Fact check: Are more than half of Australia's working-age Muslims not in the workforce?

Independent senator Fraser Anning says that 56 per cent of Australian Muslims are not in the workforce.

The claim

Independent Senator Fraser Anning has frequently used Twitter to campaign against those migrants and asylum seekers he claims come to Australia "for a life of permanent handouts".

Senator Anning, who represented Pauline Hanson's One Nation party until January 2018, has also praised Turnbull Government plans to tighten eligibility for welfare payments for recently-arrived migrants.

The Government has legislation before Parliament which would extend the waiting period for various welfare payments to migrants from two years to three years, while proposing to extend this to four years in the 2018 budget.

Senator Anning has told Parliament: "Free welfare and public housing attracts the very worst type of migrants: transnational parasites who travel not in search of opportunity, but in search of a free ride at everyone else's expense."

In keeping with his campaign against "so-called refugees who just want to jump on the welfare gravy train", Senator Anning tweeted on May 11: "It's no coincidence 56 per cent of Australia's working-age Muslims are not in the labour force."

Is Senator Anning correct? Are more than half of Australia's Muslims, who could be in the labour force, in fact, not in the labour force? RMIT ABC Fact Check investigates. 

The verdict

Senator Anning is wrong.

Fact Check analysed data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), which economics professor John Quiggin, of the University of Queensland, then verified.

The analysis showed 43 per cent of working-ageMuslims were not in the labour force — significantly less than the figure of 56 per cent cited by Senator Anning.

It also revealed that the high Muslim non-participation rate — which compares to a national working-age non-participation rate of 24 per cent — is almost entirely due to the large number of Muslim women who are not working.

Getting the definitions straight

The ABS defines the labour force as the sum total of people aged 15 and over who are employed either full-time or part-time, as well as unemployed people who are actively looking for work.

People not in the labour force are considered to be those aged 15 and over and who undertake unpaid household duties or other voluntary work only, as well as people who are retired, those permanently unable to work and those who do not want to work.

It's worth noting that the ABS labour force definition comprises people aged 15 and over (that is, with no upper age limit). But it defines the working-age population as only those people between the ages of 15 and 64.

Fact Check has used the working-age definition to calculate workforce participation rates because Senator Anning referred specifically to "working-age Muslims".

Where did Senator Anning's incorrect number come from?

Asked for the basis of his claim, Senator Anning's media spokesman, Boston White, referred Fact Check to an opinion piece by economist Henry Ergas, published in The Australian on September 14, 2015.

In the column, Mr Ergas raised concerns about the religious composition of Australia's refugee intake. At the time, the Government had expanded its humanitarian intake by 12,000 places to accommodate refugees from Syria.

Mr Ergas argued that Middle Eastern Muslim refugees found it difficult to integrate harmoniously into Australia's economy and society because they brought with them religious hatreds.

In this context, he stated that "56 per cent of Australia's working-age Muslims [are] either unemployed or not in the labour force".

In doing so, he refers to two groups of Muslims: those who are unemployed (that is, in the labour force but seeking work) and those who are not in the labour force (that is, not in paid work and not seeking work).

When Senator Anning lifted this figure from Mr Ergas's column, he tweeted it, saying 56 per cent of working-age Muslims were not in the labour force.

In other words, he attributed the figure only to the latter group of Muslims referred to by Mr Ergas.

Regardless, as the column was written in 2015, data from the 2016 census would likely have rendered the number out of date.

Read the full story

Primary Researcher: Sushi Das


  • Society
  • Fact Check
  • Equality, Diversity & Inclusion

Related News

RMIT Vietnam launches digital education centre

A new Centre of Digital Excellence at RMIT Vietnam has been launched by Victoria’s Minister for Training and Skills, Steven Herbert.

RMIT students design ACMI’s first ever line of merchandise

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI) has launched a fresh line of merchandise locally designed and produced in collaboration with RMIT textile design students.

Call to phase out lead bullets at shooting ranges

Lead released when people fire weapons at shooting ranges creates such a health risk that lead bullets should be phased out, according to new research.

Focus on employment pathways for vulnerable groups in Europe

RMIT’s Louise Robinson is studying community and government programs that provide access to education and employment for vulnerable groups in Spain and the UK.

Show more
Subscribe to RMIT NewsSubscribe
Flag Image One Flag Image Two

Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business.

More information