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Underemployed outnumber unemployed post GFC

More Australians are facing underemployment than unemployment in the wake of the GFC, with women hit the hardest, new ABS statistics show.

underemploymentThe number of underemployed workers, that being the number of professionals not working as many hours as they desire, has outnumbered unemployed workers since 2000. In May 2010, there were 837,000 underemployed workers compared to 610,000 unemployed people.

The statistics show that the overwhelming majority of underemployed workers, over 90 percent, are employed part-time and that the number of these part-time workers has increased steadily to reach 30 percent in May of this year. During times of economic uncertainty, including the recent downturn, the shift to part-time work accelerates as employers seek to reduce hours as an alternative to laying off staff.

Not surprisingly, industries that have a large proportion of part-time workers have a higher rate of underemployed workers. Women have traditionally dominated the part-time employment sector, with 70 percent of part-time workers in May 2010 being female. As a result, women make up the majority of underemployed workers.

An example can be found in the Accommodation and food services industry, which recorded the highest proportion of underemployed workers, at 20 percent, in 2010. In this industry 57 percent of workers were working part time, and 55 percent of workers were women. In other industries like Mining, where only 3 percent of workers were employed part time, and just 13 percent of workers were women, only 0.6 percent of workers were underemployed during the same period.

Other groups that are heavily represented in the underemployment sector are young people, with 35 percent underemployed in May 2010 and uneducated workers, those who had a year 12 or below educational attainment, with more than half underemployed in September 2009.