Here, analysis is provided on employment of the Northern Territory's (NT) Aboriginal working age population in comparison to the non-Aboriginal working age population. This includes the results and changes of employment, unemployment and participation rates between the 2011 and 2016 Censuses. The NT's position and performance is compared across the jurisdictions and Australia. The NT Government has adopted the term Aboriginal instead of Indigenous, as Aboriginal includes Torres Strait Islanders as well.
Key facts | Working age population | Employment | Unemployment | Labour force participation | Explanatory notes
The following sections explore Aboriginal labour force characteristics based on the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ (ABS) 2011 and 2016 censuses, which is count data at a particular point in time. Therefore, statistics are not comparable to the main Labour Market page, which are based on resident population estimates. The NT Government has adopted the term Aboriginal instead of Indigenous, and Aboriginal includes Torres Strait Islanders.
Although the NT’s Aboriginal working age population grew at a significant rate from the 2011 Census, the NT recorded the lowest growth of all the jurisdictions, leading to a decline in our national share of the Aboriginal working age population. This trend also occurred in other jurisdictions that had a historically high Aboriginal population, such as South Australia and Western Australia, due to greater Aboriginal population growth in other jurisdictions, particularly along the East Coast. A key contributor to the higher rate of growth and share of the national population in other jurisdictions relates to people newly identifying as Aboriginals as well as children born to parents of mixed heritage, with one parent identifying as Aboriginal. Both factors tend to be more prevalent in Australia’s metropolitan centres. If current trends continue the NT’s share of the national Aboriginal working age population will fall further, having implications for future government policy and funding arrangements.
In October 2018, ABS released a paper (Census of Population and Housing: Understanding the increase in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander counts, 2016, ABS Cat. No. 2077.0) further examining the increase in Aboriginal population counts between the 2011 Census and 2016 Census, and provides additional information about the drivers of Aboriginal population change across the states, territories and remote regions.
- The 2016 Census shows the NT’s Aboriginal working age population is 40,760 persons, ranking the fourth highest of all the jurisdictions
- The NT Aboriginal employment rate fell from 33.1% in 2011 to 27.3% in 2016, resulting as the lowest rate of all the jurisdictions
- From the 2011 Census the NT unemployment rate increased from 19% to 26.7% in the 2016 Census for Aboriginal Territorians
- The NT’s Aboriginal population participation rate decreased from 40.9% in 2011 to 37.3% in 2016, the lowest rate of the jurisdictions
Working age population
- The 2016 Census shows the NT’s Aboriginal working age population is 40,760 persons, ranking the fourth highest of all the jurisdictions (Table 1).
- From the 2011 Census, the national Aboriginal working age population rose 22.1% to 428,755 people, due to increases in all jurisdictions.
- The NT recorded the lowest growth in Aboriginal working age population, leading to a decline in the national share from 10.8% to 9.5% over the intercensal period (Chart 1).
- The NT’s Aboriginal proportion of the total working age population rose by 0.1 percentage points to 25.5%, the highest of the jurisdictions (Chart 2).
- This is due to Aboriginal people representing about 30.3% of the NT’s population, compared to 3% nationally (refer to the Population section of this website).
- The NT Aboriginal employment rate fell from 33.1% in 2011 to 27.3% in 2016, resulting as the lowest rate of all the jurisdictions (Table 2).
- The non-Aboriginal employment rate was stable at 76%. Therefore the gap has widened by 5.2 percentage points to 48.7 percentage points in the NT (Chart 3).
- The build-up and the transition that follows the mining investment boom has driven some significant disparity in economic conditions across the states over the past decade, which flowed through to differences in employment growth including for Aboriginal Australians.
- As a result, the Aboriginal employment rate fell in the prominent mining states including the NT (down 5.8 percentage points), Western Australia (down 1.7 percentage points) and Queensland (down 1.2 percentage points) over the intercensal period.
Employment by status
- Full time employment rate fell 0.7 percentage points and the part time employment rate fell 3.8 percentage points.
- Employed Aboriginals who were away from work with their status unspecified also contributed to the negative result (down 1.3 percentage points).
- The proportion of the non-Aboriginal population employed in a full time position fell 0.3 percentage points, and part time employment rose 0.5 percentage points.
- The proportion of the non-Aboriginal population who were employed but away from work with status unspecified also declined (down 0.8 percentage points).
Employment by industry
- The most common industries in which NT Aboriginals were employed were public administration and safety, health care and social assistance, and education and training services sectors. This was broadly consistent with the non-Aboriginal population in the NT (Table 3, Chart 4).
- The professional, scientific and technical services, and construction sectors experienced the highest growth in Aboriginal employment in the NT, which was consistent with the non-Aboriginal population.
- In contrast, manufacturing, public administration and safety, and arts and recreation service sectors experienced the largest decline in Aboriginal employment.
- From the 2011 Census the NT unemployment rate increased from 19% to 26.7% for Aboriginal Territorians.
- The NT has the highest unemployment rate of the jurisdictions for Aboriginals. Over the same period, the non-Aboriginal unemployment rate rose to 3.8%, the lowest rate of all the jurisdictions (Table 4, chart 5).
Unemployed by status
- The NT recorded an increase in the proportion of unemployed Aboriginals looking for both full time (up 1.9 percentage points) and part time work (up 0.3 percentage points).
- Queensland, Western Australia and South Australia report an increase in unemployed Aboriginals searching for full-time employment.
- The NT’s non-Aboriginal proportion of the total working age population reported increases in both looking for full-time and part-time work (up 0.5 and 0.4 percentage points, respectively).
Labour Force Participation
- The NT’s Aboriginal population participation rate decreased from 40.9% in 2011 to 37.3% in 2016, the lowest rate of the jurisdictions (Table 5, Chart 6). This result primarily relates to the scarcity of jobs in remote areas, where people may give up looking for work and drop out of the labour force, as well as the difficulty in collecting data in isolated regions.
- Census data suggests a much higher proportion of Aboriginal Australians were not in the labour force compared with non-Aboriginal Australians. The participation rate for non‑Aboriginals was relatively stable at 79% during the intercensal period.
- Half of the Aboriginal population in non-urban areas was not in the labour force, compared to 43 per cent in urban areas. In the NT and Western Australia, about 54% and 48%, respectively, were not in the labour force. In contrast, less than one third of Aboriginals in the Australian Capital Territory were not participating in the labour force.
- The ABS provides estimates on the NT’s remote and Aboriginal populations and characteristics every five years, following a census.
- The labour force data released as part of the census provides a ‘point in time’ snapshot of labour force characteristics based on responses to four questions, as reported by individuals completing a census form on a particular night.
- In contrast, the monthly ABS’s labour force survey produces the most reliable and current estimates of labour market information.
- The survey is designed specifically to measure changes over time in the Australian labour force and provide a high quality measure for use in international comparisons. It provides a more accurate estimate of key labour force statistics of the Australian economy, including employment, unemployment and underemployment, as well as a range of more detailed data specific to the labour market.
- The ABS have released a Fact Sheet which outlines the strengths and key uses of each collection, as well as how the collections differ and explains why the statistics produced in each of these two collections are not directly comparable.