While unemployment has grabbed headlines by hitting 6 per cent, underemployment is quietly rising as well.
Bureau of Statistics figures released earlier this month show that the unemployment rate hit 6 per cent in January for the first time in more than a decade.
However, while the ABS estimates 717,700 people who wanted work could not find it last month, there are even more people in work wanting more hours.
The Bureau’s Underemployed Workers Survey of September 2013, released today, found that around 875,000 people were underemployed – 817,200 generally worked part-time and both wanted and were available to work more hours, while 58,000 usually worked full-time but had seen their hours cut in the reference week for the survey.
Overall, the ABS found 26 per cent of part-time workers wanted to work more hours, up from 24 per cent in both September 2012 and 2011.
The survey reveals 90 per cent of those part-timers who would like to work more are available to do so, while more than half of the part-time staff wanting more hours would like to work full-time.
Most of the employees who would like to work longer hours would prefer to stay with their current employer.
“Over half (58 per cent) would prefer to stay with their current employer, 27 per cent want a change and 15 per cent did not have a preference,” said the Bureau’s director of Labour Force Stephen Collett.
While underemployment was highest in the 20-24-year-old age group, as with unemployment which has been rising steeply amongst young people, a shortage of working hours tended to last longer for older people.
“Older workers are continuing to experience longer periods of underemployment, 40 weeks for those aged 45-54, and 52 weeks for those aged 55 and over,” noted Mr Collett.
That is against an average of 26 weeks for 15-19-year-olds and 34 weeks for those aged 35-44.
However, the length of underemployment for those younger groups have grown by between 4-5 weeks over the past year.