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Definition

Hours worked in employment is the total number of hours worked in employment per week by all people meeting the definition of employment given in the standard for labour force status, that is, all people aged 15 and over who during the survey reference period:

  • worked for one hour or more for pay, profit or payment in kind in a job, business, farm or professional practice
  • worked without pay for one hour or more in work which contributed directly to the operation of a farm, business or professional practice operated by a relative
  • had a job or business they were temporarily absent from.

Employed and labour force status are supporting concepts for hours worked in employment and are defined in Glossary and references.

Operational Issues

The standard definition for hours worked in employment is best suited to household surveys such the Census of Population and Dwellings, the Household Labour Force Survey (HLFS) and the Household Economic Survey (HES) conducted by Statistics New Zealand (Statistics NZ). These household surveys obtain their data on hours worked in employment by surveying employed people aged 15 and over as defined in labour force status.

Business surveys may not strictly conform to the standard definition for hours worked in employment, because of varying data collection methods and because they survey a different statistical unit to household surveys. Because of the way in which they are conducted, business surveys may (a) collect paid hours only, and (b) obtain data by surveying ‘business locations’ or ‘enterprises’ rather than the statistical unit ‘person’.

For example, Statistics NZ business surveys such as the Quarterly Employment Survey (QES) and the Quarterly Economic Survey of Manufacturing (QMS) by necessity collect paid hours only and survey a population which differs to that defined in labour force status.

The QES obtains its data by surveying business locations in surveyed industries employing more than two full–time equivalent employees, and the QMS by surveying all enterprises in the manufacturing industry. In the QES and QMS there is no age limit; jobs filled by people under 15 are included in the survey population while those who work unpaid in a family business are excluded. By definition, in the QES, the self–employed are excluded from the calculation of earnings and hours statistics although they are included in the calculation of filled jobs.

Though not consistent with the standard, both the concept of paid hours and the use of a distinct population to collect the hours worked in employment variable are necessary components of each survey.

Explanatory notes

Coverage and purpose in social and economic collections

The manner in which individual surveys collect hours worked in employment depends largely on the coverage and overall purpose of each collection. The concepts used to collect hours worked in business surveys such as the QES and the QMS, where the questionnaire is completed by respondents on behalf of their labour force as a whole, differ from those used in household surveys such as the Census, the HLFS and the HES where the people respond as, or on behalf of, an individual member of the labour force.

Statistical units

The statistical unit for Hours Worked in Employment in social collections is generally a person. In economic collections the statistical unit for hours worked in employment can be an enterprise or a business location.

Actual and usual hours worked in employment

The standard encompasses both actual and usual hours worked in employment. In general, either or both may be used as the output variable, according to user requirements. The International Labour Organisation (ILO) does not give specific guidance on this.

Data on usual hours worked in employment forms the basis for assigning respondents to the part–time or full–time components of the labour force. If actual hours were used to assign people to a part–time or full–time status, the number of part–timers could be underestimated or overestimated depending on seasonal patterns. People who usually work full–time but who missed part of the reference period through sick leave or annual leave would be designated part–time if actual hours were used.

Data on total actual hours worked in employment however, is usually the preferred variable for calculating total labour input as it excludes time (paid or unpaid) which is not worked.

Paid hours

Some business surveys (such as the QES and QMS) differ, from household surveys collecting the hours worked variable, in that they collect paid hours (including ordinary time and paid overtime). The collection of paid hours (whether actually worked or not) is a different concept again from that of actual or usual hours, which can be paid or unpaid.

Full–time and part–time employment

The full–time employed are defined as those who usually work 30 hours or more per week, while the part–time employed usually work fewer than 30 hours per week.

Full-time equivalency

The definition of full–time equivalency is not standardised at present and definitions vary between surveys and organisations. At SNZ, the QES presently calculates full–time equivalency on the basis that two part–time employed people are equivalent to one full–time employed person.

Reference period

The reference period used for calculating actual and usual hours worked in employment may vary between surveys. Regardless of the reference period used in collection, hours worked in employment per week should be derived in order to use the hours worked in employment classification.

Main and other job(s)

Total hours worked in employment may be split into hours worked in main job and hours worked in other jobs, although technically this split is not part of the standard.

Some business surveys cannot draw a distinction between main job and other job in their collections. The respondents for business surveys are most frequently employers who cannot be expected to record the hours their employees work in other jobs. If a person has more than one job, employers at each place of work should record their hours.

Terminology

The term hours worked in employment is preferred to hours of work, because some respondents may confuse the latter with the times they start and finish work. Hours worked in employment is preferred to hours worked as some respondents may include time spent performing voluntary work and include this in their answers, and to hours employed because some respondents may argue that they are employed all the time, but work however many hours per week.

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