For First Time, Less than Half of Workers Have a ‘Standard Job’

For the first time on record, less than half of employed Australians hold a ‘standard job’: that is, a permanent full-time paid job with leave entitlements.

A new report by the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute looks at the growing insecurity of work in Australia.

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’.

“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” said Dr. Jim Stanford, director of the Centre for Future Work.

“In particular, many young people are giving up hope of finding a permanent full-time job – and if these trends continue, many of them never will.”

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.

“Given current labour market conditions and lax labour standards, employers are able to hire workers on a ‘just-in-time’ basis, employing workers only when and where they are most needed and then tossing them aside afterwards,” said Dr Stanford.

“This insecurity imposes enormous risks and costs on workers, their families, and the whole economy.”

Dr. Stanford called on policy-makers to address growing job precarity with stronger rules to protect workers in insecure jobs, such as provisions for more stable schedules, and options to transition to from casual work to permanent positions. He also stressed the need for economic policies that target the creation of permanent full-time jobs.

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