Stand back – working women coming through

By Michael Pascoe


Mark 2017 down as the year of the working women’s surge: Females accounted for the majority of the sharp 403,000 rise in employment, entering more full-time jobs than males.

And that was only one of the mileposts passed in the latest labour force statistics.

For the first time, the gap between the male and female employment-to-population ratios fell below 10 per cent – 67 per cent for men, 57.3 per cent for women, which is the highest such figure for women ever.

The female unemployment rate in New South Wales, the employment boom state, dropped to just 4.2 per cent seasonally adjusted last month – the lowest in the 40 years of Australian Bureau of Statistics monthly labour force numbers. And that 4.2 per cent compared with a male NSW unemployment rate of 5.3 per cent.


Nationally, women grabbed 238,900 of the extra jobs in 2017, while men took 164,100. Of the extra full-time jobs, 156,800 went to women and 146,500 to men.

Despite women shouldering a disproportionate share of child and parental care load, taking most of the parental leave, studying more and retiring earlier, the employment gap between the sexes is only 752,400. There were 6,596,600 men in work, and 5,844,200 women.

But the biggest gap remains, well, big. The proportion of working men employed full-time is 82 per cent, compared with 54 per cent of working women.

It can be a mistake to read too much into one month’s seasonally adjusted figures. For example, the ABS would have us believe Victoria’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate jumped from 5.5 per cent in November to 6.1 per cent in December – a movement large enough to need a grain of salt.

Victoria’s male seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate soared from 4.8 per cent to 6 per cent in the month. Probably not.

Looking at the trend then over latter months throws up an interesting contrast between employment in our two most populous states. While women have been steadily gaining the employment upper hand north of the Murray, female unemployment was higher than that of males all last year in the south – and often by a significant margin, averaging 0.8 percentage points.

And the gap between Victoria’s male and female employment-to-population ratio remains in the double figures, 67.8 to 57.1.

The national seasonally adjusted female participation rate, 60.6 per cent, is the highest ever while the male rate of 71 per cent is the best it’s been since November 2015, but below what it averaged for that year.

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