Inspired by this analysis of the jobs crisis in the US, I thought I’d have a look at how Australia compares to the US and Europe.

This chart shows the proportion of the working-age population that is in employment. [fn1] In many ways it gives you a clearer picture of what’s going on in the labour market than the participation rate, as you are counted as ‘participating’ if you’re unemployed but actively seeking work. Think of this as the employment rate, as opposed to the unemployment rate.


Over 72% of working age Australians have jobs, while less than 65% of Americans or Europeans are in work. We drew level with the US in 2005 and overtook them in 2007. The Great Recession has taken a horrible toll on employment in the US, while it was barely a blip here. The US employment-to-population ratio is converging with Europe’s after being 10 percentage points higher than the European rate at the start of the decade.

If you break it down by age, the employment-to-population ratio in Australia is either greater than or equal to the rate in Europe or the US for all age groups. The gap between Australia and the others is particularly large among the younger age groups.

Female employment, and employment of older women in particular, has gone up strongly over the past decade in Australia…

…while female employment has fallen for most age groups in the US…

…and the EU 15.

These are a few charts to remember the next time you read about our ineffective stimulus packages, or that nasty, job-destroying Fair Work Act.

[fn1] I compiled these charts using OECD data – labour force statistics by sex and age, available from OECD Stat.

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