Labour market snapshot

14.Labour market snapshot

Garry Shilson-Josling, AAP Economist

Sydney

(Australian Associated Press)

Declining trade union membership, men earning more than women, and most people earning less than the average – the latest snapshot of the labour market tells a familiar story.

A new publication from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, “Characteristics of Employment”, details the decline of trade union membership, from 40 per cent of the workforce in 1992 to just 15 per cent by August 2014, the timing of the latest snapshot.

In the public sector, membership of a trade union slipped from 68 per cent in 1992 to 39 per cent at last count, while the number of private sector workers in unions has dwindled from 30 per cent to 11 per cent over the same time.

The figures also confirm the gap between what male and female workers are paid.

Average weekly earnings of male full-time workers, including owner-managers of incorporated businesses, were $1,592 at the time of the survey.

At the same time, female full-time earnings were 21 per cent lower at $1,264.

That’s only partly explained by the number of hours worked – the ABS does not provide average hours worked for full-time workers in this new publication, but it’s still clear that the guys do put in a few more hours.

The bureau defines full-time work as 35 hours or more per week and shows the distribution of hours worked.

The breakdown shows 47 per cent of female and 29 per cent of male full-timers work 35 to 39 hours.

At the other end of the scale, 20 per cent of females and 36 of males put in 45 hours or more.

That lines up fairly neatly with other data from the bureau, the survey of earnings and hours released earlier this year.

That earlier survey showed female full-time employees on adult wage rates worked six per cent or nearly two and a half hours less per week, but earned 18 per cent less.

And, just to give the bulk of men something to complain about, while average male full-time earnings at survey time were $1,592, the median is only $1,300, which means half the workforce earns less than that.

The corresponding figures for female workers are an average of $1,264 but a median of $1,100.

Those gaps between average and median show there’s a large number of people just below the average, balanced by a relatively small number earning well above the average.

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