Source: The Australian, Tuesday, 16 December, 1997, p.3

Change rocks the
pattern of stability

By economics correspondent IAN HENDERSON 
   JUST how tough it is for the 
unemployed to find work has 
again been confirmed in this 
groundbreaking study of the 
labour market in the late 1990s. 
   Much popular comment has 
highlighted the difficulties faced 
by young people looking for a 
   But the Australian Bureau of 
Statistics' first survey of 
employment and unemployment 
patterns has thrown the spotlight 
on a second disadvantaged group: 
middle-aged job seekers who are 
more often than not the key 
breadwinners for households. 
   Almost one in five unem- 
ployed, underemployed-and dis- 
couraged 45 to 59-year-old job 
seekers spent the two years, from 
late 1994 until late 1996, 
unsuccessfully looking for work. 
   That finding should reinforce 
policy-makers' efforts to back up 
a comprehensive effort to boost 
job creation with widely 
available opportunities for 
retraining and generous income 
   But the ABS has also uncovered 
a second, probably more 
surprising feature of the labour 
market at the end of the 
millennium: job stability has 
been replaced by constant 
change. From May 1995 to May 
1996, almost one in five of the 
875,000 job seekers spent 
the time either switching 
between periods of looking for 
work or periods in work. 
   And finding a job was not the 
end of the game. Half the job 
seekers of early 1995 were 
working by late 1996-but 22 
per cent of those employed were 
again on the lookout for a new 
   Some who found one of the less 
secure jobs - part-time, 
casual or short-term - were 
teenagers simply looking for a 
start or some ready cash but 
many were more advanced in 
their labour market experience. 
   That discovery probably defies 
the picture and the hope most 
people have built up of a stable 
work pattern. But it is 
undoubtedly one that must be 
assimilated by policy-makers, 
teachers and advisers planning 
for the future -for which the 
only assumption worth making 
is that times will remain tough 
for job seekers.

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