I have raised this issue before: Unemployment rate: fact or fiction? Then (2006) I noted: “I still am amazed that people like Howard can keep a straight face when they talk about the subject.” The Australia Institute has drawn attention to this again.
The criteria for “employment” include having worked for pay for ONE hour in the past week. See the Australian Bureau of Statistics for this and other criteria. These have not changed under the present government.
3.9 The definition of employment used in the Labour Force Survey aligns closely with the concepts and international definitions outlined above. Employed persons are defined as all persons 15 years of age and over who, during the reference week:
- worked for one hour or more for pay, profit, commission or payment in kind, in a job or business or on a farm (comprising employees, employers and own account workers); or
- worked for one hour or more without pay in a family business or on a farm (i.e. contributing family workers); or
- were employees who had a job but were not at work and were:
- away from work for less than four weeks up to the end of the reference week; or
- away from work for more than four weeks up to the end of the reference week and received pay for some or all of the four week period to the end of the reference week; or
- away from work as a standard work or shift arrangement; or
- on strike or locked out; or
- on workers’ compensation and expected to be returning to their job; or
- were employers or own-account workers, who had a job, business or farm, but were not at work.
However, it must be said that this highly unrealistic definition is in fact a basic standard set by the International Labour Organization. That I had not taken into account in my earlier entries.
Compare the US Bureau of Labor Statistics How the Government Measures Unemployment. The US figures are based on similar criteria to ours, except they start the count at age 16 and have a different attitude to family businesses.
…employed persons are:
- All persons who did any work for pay or profit during the survey week.
- All persons who did at least 15 hours of unpaid work in a family-owned enterprise operated by someone in their household.
- All persons who were temporarily absent from their regular jobs because of illness, vacation, bad weather, industrial dispute, or various personal reasons, whether or not they were paid for the time off.
From that site you can also get a useful and up-to-date international summary.
Nonetheless, The Australia Institute is quite right. Unemployment figures are a partial truth at best. Real experience is somewhat different.