Executive Summary

  1. Insecure work is experienced by workers in a wide range of situations including casual work, sham contracting and on-demand work, outsourcing, hyper-competitive supply chains, labour hire, rolling fixed term employment contracts, underemployment, temporary work visas, and non-recurrent government funding.
  2. Insecure work is problematic for the community at large when it is used to substitute for, or undermine, ongoing direct employment. Non-permanent working arrangements have outcomes for workers that frequently include financial insecurity, difficulty planning and saving for the future, and stress (including in the management of working time and family commitments). Many workers in this position would prefer more ongoing or permanent forms of work.
  3. All Australians have seen the devastating impact that insecure work can have in times of crisis, such as during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. For workers who are casual or otherwise who have no sick leave entitlements, the pandemic created a dilemma – a potential choice between self-isolation and having their income abruptly cut off. This had flow-on consequences and raised broader public health considerations.
  4. In 2021 the Morrison Government had the opportunity to reset Australia’s labour market based on secure jobs with certainty that would drive both productivity and domestic demand but instead chose to press ahead with changes to legislation governing casual employment which will lock in insecure work and perpetuate low productivity growth and inequality. The Fair Work Amendment (Supporting Australia’s Jobs and Economic Recovery) Act 2021 allows an employee to be treated as casual at the election of the employer even though this may not reflect the substance of the working relationship. As a consequence, some employers will be even more likely to engage casual workers, knowing that by simply applying the casual label at the point of engagement they can shift risk and engage workers on an insecure basis, regardless of whether the work has the other hallmarks of permanent employment.
  5. Insecure work leaves a large section of the workforce not sharing in our national economic recovery. These workers have inferior rights, entitlements, and job security as well as lower wages growth. It makes it tough for working families to plan for their future when they cannot rely on regular incomes, but have rising household costs, and are shouldering more and more household debt.
  6. The rise of insecure work in Australia is the result of a business model that shifts the risks from the employer to the employee. A strong, prosperous economy is not inconsistent with quality jobs and respect for workers’ rights. Workers should have jobs they and their families can rely on with fair and predictable pay and hours of work, access to important conditions like annual leave, paid sick leave, protection from unfair dismissal, and quality skills and training and career opportunities.
  7. The proliferation of the various forms of insecure work has not occurred by accident. Conscious business and policy decisions based on cost and risk allocation have been the key drivers.
  8. The COVID19 pandemic has highlighted the serious shortcomings of allowing insecure work to flourish. We are now at a crossroad. We should be taking the opportunity to strengthen and improve the underlying structure of our working arrangements. Unfortunately, all indications are that the Morrison Government will continue to facilitate the growth of insecure work and that working Australians will suffer the consequences.
  9. The economic downturn and more recently the economic recovery, has been dominated by insecure work. Australians are being forced to work two or more jobs. For many, this is not a matter of workplace flexibility but one of economic necessity. We now have the highest proportion of Australians working two or more jobs in the history of ABS statistics, (Labour Account data series).
  10. We have seen the fastest expansion in the number of Australians working two, three or more jobs in the history of the ABS Labour Account. The growth of secondary jobs highlights the impact of stagnant household incomes, the decline in traditional full-time permanent employment arrangements and the shift towards insecure work arrangements.