New data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics reveal Australians are working the lowest weekly number of hours in over 30 years – but the news isn’t as bad as it sounds.
Instead, the data reflects a trend away from full-time to part-time work, increasing workplace flexibility, as well as a rising number of casual work agreements. “We know that over the last 12 to 18 months, conditions have been very tough on the economy and activity has been sluggish, especially for the retail sector,” Commonwealth Securities economist Savanth Sebastian, said.
“As a result, while businesses are planning for a future turnaround and holding on to key staff, they are trying to maintain a lower cost base and that means cutting hours back, even for some of those full-time workers,” Sebastian added.
Compared to other major economies, the number of hours worked in a week comes out fairly average. For example, OCED data shows that Germans work an average of just 27.2 hours a week, while US Americans worked 34.4 hours per week.
Promising return of older workers
The latest ABS data also shows an improvement in the number of mature workers in the workforce. The average participation rate for those aged 60+ is sitting at a record-high of 53.4%. “They won't be working full-time. They'll be working a lot of those casual hours, and I think that will be adding to the slide that we've been seeing in the average hours worked,” Sebastian said.