Australians want greater job security and are struggling to cope with the rising cost of living, new research by unions has found.
Workers are also struggling with work-life balance and new technology is requiring them to perform more unpaid work outside of work hours.
These are some of the early findings from the Working Australia Census 2011
, the largest survey of Australian workers ever to be conducted.
ACTU Secretary Jeff Lawrence said with more than 30,000 workers having already responded to the Working Australia Census, so far the majority of respondents said that they were either just coping or struggling to get by on their current income, while only a minority said they were living comfortably.
The research also found that housing affordability and cost of living is the most important issue to respondents. Gas and electricity costs, mortgage repayment/rent and petrol and transport costs were the three main areas of expenditure that most concerned respondents.
Mr Lawrence said that despite the comparatively strong performance of the Australian economy, and an unemployment rate below 5%, many people were still struggling with cost of living pressures.
“All workers should be sharing in the benefits of a strong economy and should have enough money to pay for the basics,” Mr Lawrence said.
“Australian businesses are recording record profits, so why are there so many people in casual and contract work – many of whom want the security of permanent work?
“Official data shows that 40% of workers are on casual and contract employment. Many of these workers don’t know what they will be earning from week to week and they want secure employment that meets the rising cost of their basic needs.
“Too many families are having to pay off a 20-year mortgage, while working on three-month contracts.”
Based on the preliminary findings from a representative sample of 1000 Australians who were asked the same survey questions, just over half of Australians nominated a wage rise as one of their two most important issues for improving their working conditions, a third said it was having flexibility to balance work and family and a quarter said that it was greater job security.
Three-quarters of respondents to the sample survey said they were either just coping or struggling to get by on their current income, while only a quarter said they were living comfortably.
The research also found that housing affordability is a major concern, named along with cost of living pressures by just under half of respondents to the sample survey. The main cost concerns in order are: gas and electricity, petrol and transport costs, and groceries
Cost of living pressures are seeing more and more Australians pushed into the financial danger zone.
Just over one in ten of the representative sample said they had used their credit card in the last 12 months to meet regular expenses, because they have no savings to cover them. 1 in 20 have missed or delayed payment of a bill in the last 12 months to meet basic household expenses.
Australians are also being asked to pay for work-related costs and to work when they, or people they care for, are sick.
A third (34%) had attended work while sick or caring for someone sick because they had too much work to do. A quarter (24%) had attended work because they wouldn’t be paid if they took a sick day.
“It is clear that casual or contract workers find it difficult to object when they are asked to pay work costs, do unpaid work from home, or come into work when sick,” Mr Lawrence said
“If you don’t have security of work, you are not in a position to stand up for your entitlements.”
Other early findings from the Working Australian Census include that technology is encroaching on workers’ personal lives, with a majority being contacted outside of work hours about work related matters, either by phone, SMS or email. For nearly half, this contact was either at least once a week.
Respondents also indicated that they have attended work while sick or caring for someone sick because they had too much work to do or because they wouldn’t be paid if they took a sick day.
“The Working Australia Census is already giving us valuable insights into the pressures faced by workers and their families.
“The survey is the largest ever conducted of Australian workers, and aims to give them a voice in the issues they confront on a daily basis.
“This research will be used to shape union policies and campaigns over the next decade.”
The Working Australia Census closes on 1 July and can be completed online at www.workingaustralia.org.au