Publication Date

January 2004

Publication Details

O'Brien, M, Hidden Unemployment and Older Male Workers, Working Paper 04-02, Department of Economics, University of Wollongong, 2004.


A number of policy reforms have recently been announced by the Commonwealth government to encourage greater labour force participation by older people in the context of an ageing society. These policy reforms are generally supply side in orientation such as the removal of the Mature Age Allowance, or restrictions to the Disability Support Pension. In this paper it is argued that these pensions have historically been used to accommodate otherwise unemployed older male workers. A number of methods are used to quantify the level of hidden unemployment within the older male population over recent decades. Estimates of adjusted unemployment rates, which include hidden as well as official unemployment, reveal a very dramatic picture of unutilised older male labour beneath relatively modest official unemployment rates. It is argued that without complementary employment policy addressing the labour demand side these policy reforms will achieve little except to reveal the previously high levels of hidden unemployment in official unemployment statistics.