Interesting analysis from Matt Cowgill at the ACTU, which adds to the argument that, when it comes to explaining what is happening in the jobs market, IR laws are at best only a part of the story.
In its latest Economic Bulletin, the peak union body argues that the ageing of the population has accounted for much of the decline in the participation rate in recent years.
The reason? The preponderance of people aged 65 years or older in the general population has increased sharply as the Baby Boomer generation ages, and workforce participation among this age group is typically low.
Although their participation rate has picked up of late, it is not enough to outweigh the general decline in the proportion of workers that is going on because of population ageing.
Add in soft employment growth among the young (aged 15 to 24 years) and an increased preference for undertaking tertiary study.
A chart on p2 of the ACTU report that breaks down changes in the participation rate by age group highlights the fact that almost all the action is occurring among those at the very beginning and at the very end of their working lives. Between late 2010 and mid 2013, the participation rate among 15 to 19 year-olds fell 2.1 per cent, and among 20 to 24 year-olds it dropped 0.9 per cent. By contrast, among those 60 to 64 years it rose 1.3 per cent, and by 1.4 per cent among those 65 years and older. For the age groups in the middle, the variation in change was between minus 0.6 per cent and plus 0.2 per cent.
An interesting counter-point to the argument that blames changes to IR laws by the Gillard Government for the participation rate decline.