Australia is facing a workforce crisis when it comes to job security. For the first time on record, less than half of employed Australians hold a ‘standard job’. A fulltime job with leave entitlements. Around four million workers in Australia are in insecure work.
These casual workers are on rolling contracts, employed by labour-hire companies, and are employed as sham contractors, or work in the so-called “gig economy”.
The Australian Institute released a new report which looked at the growing crisis.
The report reviews 11 statistical indicators of the growth in employment insecurity over the last five years, including: part-time work, short hours, underemployment, casual jobs, marginal self-employment, and jobs paid minimum wages under modern awards.
All these indicators of job stability have declined since 2012, leading to a majority of Australian workers now experiencing one or more of these indicators of job – and less than half have access to what was once considered a ‘standard job’. Dr. Jim Stanford, director of the Centre for Future Work at the Australian Institute says “Australians are rightly worried about the growing insecurity of work. We are now seeing less than half of employed Australians holding a ‘standard job’, with dependable hours, pay, and benefits”
The report also documents the low and falling earnings received by workers in insecure jobs:
While real wages for those in the best paid job category – permanent full-time jobs – have grown, wages for casual workers have declined.
Part-time workers in marginal self-employed positions (including so-called ‘gig economy’ workers) have fared the worst, with real wages falling 26 percent in the last five years.
“This insecurity imposes enormous risks and costs on workers, their families, and the whole economy.” aid Dr Stanford.
The report also highlighted that young workers face prolonged difficulties landing decent, steady work, even well into young adulthood. For example, among workers under 30 in 2017, just 38.9 per cent held full-time employment of any kind (including casual work and contractor positions), down about 4 percentage points from 2012. In sum, young workers confront the worst features of the precarious labour market, despite higher educational attainment than any previous cohort of Australians.
Casual workers often don’t know when they will be working. They don’t know how much they will earn, and they don’t get paid annual leave or sick leave. Casual workers have less bargaining power and less protection from being unfairly dismissed.
Big business calls this “flexibility”, but the flexibility is a one-way street, with the workers having little choice or control over their work arrangements.