The economic status of older Indigenous Australians

Author/editor: Daly, A
Year published: 1994
Issue no.: 66


This paper uses data from the 1986 and 1991 Censuses to describe the position of older Indigenous people, those over 50 years of age, in the labour market. Older Indigenous people had markedly lower levels of education than other Australians in this age group. They were also less likely to be in employment and more likely to be unemployed or outside the labour force than their counterparts among other Australians. Those in employment were found mainly in public administrative and community services and were in low skilled occupations. These characteristics were reflected in their lower median incomes than other Australians. However, in comparing 1986 and 1991 Census results for this age group, there were some positive signs. The share of Indigenous people over 50 years of age with no schooling declined and the share in employment increased. There was also evidence of a relative decline in the importance of labouring as an occupation. These positive signs were not, however, reflected in an improvement in the income status of older Indigenous people relative to other older Australians. A mid-term review of the Aboriginal Employment Development Policy (AEDP) has recently been completed. While much of the associated policy rhetoric and assessment of policy outcomes has been aimed at the national level, the fiscal environment in which AEDP goals are to be achieved is invariably one of regional labour markets and administrative systems operating in the economic context of States and Territories. In view of this reality, this paper responds to a need for regional-level analyses of change in the economic status of Indigenous people compared to that of non-Indigenous people in each State and Territory. Using 1986 and 1991 Census-based social indicators for the Northern Territory, attention is focused on relative shifts in population growth and intra-State distribution, labour force and income status, and levels of welfare dependency (measured as non-employment income). A major finding is that while the gap in labour force status between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people has narrowed, the relative income status and level of welfare dependency of Indigenous people has worsened. This suggests that increased emphasis on the quality of AEDP outcomes, and not just quantity, will be necessary if the overall aims of the AEDP are to be accomplished.

ISBN: 0 7315 1740 7

ISSN:1036 1774

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