Friday, March 19, 2010

Where we work now - it's not where you think

Forget all this talk about mining and building

We are rapidly transforming ourselves from a nation of shopkeepers to a nation of health workers and aged carers.

The latest quarterly breakdown of the industries in which we work, eagerly awaited for clues as to what's driving our latest spurt of jobs growth contains news of another longer-lasting trend.

Twice in the past year the sector known as "health and social assistance" has pipped "retail" to become Australia's biggest employing industry.

Providing jobs to 1.2 million Australians, compared to retail's 1.18 million, it now employs 1 in every 9 Australians.

Within the sector the fastest-growing type of work is aged care, now employing up a record 205,000 Australians, up from 163,000 just a year before.

"It will keep getting bigger"... says labour market specialist Mark Wooden of the Melbourne Institute.

"The entire sector will one day account for 1 in every 2 workers."

"Go back a century and only 1 in 35 Australians worked in health and aged care. But whereas we have been able to automate other industries, it's hard to automate this one."

Retail employment has grown roughly in line with population, but health and aged care employment has grown far faster, doubling in a little over 20 years.

"There was a time when 1 in 2 of us worked in agriculture," says Professor Wooden. "It's now about 1 in 30 - a tiny amount - yet we are making more food than ever."

"It's a similar story with manufacturing which used to employ 1 in 4 Australians - we have found ways to make things using fewer people. To some extent we will be able to use expensive technologies to do that in health, but in the rest of the caring sector about the only way to provide more is to employ more people."

The Treasury's Intergenerational Report has the proportion of Australians aged over 65 jumping from 13 per cent to 23 per cent in the next four decades. The proportion aged over 85 will jump from 2 per cent to 5 per cent.

"It is driven by demographics, no doubt about that," said Professor Wooden. "But it also driven by increasing wealth. The richer we get the more we are prepared to spend buying good health and aged care. We are prepared to do it both through the welfare state, by paying more tax, and also privately by buying better services."

"Many people think that it is only poor societies that spend big on welfare, it is actually the other way around".

The employment breakdown also confirms that the bulk of the new jobs created in the past three months have been in the construction industry, many resulting from government stimulus measures. Construction provided half of the new full-time jobs in NSW and two-thirds in Victoria.

By occupation, the employment of managers fell 9,000 and professionals 3,000. However the employment of tradespeople grew 33,000; machinery operators 10,000 and labourers 15,000.

The construction-heavy boost to jobs meant that all but 2,000 of the 96,000 net new jobs went to men.

In a sign the sector is now running short of men to do the work the number of male labourers working more than 60 hours per week climbed to its highest point in more than seven years.

Long-term unemployment continued to climb reflecting earlier job losses.

Our New Top Ten

'000 workers

1197.5 Health and social assistance
1182.1 Retail
1002.3 Manufacturing
995.4 Construction
856.0 Professional and scientific
796.1 Education and training
730.3 Accommodation and food
681.4 Public administration & safety
556.6 Transport and postal
432.7 Wholesale
418.5 Financial and insurance

Our lesser employers:

391.9 Administrative support
359.9 Agriculture
208.5 Information and communications
200.5 Arts and recreation
174.5 Mining
164.2 Real Estate and rental
134.0 Electricity, gas, water

ABS 6291.0.55.003

Published in today's SMH and Age

Related Posts

. The real intergenerational change

. Today's Intergenerational Report - don't let it get to you

. Welcome back... to the biggest "return to work" in 20 years