25 June 2013

The lucky country: Australia’s labour market progress since 1992

At this time in 1992 I had just turned 26 and was in my second year as a temp recruiter at Recruitment Solutions in the Sydney CBD with a remuneration structure of $35,000 base plus team commission. We had moved offices from 50 Margaret St to 275 George St and for the first time I had a computer on my desk. My largest client was Bankers Trust and I suspect I was probably running about 15 jobs on average (500 hours per week). I was a long way off being a successful recruiter. 

My personal life had little to report as I was still paying off my student travel loan (interest rates on non-mortgage loans were then about 10%) and had no excess money. I was renting a small unrenovated terrace in Hunters Hill with my best friend, Scott. I had no car, no girlfriend and little social life. My only regular entertainment was going along to the SCG with Scott see the Sydney Swans get thrashed on a regular basis.  

Ross Clennett, Recruitment Solutions, 1992Oh, and I had hair then (see picture, right). 

Australia was in a very different place then. Just coming out of the recession, average residential house prices in Sydney ($183,300) and Melbourne ($125,000) still hadn’t recovered sufficiently from the housing bust of late 1990. In fact Brisbane’s average 1992 house price ($129,000) was higher than Melbourne’s (and this remained the case until 1998).  

The labour market was a vastly different place as well. 

Here’s some interesting comparative twenty year data just released by the ABS that I thought was worth sharing with you: 
 
Area
1992
2012
Change
Aus population aged 15 plus
13.61 million
18.61 million
+44%
Labour force participation
 
males
74.2%
71.8%
-2.4 percentage points
females
51.9%
58.8%
+6.9 percentage points
persons
62.9%
65.2%
+3.3 percentage points
Employment
 
males
4.41 million
6.25 million
+42%
females
3.23 million
5.25 million
+63%
persons
7.64 million
11.5 million
+51%
Unemployment (thousands)
 
males
566.2 (11.4%)
339.9 (5.2%)
-40%
females
358.9 (10.0%)
295.4 (5.3%)
-18%
persons
925.1 (10.8%)
635.3 (5.2%)
-31%
Average hours worked per week
 
full time workers
40.8
38.8
-2.0 hours (4.9%)
part time workers
15.0
16.1
+1.1 hours (7.3%)
Industrial disputes
 
working days lost per 1,000 employees
147.1
26.7
-82%
working days lost
941,100
273,200
-71%
trade union members as a proportion of all employees
39.6%
18.2%
-21.4 percentage points
Average weekly earnings (full time adult)
 
male
$933
$1491
+60%
female
$789
$1230
+56%
Job vacancies (trend estimates, thousands) 
 
 
 
private sector
28.3
153
+446%
public sector
7.2
12.2
+69%
 

Despite the past six to nine months being very challenging for the recruitment industry, as a whole the opportunities are still enormous for modern-day recruiters when you consider the Australian labour market is just over fifty per cent bigger than it was twenty years ago and the number of vacancies is nearly four times higher. 

In my first year as a recruiter in Australia I was part of a consultant roster for the reception desk during our receptionist’s lunch hour (our second receptionist was made redundant), all the rented pot plants were sent back, office drinks were BYO and all staff accepted a base salary cut. 

Things might look tough right now but it’s a picnic in the park compared to 1992. 

There’s a lot to be positive about right now. 

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