Occupation Overview

In which occupations do Australians work?

The previous section examined the industry dispersion of the labour market. It is also useful to look at occupations. An occupation involves the performance of a common set of tasks at a similar level of skill. Some occupations are concentrated in a single industry (for example, Primary School Teachers in Education and Training), but some occupations (such as General Clerk) are spread across industries.

Occupations can be clustered according to their skill level and skill type. Using these criteria, we identify eight major occupation groups. The largest and one of the most highly skilled is Professionals, which has one in four workers, or 2.7 million.

Technicians and Trades Workers is the second largest occupation group, with more than 1.7 million employed (or 15% of the workforce). It is also a skilled group.

The eight major occupation groups range from the most highly skilled Managers and Professionals to the lower skilled Labourers and Machinery Operators and Drivers. Skill level is less clearly defined, though, for Community and Personal Service Workers, Clerical and Administrative Workers and Sales Workers. These groups are based on the type of work done and, although they are not generally highly skilled groups, they all include occupations across a range of skill levels.

Share of total new jobs, five years to November 2015 (%)

This pie chart shows the share of total new jobs by occupation. Managers 13%. Professionals 41%. Technicians and Trades Workers 11%. Community and Personal Service Workers 22%. Clerical and Administrative Workers 4%. Sales Workers 4%. Machinery Operators and Drivers 5%.

Which occupations have grown/declined?

More than 700,000 new jobs were created in the five years to November 2015, with gains in seven of the eight occupation groups. There were job losses in the lower skilled Labourers group (down by 2.9% or 33,900). Professionals had the largest rise in employment (up by 322,500 or 41% of all new jobs). In percentage terms, strong growth was recorded for Community and Personal Service Workers (up by 16.3% or 170,400).

The five specific occupations which recorded the largest numbers of new jobs over the five years to November 2015 were

  • General Clerks (up by 56,000)
  • Registered Nurses (48,200)
  • General Sales Assistants (44,500)
  • Child Carers (43,500)
  • Electricians (25,400).

In which occupations do young people work?

Youth (aged 15 to 24 years) are predominantly employed in occupations that offer opportunities which do not require post-school qualifications. Consistent with this, two in every five Sales Workers and one in four Labourers are aged 15 to 24 years.

Specific occupations which employ large numbers of young people include

  • General Sales Assistants (277,600 young people employed)
  • Checkout Operators and Office Cashiers (78,400)
  • Waiters (78,000).

In which occupations do females work?

Women work in all occupations, although there is some variation across occupation groups. For example, females comprise three quarters of all Clerical and Administrative Workers, but just one in ten Machinery Operators and Drivers.

Occupations that have large numbers of female workers are

  • General Sales Assistants (362,700 females employed)
  • Registered Nurses (226,100)
  • General Clerks (197,500).

The Occupation Matrix has detailed information for specific occupations.

Employment by occupation group

Employment by occupation group
  Employment Employment Profile Projected Employment
  Employ't Nov 2015 Share of total 5 year change to Nov 2015 Part-time Female Aged 15 to 24 years Aged 45 years and over Regional 5 year change to Nov 2020
Occupation Group '000 % '000 % % % % % % '000 %
Managers 1,521.8 13 97.4 6.8 13 37 4 50 33 140.5 9.2
Professionals 2,728.4 23 322.5 13.4 26 54 7 38 24 396.4 14.5
Technicians and Trades Workers 1,733.3 15 85.1 5.2 14 15 18 34 35 95.9 5.5
Community and Personal Service Workers 1,217.3 10 170.4 16.3 55 68 25 33 35 231.6 19.0
Clerical and Administrative Workers 1,662.0 14 31.7 1.9 35 75 11 45 27 27.3 1.6
Sales Workers 1,130.6 10 34.7 3.2 57 61 40 27 31 104.9 9.3
Machinery Operators and Drivers 741.8 6 35.7 5.1 15 10 9 49 39 7.7 1.0
Labourers 1,122.5 10 -33.9 -2.9 46 33 24 39 41 -14.6 -1.3
All Occupations1 11,855.8 100 710.1 6.4 31 46 16 39 32 989.7 8.3

1. Some data are trend and, for these, totals do not add

Sources: ABS, Labour Force (trend and annual averages of original data); ABS, Education and Work; Department of Employment, Occupational Employment Projections