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At the end of last year, the ABS released its Barriers and Incentives to Labour Force Participation, Australia, July 2012 to June 2013 (catalogue 6239.0).

This survey revealed some fascinating information about the Australian workforce:

Of those 9.4 million people, aged 18 years and over, who did not work full-time, approximately 2.6
million (or 28%) indicated that they would like a job or to work more hours.

This group of 2.6 million Australians comprised:

  • 1.2 million (or 46%) people who wanted a paid job but were not in the labour force
  • 530,300 (or 20%) people who were unemployed 317,300 (or 12%) people who usually worked 0 – 15 hours per week but wanted to work more hours; 767,600 people (11%) worked 0 – 15 hours per week but did not want more hours
  • 583,500 (or 22%) people who usually worked 16 – 34 hours per week but wanted to work more hours
This information leaves me quite stunned.

The ABS’s definition of our workforce compromises those in paid employment and those actively looking for paid employment. By this definition, Australia has a workforce of 12.4 million, yet an additional 9.7% people (1.2 million) have indicated they want a paid job but are not counted as being in the labour force.

So what stands in the way of this potentially massive increase in Australia’s workforce participation?

For all persons not in the labour force, the incentives to join the labour force nominated as 'very important' by those surveyed were:

  1. 'ability to work part-time hours' (33%)
  2. 'getting a job that matches skills and experience' (32%)
  3. 'being able to 'work a set number of hours on set days' (31%)
Theoretically we could increase our workforce by at least 3.2% simply by having part-time jobs that matched the respective skills of these 400,000 Australians. 53% of these workers are classified as skilled or semi-skilled (ie held qualifications beyond high school) and 63% are female.

I suspect every recruiter could name at least one skilled female they know who is currently not in the workforce but would be available to start work if they were able to secure a skill-appropriate job for the desired number of hours per week.

Those employers who are able to make the adjustment to their workflows, workforce structures and workplace culture to meet the demands of this hidden workforce, will surely gain a massive competitive benefit.

Who's interested?

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We've had a great experience here at Harlow Group recently in hiring a part-time staff member (recruiter). I was barraged with a huge number of qualified candidates when I advertised the job on SEEK and was able to take my pick of a very strong group of candidates all vying for the position. I was really surprised. The number of qualified candidates was seriously 5 times more than when I advertise similar full-time positions. Astounded at the quality of candidates coming through, I went to SEEK to see who else was advertising for part-time talent in the same skill area. There was not really any competition. No wonder we had such a strong response!

The end result was a highly skilled addition to the team who has really enhanced our business. A return to work mum who was no doubt in the 3.2% you refer to in your article Ross. This segment is such an untapped resource!

Your article raises a great point Ross. Thanks!

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