40 Percent Of Aussie Workers In Insecure Work, ACTU Says

Australia has third-highest rate of insecure work in the OECD

What you need to know
  • Just 60 percent of workers are in secure work arrangements
  • "The level of insecure work we have in Australia is not normal"
  • The ACTU is warning of the consequences of insecure work
  • 1.1 million people want to work more hours

Around 40 percent of all Australians are now in insecure work such as short-term contracts, labour hire or working in the volatile gig economy, according to a report that unions say puts the country on course for a "complete Americanisation" of the labour market.

The Australian Council of Trade Unions on Monday released its report titled 'Australia's insecure work crisis: Fixing it for the future' which outlined an "alarming" rate of "non-standard work", or work outside standard full-time arrangements.

Employers are turning to insecure working arrangements -- such as part-time or short-term workers, or independent contractors -- to skirt providing workplace entitlements such as annual and sick leave and superannuation, the union claimed.

"We have a simple decision to make, do we want the next generation to never know what it is like to have a paid holiday or do we think they deserve the same or better rights their parents and grand parents enjoyed?” said ACTU secretary Sally McManus.

The report claims "Australia is a global pacesetter" in terms of insecure work or non-standard working arrangements, pointing to a 2015 study from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showing Australia had the third-highest rate among OECD nations.

Australia's 'insecure' workforce
  • Casual employment: 2.5 million (around 25 percent of the entire workforce)
  • Independent contractors: 1 million
  • Labour hire:  ACTU says 'out dated and patchy' numbers, but the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated in 2008 there were 576,700 labour hire workers
  • Fixed-term contracts: four percent of workers

It said about 60 percent of total employment is comprised of standard jobs.

The remainder -- some four million people -- are engaged as casuals, on short-term or part-time contracts, through labour hire companies or as so-called “independent” contractors, the ACTU report detailed.

"The vast majority of them have inferior rights, entitlements, and job security to their counterparts in regular ongoing employment," the report said.

The ACTU is warning of the consequences of increasing rates of insecure, casual and part-time work (Getty Images)

The ACTU also estimates around  around 1.1 million workers are working less than fulltime hours and would like to work more.

In the report the union acknowledges "not every worker in a non-standard working relationship is being exploited."

But, it said, the council notes many people in such arrangements are forced to work long hours which are "incompatible with a stable family life" and receive low wages.

(AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

The ACTU also called for the government to reform workplace laws around insecure work, such as granting workers the right to transition to full-time work, a "complete overhaul" of the labour hire industry.