This thesis examines the social and spatial processes and institutions that are associated with labour market transitions and employment disadvantage over space and time. The research adopts an interdisciplinary approach to develop a model for labour market transitional outcomes that is based on spatial labour market theory around examining employment disadvantage along a continuum of employment that includes unemployment, time related underemployment and ‘marginal attachment’ to the labour force. The dynamics of the labour market are analysed using advanced and innovative statistical techniques including event history analysis and sequence analysis to identify patterns of employment and the social processes, including structural and contextual factors that create and sustain labour market inequality across the life course. The research includes analyses of data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) longitudinal survey, specifically, from the monthly employment diary collected in waves one to eight (2001 to 2008) of the survey. There are three empirical components to the research, each investigating different aspects of labour market dynamics: the snapshot, the single episode and transition outcome, and the trajectory or employment pattern. These three temporal perspectives, each examined with a different methodological approach, together provide a triangulated approach to the study of employment disadvantage.
The first investigation includes analysis of an unbalanced sample of 17,258 individuals over the period 2001 to 2008 (waves one to eight). Annual employment status details provide a snapshot of employment at the time of the annual interview. The research examines the factors associated with inadequate employment; unemployment, time related underemployment, and ‘marginal attachment’ to the labour force at the commencement of the survey in 2001. The likelihood of employment disadvantage over the eight year period is investigated to reveal associations with spatial characteristics, human capital associations, family and community attributes and the labour market context. This investigation found that employment disadvantage (unemployment, time related underemployment and ‘marginal attachment’ to the labour force) was experienced by over a fifth of respondents at the first interview in 2001. This inequality was associated with a broad range of social and spatial factors, including human capital, entry to the labour market, the family, community and labour market context. However, differences were evident between types of disadvantage.
The second investigation uses an unbalanced and unweighted panel from HILDA waves one to eight to examine the persistence of employment disadvantage using an event history methodology. The sample includes observations from the employment diaries of 17,258 individuals with a total of 60,743 single episodes taking place between 2001 and 2008. The study examines the social and spatial influences on the duration of unemployment, time related underemployment and ‘marginal attachment’ to the labour force. Transition outcomes are investigated as a single event. This investigation found evidence of strong differentiation between types of disadvantage and the life course and career stage that were gender specific.
The third empirical investigation includes an analysis of employment trajectories or patterns of employment using innovative statistical techniques of sequence analysis. This research examines a balanced sample of 6,102 individuals who have responded in all eight waves of the HILDA survey under consideration. This study sought to identify, describe and classify patterns of inequality within the Australian labour force. Of particular interest were trajectories where numerous employment transitions were undertaken with multiple episodes of employment disadvantage. This aimed to identify persistence of intermittent and precarious employment. Employment patterns included stable employment, disrupted employment, hyper-transition and employment disadvantage, and possible exclusion from the labour force. A multinomial logistic regression analysis was undertaken to examine the relationship between employment patterns and factors within a spatial labour market model.
Employment patterns were found to be associated with the multi-dimensional functioning of a range of social processes that operate across the life course. Results showed that transitions were not linear and an analysis of the transitional context showed strong differentiation of employment patterns by gender that were connected to social process within the life course, particularly those linked to the social reproduction of the labour market. Extensive long term patterns of hyper-transition and employment disadvantage were identified revealing labour market churning with persistent and recurring employment disadvantage over a long period of time as well as evidence of labour market scarring and long term accumulation of disadvantage. Contrary to expectations there was no statistically significant relationship between this employment pattern and residing in a disadvantaged community. The range of social and spatial factors associated with the incidence, persistence and patterns of employment disadvantage was both multi-dimensional and multi-scalar.