The level of casual employment has remained steady over the past decade and more people are abandoning working for themselves in order to secure a permanent position, new research from the Productivity Commission reveals.
The findings come despite claims from the Australian Council of Trade Unions about the growing problem of insecure work.
Over the past decade, the commission found employment in most forms of work increased in absolute terms, with an overall increase in employment of 25%, but the only type of employment to become more “prevalent” was permanent work.
“Employment grew more rapidly than in the preceding 20 years – a reflection of the strength of the economy over much of the decade – and the profile of net jobs created was quite different from the profile of employment in 2011,” the commission paper says.
Offsetting the rise in permanent work were falls of 2-3% in the number of self-employed workers.
The research came in response to an ACTU-commissioned inquiry into the extent of “insecure work” in Australia.
In March, ACTU president Ged Kearney spoke at the National Community Summit and pushed for a debate about insecure work, after campaigning for two years on the issue.
Kearney said it was time for a “new social compact”, regulations which “recognises the new era of insecurity”.
Kearney said regulations were needed which would “restore some certainty to the lives of those in insecure work, and allow those people, mainly women, with caring responsibilities to better balance those with work”.
But the latest Productivity Commission report has found workers, especially women, have over the last decade been better able to balance work and caring for a family by working in permanent part-time positions. The participation of women in these permanent part-time positions was found to be increasing.
“The results suggest that workers seeking to balance work and family commitments were increasingly likely to do so in part-time permanent employee roles,” the paper says.
The commission found during the 1980s through to 1996, the level of casual employment doubled. But since the year 2000 it has remained stagnant. The research also revealed 50% of people who started casual employment in 2002 moved on to being permanent employees within a few years.
According to the research, in 2011 permanent full-time and part-time employees accounted for approximately 60% of the workforce, whereas casual workers and the self-employed accounted for as little as 20% each.
The increases in permanent workers was particularly clear in the mining states as hiring of permanent employees was seen as a way to mitigate some costs and there was a greater confidence in business viability.
SmartCompany contacted the ACTU, but no comment was available prior to publication.