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Unemployment and Skills in Australia

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  • James Vickery

    (Reserve Bank of Australia)

Abstract

In Australia, as in many other countries, labour-market groups with higher skill levels generally enjoy lower unemployment rates. This paper investigates why this might be the case, whether this is a recent phenomenon, and whether declining demand for unskilled labour, perhaps coupled with wage inflexibility, is an important explanation for the observed increase in the Australian unemployment rate over the past three decades. We find that relative demand shifts towards skilled labour are not an important determinant of the increase in overall unemployment. The shift in demand towards skilled labour has been matched by an equivalent shift in labour supply, leaving the structure of relative unemployment rates across skill groups fairly stable. Unemployment of both skilled and unskilled labour has increased, but this appears to be for reasons unrelated to relative demand shifts across skill groups. We also discuss possible reasons for the pervasively higher unemployment rates of less-skilled workers, drawing on data on individuals from the Survey of Employment and Unemployment Patterns (SEUP). We find that the high unskilled unemployment rate is associated with a higher exit probability from employment relative to skilled workers (a high ‘separation rate’), and a lower probability of finding employment from non-employment (a low ‘matching rate’).

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Paper provided by Reserve Bank of Australia in its series RBA Research Discussion Papers with number rdp1999-12.

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Date of creation: Dec 1999
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Handle: RePEc:rba:rbardp:rdp1999-12

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Keywords: unemployment; skills;

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References

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  1. Gregory, R G, 1993. "Aspects of Australian and U.S. Living Standards: The Disappointing Decades 1970-1990," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 69(204), pages 61-76, March.
  2. Layard, Richard & Nickell, Stephen & Jackman, Richard, 2005. "Unemployment: Macroeconomic Performance and the Labour Market," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199279173, September.
  3. Dinardo, J.E. & Pischke, J.S., 1996. "The Returns to Computer Use Revisited: Have Pencils Changed the Wage Structure Too?," Working papers 96-12, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  4. Adrian Wood, 1995. "How Trade Hurt Unskilled Workers," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 57-80, Summer.
  5. Debelle, Guy & Vickery, James, 1998. "Is the Phillips Curve a Curve? Some Evidence and Implications for Australia," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 74(227), pages 384-98, December.
  6. Eli Berman & John Bound & Stephen Machin, 1998. "Implications Of Skill-Biased Technological Change: International Evidence," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 113(4), pages 1245-1279, November.
  7. Pissarides, Christopher A, 1994. "Search Unemployment with On-the-Job Search," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 61(3), pages 457-75, July.
  8. Akerlof, George A & Yellen, Janet L, 1990. "The Fair Wage-Effort Hypothesis and Unemployment," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 105(2), pages 255-83, May.
  9. Gordon de Brouwer, 1998. "Estimating Output Gaps," RBA Research Discussion Papers rdp9809, Reserve Bank of Australia.
  10. Dale T. Mortensen & Christopher A. Pissarides, 1993. "Job Creation and Job Destruction in the Theory of Unemployment," CEP Discussion Papers dp0110, Centre for Economic Performance, LSE.
  11. Shapiro, Carl & Stiglitz, Joseph E, 1984. "Equilibrium Unemployment as a Worker Discipline Device," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 74(3), pages 433-44, June.
  12. John Tyler & Richard J. Murnane & Frank Levy, 1995. "Are Lots of College Graduates Taking High School Jobs? A Reconsiderationof the Evidence," NBER Working Papers 5127, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  13. Foster, W F & Gregory, R G, 1982. "The Contribution of Employment Separation to Teenage Unemployment," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 58(161), pages 118-33, June.
  14. McCormick, Barry, 1990. "A Theory of Signalling during Job Search, Employment Efficiency, and "Stigmatised" Jobs," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 57(2), pages 299-313, April.
  15. Guy Debelle & Troy Swann, 1998. "Stylised Facts of the Australian Labour Market," RBA Research Discussion Papers rdp9804, Reserve Bank of Australia.
  16. Richard B. Freeman, 1995. "Are Your Wages Set in Beijing?," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 9(3), pages 15-32, Summer.
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Cited by:
  1. Steven Kennedy & David Hedley, 2003. "A Note on Educational Attainment and Labour Force Participation in Australia," Treasury Working Papers 2003-03, Treasury, Australian Government, revised Nov 2003.
  2. Peter Dawkins, 2000. "The Australian Labour Market in the 1990s," RBA Annual Conference Volume, in: David Gruen & Sona Shrestha (ed.), The Australian Economy in the 1990s Reserve Bank of Australia.

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