Job preservation a concern for nation of 'insecure' workers
28 Sep 2011
AUSTRALIA is lagging behind the developed world when it comes to job security, new research from the Australian Council of Trade Unions has found.
About 40 per cent of the workforce is employed in casual, contract or other ''insecure'' work.
Out of the other OECD countries only Spain, with its high proportion of seasonal workers, has higher rates of insecure work, the report found.
Almost a quarter of all employees in Australia - more than 2 million workers - are casual.
The report, which used previously unreleased data from the ACTU's Working Australia Census 2011, showed the majority of men working in insecure work were university educated.
More than two-thirds of the study of 622 men employed in insecure jobs were the main income earner for their family, and more than half were worried about job security.
And out of a group of 424 women, nearly half had a university qualification and 65 per cent said they would like more work if they could get it.
A senior research fellow at the workplace research centre at the University of Sydney, Mike Rafferty, said improvements in flexibility had been almost entirely to the advantage of employers.
"Australia is so much wealthier than it was ??? but most people feel like they are treading water or going backwards," he said. It was a ''dubious honour'' that Australia was leading the world in job insecurity.
Improvements in productivity in the future would no longer be able to come from squeezing employees, he said.
The president of the ACTU, Ged Kearney, said casual jobs suited some workers but placed a big burden on families.
"Casual jobs, short-term contracts, labour hire and other forms of insecure work prevent people from properly planning for their future or managing their household," she said.
Chris Elenor became a casual lecturer and tutor at the University of Western Sydney after a business career because he wanted to give back to the community. He currently has four contracts, and the bulk of the work is during a 14-week university semester.
Some universities do not confirm casual work until the week before a semester starts, which means casual employees are often left hanging.
Changing class times mean he regularly gives up social and cultural commitments, and benefits for other staff such as co-contributions to superannuation and free influenza vaccines are not available despite casuals being unable to access sick leave. "I can't afford to get sick," Mr Elenor said.