1.2 Demographic impacts

Youth

Young people are particularly vulnerable during large economic and labour market shocks, as they tend to have fewer skills and less experience than their prime-age counterparts. They are often the first to be retrenched and may face particular challenges regaining employment, like those who have never worked before, as they are often competing with more highly skilled job seekers.

While all cohorts were negatively affected by the pandemic, the youth cohort (persons aged 15–24) has been particularly hard‑hit, as this age group is overrepresented in industries that have been most severely affected by the impact of COVID-19.

Youth employment contracted sharply in the initial months of the pandemic, declining by 333,200 (or 17.1%) between March and May. Since then, however, youth employment has recovered somewhat, rising by 226,600 (or 14.1%), to 1,838,900 in October, although it is still 106,700 (or 5.5%) below the level recorded in March.

Youth have accounted for around 48% of the total decline in employment between March and October, despite comprising just 15% of the civilian population.

The decrease in youth employment between March and October has been due, in large part, to a fall of 70,400 (or 8.3%) in youth full-time employment, while part-time employment has declined by 37,700 (or 3.4%) over the period.

Along with the contraction in youth employment, the youth unemployment rate has increased from 11.6% in March 2020, to 15.6% in October. However, it remains below the recent peak of 16.4% recorded in June. This equates to an additional 81,900 young people becoming unemployed since March.

Figure 5: Youth unemployment rate and annual youth full-time employment growth, October 2008 to October 2020

 

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The decrease in youth employment between March and October has been due, in large part, to a fall of 70,400 (or 8.3%) in youth full-time employment, while part-time employment has declined by 37,700 (or 3.4%) over the period. Along with the contraction in youth employment, the youth unemployment rate has increased from 11.6% in March 2020, to 15.6% in October. However, it remains below the recent peak of 16.4% recorded in June. This equates to an additional 81,900 young people becoming unemployed since Marc

Source: ABS, Labour Force, Australia, October 2020, seasonally adjusted data.

Youth have also recorded the largest fall (in percentage terms) in actual hours worked of all age cohorts between March and October, declining by 11.3% over the period, compared with a fall of 7.3% for those aged 25–34, 5.9% for those aged 35–44, 7.9% for those aged 45–54, and 2.4% for those aged 55 and over.

Reflecting the decline in hours worked for young people, the youth underemployment rate also increased, from 19.1% in March, to a record high of 23.6% in April 2020, before declining to 17.9% in October. By comparison, the underemployment rate for all persons stood at 10.4% in October.

Gender impact

Employment trends by gender are now more mixed than they were in the initial months of the pandemic when women were particularly hard hit (see Table 2). This reflects, in large part, their overrepresentation in industries that were most severely affected by COVID-19, such as Accommodation and Food Services, and the fact that they were more likely to be employed on a casual basis, where job losses have been greater. Indeed, female employment fell sharply, by 470,500 (or 7.7%) between March and May, although male employment also decreased considerably, by 401,100 (or 5.9%).

Since then, female employment has recovered somewhat, increasing by 343,800 (or 6.1%) to 6,022,800 in October. Male employment also rose between May and October, by 304,600 (or 4.7%), to 6,751,100.

The significant increase of 118,800 in male employment in October alone has accounted for almost 40% of the rise in employment for men in the last 5 months.

While females comprised 47.1% of total employment in October, they accounted for 56.8% of the decrease in employment since March.

Full-time employment for women fell by 116,900 (or 3.5%) between March and October, while part-time employment decreased by 9,800 (or 0.3%). Over the same period, full-time employment for men declined by 110,800 (or 2.0%), while part-time employment increased by 14,300 (or 1.1%).

Table 2: Key labour market indicators by gender, October 2020

  October Change between March and October 2020 Change between March and May 2020 Change between May and October 2020
    (%) (‘000) (‘000) (%) (‘000) (%)
Female
Employment (‘000) 6022.8 -126.7 -2.1 -470.5 -7.7 343.8 6.1
Unemployment (‘000) 455.0 122.2 36.7 90.3 27.1 31.9 7.5
Unemployment rate (%) 7.0 - 1.9 pts - 1.8 pts - 0.1 pts
Participation rate (%) 61.0 - -0.2 pts - -3.6 pts - 3.4 pts
Underemployment (‘000) 761.2 72.6 10.5 170.7 24.8 -98.1 -11.4
Underemployment rate (%) 11.8 - 1.1 pts - 3.5 pts - -2.3 pts
Male              
Employment (‘000) 6751.1 -96.4 -1.4 -401.1 -5.9 304.6 4.7
Unemployment (‘000) 505.9 122.9 32.1 116.2 30.3 6.7 1.3
Unemployment rate (%) 7.0 - 1.7 pts - 1.9 pts - -0.2 pts
Participation rate (%) 70.8 - 0.0 pts - -2.9 pts - 2.9 pts
Underemployment (‘000) 663.6 144.7 27.9 329.6 63.5 -185.0 -21.8
Underemployment rate (%) 9.1 - 2.0 pts - 5.0 pts - -3.1 pts

Source: ABS, Labour Force, Australia, October 2020, seasonally adjusted data.

Note that changes in the table are calculated from more detailed data and may not match changes calculated manually from the figures.

Between March and May, 380,200 women left the labour force, pushing the female participation rate down by 3.6 percentage points, to 57.5% in May 2020, the lowest rate recorded since October 2006.

In line with the easing of restrictions, however, 375,700 women have re-entered the labour force since May, with the female participation rate increasing by 3.4 percentage points, to 61.0% in October, marginally below the 61.2% recorded in March, prior to the pandemic.

The initial decline in the labour force for men was slightly less stark, with 284,800 males leaving the labour force between March and May, resulting in a 2.9 percentage point decline in their participation rate, to 68.0%, the lowest rate on record. Since May, however, the male labour force has increased by 311,300, with the male participation rate rising by 2.9 percentage points to 70.8% in October, equal to the rate recorded in March.

Over the entire COVID-19 period (March to October), and reflecting movements in employment and changes in the participation rate, the female unemployment rate has risen by 1.9 percentage points, to 7.0% in October, while the male unemployment rate has increased by 1.7 percentage points to also stand at 7.0%.

Figure 6: Unemployment rate and participation rate by gender, October 2018 to October 2020

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This graph illustrates that women recorded a particularly large fall in hours worked between March and April, down by 12.0% (or 88.5 million hours), compared with a decline of 7.7% (or 80.5 million hours) for men.   Since April, hours worked for women have increased by 9.0% (or 58.5 million hours), compared with a rise of 4.4% (or 42.6 million hours) for men.   However, hours worked for women in October, remain 4.1% (or 30.0 million hours) lower than the level recorded in March, while hours worked for men a

Source: ABS, Labour Force, Australia, October 2020, seasonally adjusted data.

Women recorded a particularly large fall in hours worked between March and April, down by 12.0% (or 88.5 million hours), compared with a decline of 7.7% (or 80.5 million hours) for men.

Since April, hours worked for women have increased by 9.0% (or 58.5 million hours), compared with a rise of 4.4% (or 42.6 million hours) for men.

However, hours worked for women in October, remain 4.1% (or 30.0 million hours) lower than the level recorded in March, while hours worked for men are 3.6% (or 37.9 million hours) lower than in March.

There was a large increase in the number of men and women who worked fewer hours than usual (or no hours at all) for economic reasons (that is, there was no work, not enough work available or they were stood down) in the initial months of the pandemic. Indeed, between March and April, the number of women working fewer hours than usual (or no hours at all) for economic reasons increased by 687,400 (or 344.2%) to a record high of 887,100, compared with a rise of 627,500 (or 235.1%) for men, to 894,400, also a record high (see Figure 7).

Since April, however, there has been a greater decline in the number of women who worked fewer than their usual hours (or no hours at all) for economic reasons, down by 616,400 (or 69.5%) to 270,700 in October, compared with a fall of 490,900 (or 54.9%) for men, to 403,500.

Reflecting the significant decline in hours worked in the initial months of COVID-19, female underemployment increased by 243,400 (or 35.3%) between March and April, to a record high of 932,000, while male underemployment increased by 369,800 (or 71.3%), to 888,800, also a record high.

Since April, female underemployment has fallen by 170,800 (or 18.3%), to 761,200 in October. Male underemployment also declined between April and October, by 225,200 (or 25.3%), to 663,600.

Similarly, the underemployment rate for both women and men surged in the initial stages of the pandemic, to record highs of 15.0% and 12.6% respectively, in April.

Since April, however, the female underemployment rate has fallen to 11.8% in October 2020. The male underemployment rate also declined between April and October, to 9.1%.

The female underemployment rate has consistently tracked higher than the male underemployment rate. Since the onset of COVID-19, however, the gap between the male and female rates has narrowed, due to the significant decline in male full-time employment that occurred between March and September (as males accounted for around two-thirds of the decline in full-time employment over the period).

Full-time employment for males rebounded strongly in October, although it is too early to discern whether this trend will continue and the implications this may have for the size of the underemployment rate gap, going forward.

Figure 8: Underemployment rate by gender, October 2015 to October 2020

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This graph illustrates that the underemployment rate for both women and men surged in the initial stages of the pandemic, to record highs of 15.0% and 12.6% respectively, in April.   Since April, however, the female underemployment rate has fallen to 11.8% in October 2020. The male underemployment rate also declined between April and October, to 9.1%.   The female underemployment rate has consistently tracked higher than the male underemployment rate. Since the onset of COVID-19, however, the gap between th

Source: ABS, Labour Force, Australia, October 2020, seasonally adjusted data.