Revisiting the Relationship Between the Macroeconomy and Indigenous Labour Force Status


Boyd Hunter, Centre for Aboriginal Economic Policy Research, The Australian National University, Canberra, ACT 0200, Australia. Email:


Almost 20 years ago, an article in Economic Papers by Altman and Daly asked “Do fluctuations in the macroeconomy influence Aboriginal employment status?” This paper revisits this question in view of recent evidence. Indigenous people are more likely than before to be employed in industries similar to that of other Australians, and hence are less insulated from the business cycle. The greater engagement in the Australian economy is not something to be feared as it means that Indigenous employment will eventually respond to sustained macroeconomic growth. Indeed, Indigenous employment in the private sector converged rather quickly to the Australian average over the ten years of buoyant economic conditions between 1996 and 2006. Economic slow-downs do circumscribe the ability to improve Indigenous employment outcomes, but this simply means that educational and training investments become even more important in ensuring that Indigenous people are in a competitive position once economic growth picks up again.