More women and older men will be a big part of future Australian workplaces, while the ageing of the population in general will create new work opportunities, the Reserve Bank of Australia says.
The RBA forecasts the unemployment rate, which currently sits at 5.6 per cent, will fall to 5.25 per cent by mid 2019, according to its Statement on Monetary Policy, released on Friday.
Unemployment has remained around 5.5 to 5.6 per cent since mid-2017, with an increase in the participation rate – the number of people employed or looking for work – the cause of the jobless rate not falling.
In its latest statement the RBA has examined why the participation rate has risen – currently close to a record high at 65.5 per cent.
The bank says the increase is due to higher participation of women aged 25 to 54 and older men.
Women have been more likely to participate in paid work since the global financial crisis.
The RBA said factors driving the increase included changing perceptions of traditional gender roles, more flexible hours in full time work and increased availability of part time work.
‘The need to increase household income to manage household debt may also have contributed,’ it said.
Strong jobs growth in the healthcare and social assistance industries since mid-2016 was also likely to have encouraged more women into the workforce.
The number of people employed in healthcare and social assistance grew by more than 150,000 over the year to February 2018, accounting for more than one third of total employment growth over that period.
Healthcare and social assistance are more likely than other industries to attract workers from outside the labour force and almost half of workers entering healthcare jobs from outside the labour force were women aged 25 to 44.
At the same time, the strong labour market, a rise in the age at which workers can access the age pension and improved health of older people have also contributed to people staying longer in the workforce.
The age at which people can access the age pension was raised from 65 to 65.5 years in July, 2017.
Data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey indicated on average over 2014-16, fewer older people described themselves as being in poor health compared with 2001-03.
‘Older people who reported themselves as in good health were around twice as likely to participate in the labour force as those in poor health,’ the RBA said.