Firstly, the most important aspect of the workforce is the size and overall quality. There are three factors influencing this: Population size, Age distribution and education patterns. Population size is influenced by natural increases and net migration. Natural increases are the excess number of births over deaths, Australia has a declining rate of natural increases. Australia’s natural increase level is at 0.6 which in significantly lower than other industrialised countries this is vastly due to families having less children as the cost of living has risen and also the changing social attitude that women no longer stay at home and look after the children. Net migration is the total number of migrants entering our country over one year. Net migration has made a crucial contribution to your increase in population as 40 % of total population growth since WWII has come from migration. This is also related to the level of economic activity we experience, if there is a upturn in economic activity leading to labour shortages,Australia’s migrant intake will rise to meet the demand of labour.
Age distribution, Australia’s workforce mainly consists of people in the 15 to 65 age group. Overall there is an ageing population in Australia, the median age has risen from about 31 to 37 in the past two decades. This is a result of declining birth rates and increasing life expectancy this is mainly due to the advances in medication and higher standards of living. As the “baby boomers” post WWII are moving into retirement Australia could experience a very significant shortage of labour in the future.
Furthermore, the education patterns are the most important fact determining the quality of the workforce. Individuals who choose to follow secondary and tertiary education may not receive any or very little earning but benefit in the long run with higher earnings. Australian’s with tertiary education had average earning 32% higher than those without. Australia’s school completion rate is substantially lower than other developed OECD countries, currently Australia’s school completion rate is at 70% whilst other countries like USA and South Korea are around 80% this is largely to due with the social attitude countries like USA have regarding education and future job prospects.
Currently Australia’s unemployment is at 4.9% which is significantly lower than our average unemployment rate of 7.11%. The general trend in Australia’s unemployment has risen during the 1970’s and 1990’s before falling to an average of 5.5% in the first decade of the 21st centaury this is largely to do with general economic conditions more buoyant and Australia’s workforce becoming larger and more skilled in the last two decades.
It is alarming to note than less than 50% of Australia’s workforce is employed fulltime, since the 60’s Australia part time employment rate has risen from 6% to 30% (3.2 million), Australia has the third highest rate of part time employment in the industrialised countries. There are a few reasons to explain this recent shift, firstly working part time means who are able to balance other responsibilities such as studying or taking care of family. This has explained the increasing trend of women working part time, currently 38% of the part time employees are women. Another reason to explain the increase in part time work is the more flexible working conditions, for example working from home, school holidays off and working hours that suit school hours. Finally sometimes part time employment is the choice of the employer, as firms tend to operate with excess capacity meaning firms employ below maximum employment so that there is greater flexibility in staffing arrangements. For example if aggregate demand rises and firms need to produce a higher level of output instead of increasing demand for labour they will use there resources (labour) more intensively so that they will not have to employ new employees and on-costs of labour (sick leave, superannuation etc).
In conclusion, the Australian labour force over the past two decades has undergone drastic change. Although Australia’s current employment is near maximum and Australia’s GDP per capita is ranked 10th in the world, Australia’s future conditions look gloomy as Australia has an ageing population and is currently experiencing a drastic movement away from full time creating fear and instability within in individuals.