The lucky country: Australia’s labour market progress since 1992

At this time in 1992 I had just turned 26 and was in
my second year as a temp recruiter at Recruitment Solutions in the
Sydney CBD with a remuneration structure of $35,000 base plus team
commission. We had moved offices from 50 Margaret St to 275 George St
and for the first time I had a computer on my desk. My largest client
was Bankers Trust and I suspect I was probably running about 15 jobs on
average (500 hours per week). I was a long way off being a successful
recruiter. 
 

My personal life had little to report as I was still
paying off my student travel loan (interest rates on non-mortgage loans
were then about 10%) and had no excess money. I was renting a small
unrenovated terrace in

Hunters Hill
with my best friend, Scott. I had no car, no girlfriend
and little social life. My only regular entertainment was going along to
the SCG with Scott see the Sydney Swans get thrashed on a regular basis.
 
 


Ross Clennett, Recruitment Solutions, 1992
Oh,
and I had hair then (see picture, right). 
 

Australia was in a very different place then. Just
coming out of the recession, average residential

house prices in Sydney
($183,300) and Melbourne ($125,000) still
hadn’t recovered sufficiently from the housing bust of late 1990. In
fact Brisbane’s average 1992 house price ($129,000) was higher than
Melbourne’s (and this remained the case until 1998).   
 

The labour market was a vastly different place as
well. 
 

Here’s some interesting comparative twenty year data
just released by the

ABS
that I thought was worth sharing with you: 

 

Area  
1992  
2012  
Change  
Aus population aged 15 plus  
13.61 million
18.61 million
+44%
Labour force participation  

 
males
74.2%
71.8%
-2.4 percentage points
females
51.9%
58.8%
+6.9 percentage points
persons
62.9%
65.2%
+3.3 percentage points
Employment  
 
males
4.41 million
6.25 million
+42%
females
3.23 million
5.25 million
+63%
persons
7.64 million
11.5 million
+51%
Unemployment (thousands)  
 
males
566.2 (11.4%)
339.9 (5.2%)
-40%
females
358.9 (10.0%)
295.4 (5.3%)
-18%
persons
925.1 (10.8%)
635.3 (5.2%)
-31%
Average hours worked per week  
 
full time workers
40.8
38.8
-2.0 hours (4.9%)
part time workers
15.0
16.1
+1.1 hours (7.3%)
Industrial disputes  
 
working days lost per 1,000 employees
147.1
26.7
-82%
working days lost
941,100
273,200
-71%
trade union members as a proportion of all
employees
39.6%
18.2%
-21.4 percentage points
Average weekly earnings (full time adult)
 
 
male
$933
$1491
+60%
female
$789
$1230
+56%
Job vacancies (trend estimates,
thousands)   
 
 
 
private sector
28.3
153
+446%
public sector
7.2
12.2
+69%
 
 

Despite the past six to nine months being very
challenging for the recruitment industry, as a whole the opportunities
are still enormous for modern-day recruiters when you consider the
Australian labour market is just over fifty per cent bigger than it was
twenty years ago and the number of vacancies is nearly four times
higher. 
 

In my first year as a recruiter in Australia I was
part of a consultant roster for the reception desk during our
receptionist’s lunch hour (our second receptionist was made redundant),
all the rented pot plants were sent back, office drinks were BYO and all
staff accepted a base salary cut. 
 

Things might look tough right now but it’s a picnic
in the park compared to 1992. 
 

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