Notes on the data: Labour force

Labour force participation, June 2020


Policy context:  There is a strong correlation between skill level and labour force participation, with labour force participation rates increasing with education level [1]. Some of the benefits to society of higher participation include reduced poverty and inequality, greater social harmony and reduced crime, as well as lesser burdens on the charitable sector and social welfare budgets, and higher tax receipts to support the provision of government services like education and health [2].

There are three broad groups of strategies where policy change can contribute to improved labour force participation outcomes: those aimed at improving the capacity of people to work through policy measures that improve health, education and training; those enhancing incentives to work, including measures directed at tax and income support arrangements; and those creating more flexible institutional arrangements, including work arrangements and childcare [2].

The Reserve Bank of Australia noted in 2017 that the ageing of the workforce has tended to reduce labour supply. However, this has been mostly offset by increased labour force participation of women and older people. They also noted that strong migration has mitigated some of the impact of ageing [3].


  1. Treasury. House of Representatives Standing Committee on Employment and Workplace Relations, Inquiry into employment: increasing participation in paid work. (Submission no. 73.) Canberra: Standing Committee on Employment, Workplace Relations and Workforce Participation; 2003.
  2. Productivity Commission (PC). Enhancing labour force participation: issues and challenges, Annual report 2006-07. Canberra: Productivity Commission; 2008.
  3. Reserve bank of Australia. Bulletin – December Quarter 2017 Ageing and Labour Supply in Advanced Economies. Available from:; last accessed 4 February 2020.


Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Remoteness Area

These estimates, from the Small Area Labour Markets - Australia data series [1], are based on the Structure Preserving Estimation (SPREE) methodology which enables the generation of small area unemployment, unemployment rate and labour force estimates. They differ from the figures both for people receiving an unemployment benefit (as different rules are applied to eligibility for a welfare payment) and being considered as unemployed in the official labour force statistics produced by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). The labour force estimates presented are based on the 'smoothed' data series where the data have been averaged over four quarters to minimise the variability inherent in small area estimates. The estimates presented are derived from two primary data sources:

  • Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Labour Force Survey data by Statistical Area Level 4; and
  • 2011 and 2016 Censuses of Population and Housing participation rate data at the SA2 level.


  1. Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business. Small Area Labour Markets - March quarter 2019. Available from:; last accessed 4 February 2020.

Additional notes

Note 1:  LGA data were provided on the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) 2021 Australian Statistical Geographical Standard (ASGS) and were converted to the ABS 2016 ASGS on which the data are published. Data provided by Statistical Area Level 2 (ASGS 2016) were aggregated to PHAs.

Note 2:  The Department notes with respect to these estimates: While the underlying methodology used to produce the small area estimates in SALM is robust for the vast majority of areas, in a small number of cases it can result in figures that do not accurately reflect labour market conditions within the region. As this is the case for the SA2 and LGA of Aurukun, these figures are not published.

Time series only: Quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Remoteness Area

The time series data were compiled from the ABS Census. Labour force participation data are comprised of persons aged 15 years and over who reported that they were either employed (part-time, full-time or away from work) or unemployed (looking for part-time or full-time work) in the week prior to Census night.


Geography:  Data available by Population Health Area, Local Government Area, Primary Health Network, Quintile of socioeconomic disadvantage of area and Remoteness Area


Numerator:  People aged 15 years and over participating in the labour force


Denominator:  People aged 15 years and over


Detail of analysis:  Per cent



PHA, LGA, PHN, Quintiles & Remoteness:  Compiled by PHIDU based on Small Area Labour Markets - Australia, Department of Employment, Skills, Small and Family Business, June Quarter 2020; and the ABS Estimated Resident Population, 30 June 2020.

Quintiles & Remoteness time series:  Compiled by PHIDU based on the ABS Census, 1986 or 2006 and 2016.


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