New data douses union claims: casual workforce steady

by Stephanie Zillman23 Apr 2013

Despite a long-running Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) campaign claiming Australian employers exploit the casual workforce, new figures turn that view on its head – the numbers haven’t changed in 10 years.

That’s according to the latest data published by the Productivity Commission, which reveals casual and fixed-term employment arrangements were no more common in 2011 than a decade earlier. The paper puts the ACTU’s claims in context, and the figures indicate permanent full-time and part-time employees accounted for 60%  of the workforce in 2011, while casual employees and the self-employed accounted for a little under 20% each.

Productivity Commission researchers acknowledged the share of casual employees in the workforce doubled to 20% in the 20 years leading up to the turn of the century. Yet, the Forms of Work in Australia paper says although the nation had one of the developed world’s fastest growth rates of casual employees in the 1990s, the increases were maintained onwards from 2001.

The report says one explanation for the increase in the prevalence of permanent work was relatively rapid job creation in health care and social assistance, with slower growth in industries such as retail where casual work is common.

The release of the paper coincides with the senate committee looking into the federal government’s proposed changes to the Fair Work Act, which if passed, would extend the rights of workers to request flexible work hours. Submissions from employer groups have argued that the bill would increase union power. The hearing continues.

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