Do you have a permanent full time job? If so, congratulations: you’re now officially in the minority.
The Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work did some tooling about with the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ data and came to the startling conclusion that, for the first time ever, the majority of working Australians don’t have full time employment will leave entitlements.
You know, those jobs that give sick leave, time off, a nice regular wage that banks like when approving mortgages? Those ones. They’re getting less common.
It’s been sliding for a while but this is the first time that it’s dipped below half the working population. Specifically, 49.97 per cent of Australians enjoyed that, with part time work (31.7 per cent) on the rise along with self-employment, casual and underemployed workers.
In other words, insecure work is on the rise – even in places like universities which used to be a source of good, reliable jobs and now have the majority of their workforce casualised in Victoria, according to the Age.
And this is the case in similar countries like the US where jobs like “food delivery person” and “taxi driver” have been phased out for self-employed contractors who shoulder all their own costs – petrol, insurance and so forth – while getting no benefits like sick leave or guaranteed hours.
This is obviously super-great for companies who don’t have to actually employ people and can enjoy total flexibility in their hiring. And it’s super-terrible for human beings because uncertainty and insecurity plays utter havoc on people’s brain-meat.
It turns out that people like having answers to things like “can I make rent?” and “will my card be refused at the supermarket?” and “can I make plans for tomorrow night without having to cancel because I get called into work and/or will I spend all day tomorrow waiting for a call into work that never comes?”
For example, take a look at the situation in the US where the rise of insecure work has coincided with an explosion in mental heath issues, including suicide. (Fun fact: if you’re not in a full time job with health insurance benefits in the US, chances are you couldn’t afford mental health care in any case. So that’s a thing.)
And the Journal of Occupational Medicine has called for urgent research into some of the most visible problems with the gig economy in the UK, saying that it “has engaged many workers who are highly educated and might previously have been in traditional employer–employee relationships, and appears to increase their vulnerability to wage theft, independent contractor misclassification, job insecurity, and lack of occupational health protections.”
UK researcher Joanna Wilde has described the conditions of the gig economy and its isolation, insecure work hours and unpredictable pay as “absolute recipe for a stress-related illness… You couldn’t treat a human being in a way that is more guaranteed to generate some sort of mental health problem.”
And that’s what Australia is apparently signing up for in ever-greater numbers.
So what do we do? Well, oddly enough, the election might help.
The future of work is a key battleground for this poll, whether that’s the Coalition plumping for mining jobs in central Queensland or Labor fighting to reverse penalty rate cuts and legislate pay rises in the child care sector.
And it’s a battle better fought now, before we’re all app-driven gig-drones hoping to hear that ding that means we might cover our expenses this week.