Demographic and economic forces continue to change the global work economy. One of the hotly debated issues recently has been the growing shift to casualisation of the workforce. According to the ACTU, over two million workers, representing more than 35% of the Australian are casually employed. While women account for more than half of this population, younger people between the ages of 15 and 24 account for about 40% of total casual workers. While there are no generally accepted standards to define what casual employment is and is not, these groups of workers often work at jobs that may appear temporary with little to no benefits, and no guarantee of permanence.
The percentage of casual workers has remained relatively stable within the past two decades. However, there are more men working part-time now than before. On the other hand, there are now more women working full time more than before. This trend began shortly after the 1990s recession. While some feel like the casualisation situation is not getting any worse, at least there is a significant rise when we consider gender-based data on casualisation. In essence, it’s safe to say there is a gradual casualisation of the workforce. But then, should this really be a cause for concern? Well, it depends!
Casualisation of the Workforce: Good or Bad?
While many would say this is a bad thing, we do not hold the same opinion about casualisation. To be honest, everyone for and against casualisation has valid reasons for their different views. This explains why casualisation has always been a hot button issue. Each side of the divide is always quick to resort to popular anecdote to justify their assertions. So, your answer to whether or not this is a good thing will depend on who you ask.
We have to come to the realisation that not all casual jobs are bad. Casualisation itself shouldn’t be a cause for concern when it’s driven largely by choice. We are in an era where more and more people are actively looking for work-life balance. A lot has also been said about the rise of the gig economy and the future of work. There are employees in the market whose family responsibilities or other lifestyle circumstances may not permit full-time employment. Flexible casual jobs are usually the best for this group of workers. Additionally, casualisation is undoubtedly a socially equitable way to share time losses compared to reducing headcount.
But then, we can’t all work as independent freelancers. We all can’t get to choose when we work and what we work on. The issue of financial security also demands important consideration. If these issues are not properly addressed, it will become virtually impossible to stop people falling through the cracks. The absence of wage security, as well as the inability to bargain for a rise and access leave, among some of the other major challenges of casualisation, can have serious societal implications.
Finding the balance
You have a picture of a casually employed college student on one hand and that of a working mother who has been working casual jobs for years with no access to leave and no job security. Truth is casual jobs span a wide range of industries. The major problem with casualisation is how it may impact some industries more than others. Underutilisation, as well as uncertainty and instability, needs to be properly checked. Businesses, especially vulnerable startups and establishments can find great benefits in the extra flexibility that comes with their labor costs. There’s also a lot in this for employees who need work-life balance and prefer flexible working arrangements in this era of remote jobs. While popular opinions are divided and subjective, we’ll no doubt be better off when we approach casualisation within moderation for the right industry/job roles.