The “typical” Australian works full-time and has been in the same job for three to five years, Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows.
But there’s a lot going on in the modern workforce that’s not captured in such a simple portrait — including the rise of part-time work.
‘Typical’ man and woman both work full-time
The typical Australian woman works full-time and earns $1,341 a week.
She is aged between 25 and 34 and works in healthcare in the private sector at a professional level.
She has been in the job for three to five years and works between 35 to 39 hours a week and has a bachelor’s degree.
Like his female counterpart, the typical Australian man also works full-time but earns $1,605 per week.
He is also aged between 25 and 34 but works in construction as a technician or tradie, and has a certificate III/IV level qualification.
Working between 40 and 44 hours a week, he has also been in his job for three to five years.
These profiles represent the most common characteristics of men and women workers in Australia. But “typical” profiles don’t tell the full story.
More men are working part-time than used to be the case
The number of people working part-time has been growing slowly over the past decade and now represents one-third of the employed workforce.
Women make up about two-thirds of the part-time workforce and just under half of all working women are part-timers, a proportion that has not changed in a decade.
But the proportion of men who work part-time has been growing year-on-year, with nearly one in five now in the workforce part-time.
Women still earn less than men
Mean earnings for women still lag men by $119 a week in all jobs, though for part-time workers, women are paid more than men.
Women who work part-time work longer hours than male part-timers — 56 per cent work more than 20 hours a week, compared with 52 per cent of men.
Mining is the industry that pays workers the highest median wage ($2019 a week), while accommodation and food services industry workers earn the lowest median wage ($500 a week).
Is the workforce still being ‘casualised’?
Contrary to concerns that the workforce is becoming more “casualised”, the proportion of employees who are casuals, now at 25 per cent, is broadly similar to the 2005 rate of 27 per cent.
The ABS defines workers who do not have paid leave entitlements as the best measure of a casual job.
The Labour Force Survey shows that the big rise in casual employment happened in the early 1990s, but it has been relatively stable since.
The most recent quarterly jobs data (for February this year) has the rate of casual employees steady at 24.7 per cent.
Not surprisingly, the 15-year-old to 19-year-old age group has the biggest proportion of casual employees — three in four are employed casually.
But around 17 per cent of those aged 35 to 60 are employed in casual jobs; that’s around 830,000 people.
And casuals are not just working in jobs with part-time hours — 28 per cent are working more than 35 hours a week.
The data shows that most see their pay varying from one week to the next and 60 per cent do not have guaranteed minimum hours each week.
But casuals are not necessarily keen to escape their jobs: 80 per cent expected to still be working for their current employer in a year.
Contractors rising and union members falling
There are 1.028 million contractors working in Australia, an increase of 16,000 on 2015.
Contractors are mainly aged between 45 and 54, and 30 per cent of them work in construction.
Far from being a short-term proposition, 71 per cent of contractors have been with the same employer for three years or more.
At the same time, union membership has fallen to an all-time low of 13 per cent of the working population.
The majority are over the age of 45 and concentrated in teaching, the industry with the highest union representation at 31 per cent.
Union membership is higher, and falling more slowly, among women than men, reflecting the high concentration of women unionists in education and health.
One in five Tasmanians are union members, at least a third higher than any other state.
Note: Data comes from the ABS’s latest annual Characteristics of Employment survey.