WHS and mental health in Australia

Australia continues to perform well in many measures of wellbeing including health, environmental quality and civic engagement but according to the latest biennial report from the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing (AIHW) we don’t do as well when it comes to other key measures such as ‘work-life balance’.

‘Australia’s Welfare 2017 shows that while we have made some inroads into achieving work-life balance. We are still among the bottom third of OECD countries when it comes to working long hours,’ said AIHW director and chief executive officer Barry Sandison.

In 2015, 20% of men and 7% of women in paid employment worked 50 hours or more per week, down from 26% and 8%, respectively, in 2004. However, this still places Australia at 27th in the OECD (out of 35 countries).

“Perhaps of more significance is that it is not the number of hours worked that matters but whether these hours accord with an individual’s work preferences,” said Sandison.

‘The report illustrates that regardless of the number of hours worked, if an individual’s preferences did not align with their working hours, they reported lower levels of satisfaction and poorer mental health than individuals whose preferences aligned with their working hours.”

‘This was true for both underemployed and overemployed workers,’ Mr Sandison said.

The welfare workforce (which includes childcare services, aged carers and disability workers) has also grown. In 2015, 478,000 people were employed in the welfare workforce, up 84% since 2005. The rate of growth of the welfare workforce was four times that of the total Australian workforce over this period.

‘On top of this, there are 2.7 million informal carers in Australia—or 1 in every 9 of us. Informal care is now the most common form of support for older Australians,’ Sandison said.

The report also showed that, overall, education was still the backbone of good employment prospects, with jobs becoming more highly skilled, increasing the demand for a more qualified workforce.

‘In 2016, people with higher levels of educational attainment were more likely to be employed—more than 80% of people with a non-school qualifications were employed, compared with 54% of people whose highest qualification was Year 10 or below,” Sandison said.

According the report, this rate has been fairly stable for those with higher qualifications however people with lower levels of educational attainment were less likely to be employed in 2016 than they were in 2008.

Even with higher levels of education, it is taking longer for university graduates to find full-time work. In 2008, 85% of graduates were working full-time within four months of graduating compared to 71% in 2016.

“Australia’s Welfare, a flagship biennial report from the Institute, brings together a valuable national commentary on key areas of welfare in Australia,” said Sandison.


Back to blog