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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2005  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/07/2005   
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Contents >> Work >> Casual employees

Employment arrangements: Casual Employees

In 2003, two-fifths (40%) of casual employees were young people (aged 15-24 years).

The arrangements by which people work impact on the wellbeing of individuals and society. Aspects of employment such as the amount of remuneration, conditions and tenure of employment, and the amount of opportunity or risk associated with their work can affect a worker's sense of economic security and overall wellbeing.

The nature of employment in Australia has become more diverse over the past two decades, with a growth in forms of employment other than the 'traditional' arrangement of full-time, ongoing wage or salary job, with regular hours and paid leave. (endnote 2) These changes may provide new freedoms to people seeking flexible working arrangements in order to balance work with family, study or other non-work activities. However, others may find themselves in less than favourable employment arrangements. Casual employment is one form of employment where there can be a range of differing circumstances and individual impacts, both positive and negative.

Current Australian government policy supports workplace flexibility and the diversification of forms of employment. However, casual employees, particularly those who have been casual for an extended period, may be disadvantaged because they do not enjoy the same rights and entitlements as ongoing employees. For example, their working conditions may involve low levels of training, poor career opportunities and adverse occupational health and safety outcomes. (endnote 3)

Proportion of employees who were casual
Graph: Proportion of employees who were casual
Source: Australian Labour Market Statistics, October 2004 (ABS cat. no. 6105.0).


Casual employees

This article is based on time series data derived by combining data from the ABS Labour Force Survey (LFS) and Survey of Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership for August of each year from 1993 to 2003. (endnote 1)

Employees are people aged 15 years and over who, in their main job, worked for a public or private employer and received remuneration in wages, salary, a retainer fee from their employer while working on a commission basis, tips or piece rates. This article excludes employees working for payment in kind only and those who operate their own incorporated business.

Casual employees are employees who are not entitled to either paid holiday leave or paid sick leave in their main job.

Ongoing employees are employees who are entitled to either paid holiday leave or paid sick leave (or both) in their main job.


TRENDS IN CASUAL EMPLOYMENT

While the nature and level of casual employment in Australia continues to be debated, it is widely agreed that casual employment has increased over the last two decades and will continue to do so. (endnote 2) (endnote 4) In 2003, 26% of employees were casual, compared with 22% in 1993. Most of this increase occurred prior to 1998, with the proportion remaining relatively stable since then. There has also been an increase in the number of people employed in casual jobs from 1.3 million in 1993 to 1.9 million in 2003.

The increase in the proportion of employees who were casual is due mainly to changes for men rather than women. The proportion of male employees who were casual increased over the period 1993 to 2003, from 15% to 21%, while the proportion for women remained relatively stable (30% to 31% over the same period).

The growth in casual employment for male employees can be partly attributed to the growth in the number of casual male employees working in lower skilled occupations. Between 1996 and 2003, almost half (48%) of the increase in the number of male casual employees occurred in the lower skilled occupations of Elementary clerical, sales and service workers and Labourers and related workers.

FULL-TIME AND PART-TIME EMPLOYEES - AUGUST 2003

Full-time
Part-time
Total
%
%
‘000

Males
Ongoing
95.3
4.7
3,100.2
Casual
45.8
54.2
811.2
Females
Ongoing
70.8
29.2
2,493.7
Casual
17.9
82.1
1,101.6

Source: Australian Labour Market Statistics, October 2004 (ABS cat. no. 6105.0).


CHARACTERISTICS OF CASUAL EMPLOYEES

The common understanding of casual employment is that it is short-term or irregular, but often this is not the case. Many casuals have long-term and regular jobs. In August 2003, 57% of the 1.9 million casual employees in Australia had been with their employer for 12 months or more, compared with 83% of the 5.6 million ongoing employees.

There is also a strong link between working part-time hours (less than 35 hours a week in all jobs) and working as a casual employee. In 2003, 70% of casual employees worked part-time, compared with 16% of ongoing employees.

...age

Although young people (aged 15-24 years) made up 21% of all employees in 2003, they comprised 40% of casual employees. This is closely related to the relatively high participation of young people in education and their tendency to combine work with study. Between May 1994 and May 2003, the proportion of part-time workers aged 15-24 years who were participating in study increased from 67% to 75% (see Australian Social Trends 2005, Young people at risk in the transition from education to work). (endnote 5)

Men and women exhibit different employee patterns over their life cycles. Men engage predominantly as full-time ongoing employees for all age groups, except 15-19 year olds. While this is also the case for women, the proportion of women who are full-time ongoing employees is lower for all age groups compared with men, and the proportion who are part-time ongoing or casual is higher.

Many women leave full-time employment and the labour force to care for children. (endnote 6) In August 2003, the proportion of women aged 25-29 years who were full-time ongoing employees was 42%, compared to 25% for women aged 35-39 years.

Similarly, female employees aged 25-29 years have lower levels of part-time work than those aged 35-39 years. This was the case for both part-time ongoing employees (7% for 25-29 year olds and 16% for 35-39 year olds) and part-time casual employees (10% and 12% respectively). This reflects the differing pathways that women may take when their children are small: while some women leave employment altogether, many combine part-time work with family responsibilities. During their forties, the proportion of women who are full-time ongoing employees increases, but not to the same proportions seen in their late twenties.


Limitations of the definition of casual employees

The ABS defines casual employees as those people who are not entitled to either paid holiday leave or paid sick leave in their main job. This approach has limitations as it does not fully capture attributes typically associated with a casual contract, such as precariousness of tenure and variability of hours and earnings.

Despite these limitations, 'employees without paid leave entitlements' is a good proxy for casual employment. Results from the Forms of Employment Survey in November 2001 showed that there is considerable overlap between employees without paid leave entitlements and whether an employee considers their job to be casual. Some 86% of those who identified as casual did not have paid leave entitlements, and 89% of employees without paid leave entitlements identified as casual. (endnote 1)

Female employees as a proportion of the population(a) - August 2003
Graph: Female employees as a proportion of the population(a) - August 2003
(a) Civilian population aged 15 years and over.

Source: Australian Labour Market Statistics, October 2004 (ABS cat. no 6105.0) and Labour Force Survey, Australia, October 2004 (ABS cat. no. 6291.0.55.001).

Male employees as a proportion of the population(a) - August 2003
Graph: Male employees as a proportion of the population(a) - August 2003
(a) Civilian population aged 15 years and over.

Source: Australian Labour Market Statistics, October 2004 (ABS cat. no 6105.0) and Labour Force Survey, Australia, October 2004 (ABS cat. no. 6291.0.55.001).


...multiple jobs

Casual employees are more likely than ongoing employees to have more than one job. In 2003, 8% of employees who were casual in their main job were multiple job holders, compared with 4% of employees who were ongoing in their main job.

A higher proportion of casual employees who worked full-time hours (i.e. worked 35 hours or more in all jobs in the reference week) were multiple job holders (11%) than ongoing employees who worked full-time hours (4%). This indicates that casual employees were more likely to achieve full-time employment through the combination of two or more jobs than ongoing employees.

...industry and occupation

The industries and occupations that casual people are employed in tend to offer jobs which are part-time and jobs which require lower levels of skill. Employers in these industries may need a workforce which is flexible to cover the seasonal nature of the job, or the daily variations in workload (such as more staff needed at mealtimes in cafes and restaurants). (endnote 2) These types of jobs attract younger workers as they offer the opportunity to gain work experience and the flexibility to combine work with study. Women are also attracted to these types of jobs in order to combine work and family responsibilities. (endnote 2)

Over half of the employees in the Accommodation, cafes and restaurants industry (59%) and the Agriculture, forestry and fishing industry (51%) were casual employees. Retail trade (44%) and Cultural and recreational services (43%) also had high proportions of casual employees. The industries with the lowest proportions of casual employees were the Finance and insurance industry and the Government administration and defence industry (each 8%), followed by Electricity, gas and water supply (10%) and Communication services (12%).

The two lowest skilled occupation groups contained the highest proportion of casuals. Over half of Elementary clerical, sales and service workers (56%) were casual, as were 47% of Labourers and related workers. Conversely the lowest proportions of casual employees were found in the highest skilled occupation groups: Managers and administrators (4%), Associate professionals (12%) and Professionals (13%).

INDUSTRY OF EMPLOYEES - AUGUST 2003

Employees
Proportion who are:
Casuals
Females
Under 25 years
Industry
'000
%
%
%

Agriculture, forestry and fishing
145.5
50.6
26.0
22.3
Mining
72.1
13.8
12.6
7.1
Manufacturing
943.9
15.7
26.7
14.3
Electricity, gas and water supply
79.5
10.1
25.6
9.4
Construction
388.9
24.3
9.5
29.4
Wholesale trade
345.4
15.4
29.8
12.8
Retail trade
1,179.4
44.2
54.5
47.8
Accommodation, cafes and restaurants
393.3
58.8
58.7
40.6
Transport and storage
331.0
18.9
24.3
10.1
Communication services
145.2
12.4
31.7
12.1
Finance and insurance
304.0
7.6
57.5
13.4
Property and business services
795.8
25.8
49.4
19.7
Government administration and defence
410.3
8.0
48.8
6.9
Education
673.4
17.4
69.4
7.1
Health and community services
841.3
20.5
80.4
9.2
Cultural and recreational services
177.1
42.7
51.2
31.2
Personal and other services
280.6
23.6
47.5
20.6
Total
7,506.8
25.5
47.9
21.0

Source: Dataset constructed from the ABS 1992-2003 August Labour Force Surveys and the ABS 1992-2003 Surveys of Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership.

OCCUPATION OF EMPLOYEES - AUGUST 2003

Employees
Proportion who are:
Casuals
Females
Under 25 years
Occupation group
'000
%
%
%

Managers and administrators
362.4
4.0
26.4
3.2
Professionals
1,462.5
13.1
54.8
7.9
Associate professionals
796.7
12.1
41.6
13.6
Tradespersons and related workers
849.2
16.3
9.0
26.9
Advanced clerical and service workers
261.5
19.1
87.3
14.4
Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers
1,510.2
27.2
73.3
21.6
Intermediate production and transport workers
656.5
26.5
13.9
15.8
Elementary clerical, sales and service workers
901.4
55.9
66.0
49.5
Labourers and related workers
706.5
47.3
38.2
28.5
Total
7,506.8
25.5
47.9
21.0

Source: Dataset constructed from the ABS 1992-2003 August Labour Force Surveys and the ABS 1992-2003 Surveys of Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership.


....preference for more hours

The number of hours that a person works is linked to the earnings they receive. Casual employees have higher levels of variable hours than ongoing employees. In November 2003, 27% of casuals had hours which varied from week to week, compared to 9% of ongoing employees. (endnote 7) While variability of work arrangements may suit some casual employees, the unpredictability of earnings can make it harder to apply for bank loans, plan for a family or budget for the household. (endnote 8)

A higher proportion of casual employees who worked part-time preferred to work more hours than their ongoing counterparts. In 2003, 32% of casual part-time employees preferred to work more hours compared with 20% of ongoing part-time employees.

For both casual and ongoing part-time employees, a higher proportion of men preferred to work more hours than women. Close to two-fifths (38%) of male employees in casual part-time employment preferred more hours, compared with 31% of male employees in ongoing part-time employment. This figure was highest for 35-54 year old casual men, with 55% of this group preferring to work more hours.

For female part-time employees, 29% of casuals preferred more hours compared to 18% of ongoing employees. This figure ranged between 28% and 32% for all female casual age groups between 15 and 54 years, but was lower for those aged 55 years and over.

...earnings

There are a variety of factors that determine a person's level of earnings, the most obvious being the type of work done (e.g. occupation and industry), the amount of time worked each week (e.g. full-time or part-time status, and hours of work), whether people are paid at adult or junior rates, the level of experience, and the level of responsibility associated with the job (such as whether the job is managerial or non-managerial). Comparing the average hourly earnings of casual and ongoing employees removes the impact of the total number of hours worked by employees during a given week, but the extent of sex segregation between occupation and industry groups, as well as the populations that make up these groups, still needs to be considered.

Casual employees are generally compensated for lack of paid leave entitlements by a casual loading in their hourly rate of pay. Despite this, casual employees have lower average hourly earnings than ongoing employees at the total level across all occupations ($17.09 compared with $22.29). The hourly earnings of all casual employees are 77% of those of ongoing employees. This is influenced by the fact that a higher proportion of casual employees than ongoing employees are women, are aged 15-24 years, and are employed in lower skilled occupations (which typically pay less). If casual and ongoing employees had the same age and sex distribution as all employees, the hourly earnings of casual employees would be 87% of those of ongoing employees.

As previously discussed, the Elementary clerical, sales and service workers group has a higher proportion of casual employees (56%) than other occupation groups. The average hourly earnings of casual Elementary clerical, sales and service workers are 84% of their ongoing counterparts. For women aged 15-24 years who work in this occupation group, the average hourly earnings for casuals are 93% of ongoing employees. The diversification of occupations within the Elementary clerical, sales and service workers group (as well as other factors such as level of experience and responsibility) still influences the comparison.

The differential between casual and ongoing average hourly earnings is higher for men than women. Male casual employees earn 74% of their ongoing counterparts ($17.33 and $23.56 respectively), compared with 82% for females ($16.91 for casuals and $20.73 for ongoing employees). A more detailed discussion of female and male earnings is in Female/male earnings, in this publication (Australian Social Trends 2005).

AVERAGE HOURLY EARNINGS OF EMPLOYEES - AUGUST 2003

Males
Females
Persons
Casual
Ongoing
Casual
Ongoing
Casual
Ongoing
Ratio(a)
Occupation group
$
$
$
$
$
$

Managers and administrators
34.75
35.66
26.76
34.11
31.07
35.25
0.88
Professionals
30.38
30.80
30.96
26.88
30.75
28.71
1.07
Associate professionals
22.06
25.18
16.65
21.23
19.37
23.54
0.82
Tradespersons and related workers
19.88
19.40
16.18
13.64
19.22
18.99
1.01
Advanced clerical and service workers
*19.29
26.53
19.88
20.54
19.83
21.38
0.93
Intermediate clerical, sales and service workers
16.04
21.21
16.93
17.48
16.76
18.56
0.90
Intermediate production and transport workers
16.30
19.23
15.21
15.22
16.10
18.73
0.86
Elementary clerical, sales and service workers
13.26
16.95
13.06
14.77
13.12
15.60
0.84
Labourers and related workers
13.81
16.68
13.83
14.70
13.82
16.00
0.86
All occupations
17.33
23.56
16.91
20.73
17.09
22.29
0.77

(a) Ratio of average hourly earnings of casual employees to those of ongoing employees for persons.

Source: Dataset constructed from the ABS 1992–2003 August Labour Force Surveys and the ABS 1992–2003 Surveys of Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership.


ENDNOTES

1 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2004, 'Changes in types of employment, 1992-2003', Australian Labour Market Statistics, October 2004, cat. no. 6105.0, pp. 10-17, ABS, Canberra.

2 Pocock, B, Buchanan, J and Campbell, I 2004, 'Meeting the Challenge of Casual Work in Australia: Evidence, Past Treatment and Future Policy', Australian Bulletin of Labour, vol. 30, no. 1, pp. 16-32.

3 Watson, I 2004, Contented Casuals in Inferior Jobs? Reassessing Casual Employment in Australia, Working paper no. 94, Australian Centre of Industrial Relations Research and Training, Sydney.

4 Watts, R 2001, 'The ACTU's Response to the Growth in Long-term Casual Employment in Australia', Australian Bulletin of Labour, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 137-149.

5 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2003, Education and Work, May 2003, cat. no. 6227.0, ABS, Canberra.

6 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2005, 'Labour force participation in Australia', Australian Labour Market Statistics, January 2005, cat. no. 6105.0, pp. 10-18, ABS, Canberra.

7 Australian Bureau of Statistics, Working Arrangements Survey, November 2003.

8 Australian Centre of Industrial Relations Research and Training 1999, Australia at Work: Just Managing?, Prentice Hall, Sydney.


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