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Paid Work

Desired Outcomes

Everybody has access to meaningful, rewarding and safe employment. An appropriate balance is maintained between paid work and other aspects of life.


Paid work has an important social role. It provides people with incomes to meet their basic needs and to contribute to their material comfort, and it gives them options for how they live their lives. Paid work is also important for the social contact and sense of self-worth or satisfaction it can give people.

The desired outcomes highlight four aspects of paid work: access to work, the financial return from work, the safety of the working environment and the balance between work and other areas of life.

Access to work and the financial return from work are related to the preformance of the economy. A strong economy creates opportunities for people to work and generates income to increase workers' pay.

For most people, income from paid work is the main factor determining their material standard of living. On average, about two-thirds of total household income is derived directly from labour market income.55 Income saved during their working life contributes to the standard of living of many retired people.

The social and personal dimensions of paid work are both important. Meeting challenges at work can contribute to a sense of satisfaction and self-worth. Paid work is more likely to be satisfying where people can find employment to match their skills and abilities.

For many people, much of their social contact is through their jobs. People often gain a sense of belonging or identity from their jobs, identifying themselves and others because of the organisation they work for or the type of work they do.

Conversely, unemployment can isolate people from society and cause them to lose self-confidence. Unemployment is associated with poorer mental and physical health, and lower levels of satisfaction with life.56

The quality of work is critically important. A meaningful job can enhance people’s satisfaction with their work. An unsafe job, on the other hand, places people’s wellbeing at risk.

Work can also be stressful. People may be required to work longer hours than they want to or need to. The desired outcomes acknowledge the importance of maintaining a balance between paid work and other aspects of life including spending time with the family, taking part in leisure and recreational activities, and doing unpaid work such as housework and voluntary work. Where that balance lies will differ from person to person.


Five indicators are used in this chapter. They are: the unemployment rate, the employment rate, median hourly earnings, workplace injury claims and satisfaction with work-life balance.

Together, these indicators present a picture of people’s access to employment, the financial rewards from employment, the safety of employment and the balance between work and other areas of life.

The first indicator is the unemployment rate. The unemployment rate measures the proportion of the total labour force who are without a paid job, who are available for work and who are either actively seeking work or who are about to start a new job. This is a relatively narrow measure of unemployment but it accords closely with the OECD standard measure, allowing international comparisons. Information about long-term unemployment is also provided.

The second indicator is the employment rate. The employment rate provides an alternative picture of people’s access to paid work. It is influenced not only by the amount of work available but also by trends in labour force participation. The indicator measures the proportion of the working-age population aged 15–64 years employed for one hour or more a week. Information is provided on the breakdown between full-time and part-time employment. The employment rate complements the unemployment rate as an indicator. The employment rate can be affected by factors including changes in the number of discouraged workers who are not employed but who are not actively seeking work and changes to the working-age population.

Both the unemployment and the employment rates are affected by several factors, including economic conditions, migration flows, people’s qualifications and abilities, and their decisions on whether to undertake paid work.

The third indicator measures median hourly earnings from waged and salaried employment. The level of financial return from paid employment independent of the number of hours worked is central to the quality of paid work.

The fourth indicator is the rate of workplace injury claims per 1,000 full-time equivalent employees. Workplace safety is important in its own right, but may also be a proxy for the quality of employment. Jobs should not pose an unreasonable risk to people’s lives or physical wellbeing.

The final indicator measures the proportion of the population in paid employment who are satisfied with their work-life balance.