you have to work 15 hours or more in the survey week to be counted as employed. The person who works an hour a week in Australia has the same status in the employment statistics as one who works 40 hours!

We must not forget that we have 1.75 million Australians on dole payments and in order to be on the dole you have to be ready, willing and able to work. Why media analysts do not match dole figures with the claimed monthly unemployment figures, is beyond me.

Get more Crikey, for less

It’s more than a newsletter. It’s where readers expect more – fearless journalism from a truly independent perspective. We don’t pander to anyone’s party biases. We question everything, explore the uncomfortable and dig deeper.

Join us this week for 50% off a year of Crikey.

Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
50% off