I have been unemployed since late October 2011. As my husband is working, I could be considered as withdrawn from the labour force or at best have a marginal attachment to the labour force.

What have I been doing to find employment?

1) I signed up to SEEK, uploaded a current Resume (I amended this regularly); did job searches based on key words and saved them to job alerts (that is, I was sent a daily email listing current job vacancies based on my key words). I could save and apply for any jobs listed and a record of my activity would be kept on my SEEK account.

2) Jobs & Careers - Simply Hired AustraliaSimply Hired is purely a job search engine and I could get regular job alerts based on my key words.

3) JobsJobsJobs LogoJobsJobsJobs an online jobs board for Australian job seekers. I discovered this site fairly recently so never really became familiar with it. You can become a member and set-up alerts based on key word searches.

I don’t know if it’s my clumsy key word terms or a lack in the various job search systems but often I found jobs listed were not anywhere near my area of expertise – a regular source of frustration.

4) Ethical Jobs: a job-search site for people who want to “work for a better world”.  It lists community jobs, environmental jobs, not-for-profit jobs and ethical business jobs that contribute to a more equitable, more just or more sustainable world. Here I signed up to their weekly jobs vacant email and browsed the list. I often found jobs of interest but often they were part-time or offering lower wages than I was prepared to work for, one of the on-going issues of working in the community sector.

5) ourcommunities: jobs in the community (not-for-profit). I received the weekly job alert and browsed the list. This was a little haphazard but sometimes there’d be a job listed of interest but usually I didn’t apply for the same reasons above – part-time and lower wages.

6) SmartJobs: a Government run job search also sending email alerts based on key word searches. I applied for a couple of jobs here. The recruitment and selection process takes a long time. I applied for one job in early February and only found out that I was unsuccessful in early April. I’m still waiting to hear about a couple of others but I’m guessing they don’t want to interview me.

7) LinkedIn became another source. I updated my profile with the aim of showing off my best skills and knowledge; searched for groups in my area of expertise and connected with people living in my area; searched for jobs in my field and saved them so I could receive regular emails. I didn’t send my profile to any of my connections but I did email someone I knew of and met with her to discuss availability of jobs in my sector. She was very approachable and offered me some insights into the employment situation in Brisbane, especially if I wanted to become a consultant.

8) Recruitment Agencies (TalentPath; Davidson Recruitment; PureSource Recruitment; PAXUS; ExclaimIT): In the first instance I would often see a job posted on SEEK by an agency, respond to the add and then hear nothing. With a job I applied for at TalentPath, something in the ad prompted me to call. I spoke to a recruiter who seemed to be on the ball and organised to meet with her. We had a chat about my skills, knowledge and experience, I gave her my resume and she put forward my resume to one or two employers. Nothing. She asked that I keep in touch (about once a week or fortnight). Still nothing. I thought recruitment agencies were there to find a job for you! TalentPath say what they’ll do for candidates:

We value the opportunity to build partnerships with HR Professionals. At Talentpath we offer you more than a list of jobs. We provide up to date market information. We create opportunities for you to build networks with peers in your field. We will exceed your expectations and invest in a long term partnership where you can measure the benefits.

Initially I felt quite happy with the agent but received nothing like the above stated service.

8) My resume became a work in progress document. I spent sometime on SEEK looking at their tips and hints for successful cover letter and resume writing. One of the example cover letters became the starting point of most of my cover letters. I re-formatted my resume where on the first page I removed all personal information (address and contact information were included in the header/footer) and listed a summary (read achievements) of the kind of work I’ve been doing in past jobs. I then listed all past jobs but the two most recent were listed in detail. I included all volunteer work as I have learned a lot from those experiences. Jobs prior to the most recent two were shortened to dates and job role. Importantly, referees were removed and replaced with “referees provided on request”.

The jobs I applied for were mostly within the vocational education and training sector with job roles being training and development (coordinator, manager, etc). The job I successfully acquired falls outside the VET sector – I now work in an ethical job – a union. Below is a chart of jobs I applied for (from November 2011 to April 2012):

Over that period I applied for at least 17 jobs. SEEK was the predominant source of job vacancies. Of the 17 jobs I applied for, 10 responded to either let me know they had received my application or to let me know I was unsuccessful, or both. Two jobs invited me to interview and one offered me a job.

In all the years of my work life it has never taken me this long to find a job. I have always seen myself as highly employable with a depth and breadth of skills, knowledge and experience employers find attractive. It’s hard to say what the problem could have been and I’m not going to worry about that here.

Following is some general information on employment, unemployment and underemployment:

Unemployment is defined as those people who are without jobs and they have actively sought work within the past four weeks.

From 1978 to 2010, Australia’s unemployment rate averaged 7.11% reaching an historical high of 10.90% in December 1992 and a record low of 4% in February 2008.

The labour force is defined as the number of people employed plus the number of unemployed who are seeking work. The non-labour force includes those who are not looking for work, those who are institutionalised and those serving in the military.

The unemployment rate in Australia as reported in March 2012 was 5.2%. Below is an illustration of Australia’s unemployment rate:

Australia Unemployment Rate

The above is fine as it is but I’ve been wondering about underemployment or hidden unemployment.

Underemployment is defined as employed people who want, and are available for, more hours of work than they currently have. Those who are underemployed are, generally speaking, minority groups such as the disabled, women, Aboriginal people and people leaving school before completing Year 12.

It’s interesting to me that essentially I belonged to the underemployed group although I’m unsure that someone like me is counted, especially when underemployment data collected by the ABS comes from their Labour Force Survey and the Survey of Underemployed Workers. What does concern me is that while the official figure of 5.2% unemployment looks good, when one includes the hidden unemployment data  the unemployment rate would be approximately double.

ACOSS published research in 2002 on hidden unemployment and suggested that while the current rate of unemployment then was 6.3% if the hidden unemployment rate was included the figure rose to 12.9%. According to Roy Morgan research the current (as at March 2012) unemployment  figure is 9.3% compared to the official 5.2% rate. If the underemployment rate is included the unemployment rate rises to 17.2% or 2.08 million people.

What solutions there may be to reduce underemployment or hidden unemployment seem scarce, however, one solution, I discovered, with potential, is to abolish the payroll tax which directly inhibits employment, this post asks: “what is the point of taxing employment?” Also, it offers the idea of withdrawing the capital gains tax, company tax and family trusts. I have no idea of the validity of such an idea but it does seem plausible/possible?

Let me know your thoughts. Very interested to know of other ideas that could help decrease the hidden unemployment problem.