The last two decades in Australia has seen a dramatic decline in permanent work, and corresponding growth of insecure forms of employment, such as casual, contract work and labour hire. The full extent and impact of this shift on workers, their families and the Australian community has never been formally investigated.

The Australian union movement commissioned this independent inquiry to examine the extent of the insecure work and its impact on workers, their families and the community, and to provide recommendations on measures that can be taken to address any problems that are identified.

A panel of experts and community members chaired by former Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe conducted the inquiry and reported to the ACTU Congress 2012 on its findings. 


The report of the Independent Inquiry into Insecure Work in Australia, Lives on Hold: Unlocking the Potential of Australia’s Workforce, was publicly released at the ACTU Congress on 16 May 2012. You can download a copy here. You can also read a four page summary.

Read Inquiry chair Brian Howe’s speech here and ACTU President Ged Kearney’s response here.


The inquiry received more than 500 submissions from workers, from unions, from academics, from community organisations, from businesses and from other interested people. Click here to see the submissions.


The inquiry panel conducted hearings around Australia during February and March. The panel visited 23 cities and towns to hear directly from workers about how insecure work has impacted on them. Click here for the hearing dates and locations.