Australian Bureau of Statistics
4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, Dec 2009
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 10/12/2009
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PATTERNS IN WORK
TRENDS IN SELECTED WORKING ARRANGEMENTS AND TYPES OF JOBS OVER RECENT DECADES
(a) As a proportion of all workers.
(b) In main job if a multiple job holder.
(c) As a proportion of all employees and owner managers of incorporated enterprises.
Source: Labour Force, Australia, November 2009 (ABS cat. no. 6202.0); Australian Labour Market Statistics, October 2009 (ABS cat. no. 6105.0); Trade Union Members, Australia, August 1992 (ABS cat. no. 6325.0); Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership, Australia, August 2008 (ABS cat. no. 6310.0)
For some people, the availability of jobs which allow them to work at night or on the weekend, or which offer flexible working hours, enable them to obtain and retain paid work. Many are unable or unwilling to work a 'traditional'
full-time, Monday to Friday job that has fixed and regular daytime start and finish times.
CHARACTERISTICS OF WORKERS(a) ENGAGED IN DIFFERENT TYPES OF EMPLOYMENT(b) - 2008
(b) In main job if a multiple job holder.
(c) Those who are a contributing family worker in their main job are excluded from this table and all subsequent text.
(d) Employed people who usually work 1-34 hours a week in all jobs.
(e) Employed people who usually work at least 35 hours a week in all jobs.
Source: ABS 2008 Forms of Employment Survey
However, for other people, the ability to plan and commit to family, social and leisure activities is adversely affected by working at night or on the weekend, or by working at irregular and/or unpredictable times. By their nature, jobs which require workers to be on call or standby offer unpredictable working hours. Other irregular work patterns include working varying days of the week, a varying number of hours from week to week, and different start and finish times from day to day.
HOW COMMON ARE 'TRADITIONAL' WORK PATTERNS THESE DAYS?
In November 2008, according to the ABS Forms of Employment Survey, three-quarters (75%) of all employees with paid holiday leave and/or paid sick leave usually worked five days a week. However, the five day working week was not the norm among other workers.
Only 33% of casual employees usually worked five days a week. Reflecting their tendency to work part-time, the majority (56%) of casuals usually worked fewer than five days a week. Yet, despite the relatively small proportion of casuals who worked full-time (30% compared with 83% of other employees) casual employees were just as likely as other employees to usually work on six or seven days of the week.
Just under half (45%) of owner managers also usually had a five day week, though only 17% usually worked less than five days a week. Substantial proportions of owner managers usually worked six days a week (21%) or every day (18%).
(a) Employed people usually working less than an hour a week in all jobs are excluded from this graph and all associated text.
Source: ABS 2008 Forms of Employment Survey
HOW REGULAR IS WORK TIME?
Also in November 2008, 15% of employed people worked on days of the week which varied from week to week. Variability of working days was more commonly experienced by casual employees (24%) than by other employees (11%) and owner managers (15%).
Around one in four workers (26%) did not usually work the same number of hours each week. Higher proportions of casual employees and owner managers (38% of both) worked variable weekly hours, while this pattern of work was more unusual among employees with paid leave entitlements (18%).
Different industries, different patterns
Some of the industry differences in work patterns in November 2008 can be attributed to the composition of each industry's workforce (i.e. the relative proportions of each who are casual employees, other employees and owner managers). However, other factors also influence the extent to which 'non-traditional' patterns are worked within an industry. Such factors include the nature of the work undertaken (e.g. seasonality in farming), negotiated entitlements and obligations (i.e. conditions of employment), the demographic profile and personal preferences of its workers, the preferences of its consumers, and levels of competition operating within the industry.
For example, 72% of people working in the very casualised and competitive Accommodation and food services industry usually worked on the weekend. Working mainly in this industry, 89% of bar attendants, 88% of hotel/motel managers and 83% of chefs usually worked on the weekend. In sharp contrast, only 8% of people employed in the Financial and insurance services industry usually worked on the weekend. This marked difference partly reflects heightened weekend demand for many services supplied by the Accommodation and food services industry. Weekend work is uncommon in the Financial and insurance services industries, partly because few financial and insurance companies (e.g. banks) open their branches for face to face business on a Saturday or Sunday. New technologies have given consumers 24/7 access to many of this industry's products and services. In particular, ATMs and the rapidly expanding use of web-based technology has obviated many customers need for 'over the counter' service.
In some industries and occupations it's not only common to work on the weekend, but to work days which vary from week to week, and to work different numbers of hours each week. Conditions of employment, such as being able to choose work times and being on call, may contribute to such irregular work patterns. Among the occupations most likely to have variable days of work were midwives (81%), critical care and emergency nurses (81%) and
police officers (68%), while at least half of all photographers (57%), concreters (51%) and transport company managers (51%) worked a different number of hours from week to week.
In November 2008, half (50%) of all workers had some say in what time they started and finished work, and a quarter (25%) were usually required to be on call or standby. There were, however, considerable differences between industries. For example, Professional, scientific and technical services industry workers were more than twice as likely as Mining industry workers to have a say in their start and finish times (70% compared with 29%), and Agriculture, forestry and fishing industry workers were thrice as likely as Education and training industry workers to be on call (47% compared with 15%). Yet school principals were quite likely to be required to be on call (63%), along with 89% of ministers of religion and 69% of real estate agents.
EMPLOYED PEOPLE(a)(b), SELECTED PATTERNS OF WORK AND SELECTED CONDITIONS OF EMPLOYMENT - 2008
ARE PEOPLE'S USUAL WORK PATTERNS THEIR PREFERRED PATTERNS?
The ABS Survey of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation, which was conducted between April and July in 2007, asked workers to describe some of their usual work patterns and then asked them what patterns they would prefer to work (taking into account any income changes that would or might occur).
Nearly two in three workers (64%) usually worked all of their hours during daylight hours (i.e between seven in the morning and seven in the evening). The overwhelming majority (96%) of these people who only worked during daytime hours liked it that way. Among the other 36% of employed people who usually worked some or all of their hours at night (i.e. between seven in the evening and seven in the morning) over two-thirds (68%) actually preferred to be working some or all of their hours at night.
Similarly, among the 63% of employed people who didn't usually work at all on the weekend, virtually all (96%) were happy to have the weekend off. Of the other 37% of employed people who did usually work on the weekend, almost two-thirds (65%) were following their preference for working some or all of their hours on the weekend.
People who usually worked on the weekend and preferred to work on the weekend were a diverse group, even though some population groups were over represented. For example, 30% of people who usually worked on the weekend and preferred to work on the weekend were casual employees, 26% were owner managers, 59% were male, 26% were aged 15-24 years, and 17% were aged 55 years or older.
Among all employed people (excluding those who are a contributing family worker in their main job and those usually working less than an hour a week) 20% were casual employees, 20% were owner managers, 55% were male, 17% were aged 15-24 years, and 15% were aged 55 years or older.
Entitlement to penalty rates of pay for working 'unsocial' hours may underpin some workers' preference for working on days which attract such higher rates of hourly pay. Weekend work may also be popular among students whose need to attend an educational institution during weekday daytime hours precludes paid work at such times.
EMPLOYED PEOPLE(a)(b), PROPORTION USUALLY WORKING AT 'NON-TRADITIONAL' TIMES AND PROPORTION PREFERRING TO WORK AT SUCH TIMES - 2007
Too much, not enough or about the right amount of time spent working?
When it came to the number of hours they usually worked each week, about two-thirds (65%) of employed people felt they were working close to their preferred number of hours. Nevertheless, 14% of workers wanted to work more hours than they were usually working, and 21% preferred to work less hours for less money. Part-time workers who were dissatisfied with the number of hours they were working tended to want more hours, and full-time workers who were dissatisfied tended to want fewer hours.
People who only just worked full-time hours (i.e. those who usually worked between 35 and 39 hours a week) were among the most content. Only 13% wanted to spend more time working, 15% preferred to cut back their hours, and 73% felt they were spending about the right amount of time working. At the other end of the full-time spectrum, half (51%) of the people who usually worked at least 49 hours a week felt they were working about the right number of hours. While some of them (3%) actually wanted more hours, nearly half (46%) preferred to work fewer hours and accept a drop in pay.
Employed people who wanted to work fewer hours were more likely than other workers to feel that their work and family responsibilities were rarely if ever in balance (24% compared with 13%). Still, 41% of them felt that their work and family responsibilities were often if not always in balance. This reflects the many and varied main reasons for wanting to work fewer hours. Some people wanted to work less mainly to be able to spend more time caring for children, but the single most commonly cited main reason for wanting to work fewer hours was to spend more time on social and/or recreational activities.
EMPLOYED PEOPLE(a)(b), SATISFACTION WITH NUMBER OF HOURS USUALLY WORKED PER WEEK - 2007
(a) Those usually working less than an hour a week in all jobs are excluded from this graph and all associated text.
(b) Those who are a contributing family worker in their main job are excluded from this graph and all associated text.
(c) People who did not know which option they preferred were excluded prior to the calculation of all percentages presented in this graph and its accompanying text.
Source: ABS 2007 Survey of Employment Arrangements, Retirement and Superannuation
Recent and impending developments have the potential to shape the work patterns of the future. These include legislative, attitudinal and technological changes, the emergence and decline of industries and occupations, the existence of skill shortages, and pressures to boost productivity, competition and workforce participation.
Current government policies aim to maximise workforce participation and assist workers to realise their preferred work-life balance. A labour market which offers a more diverse and flexible array of working arrangements and work patterns may improve the chances of increasing workforce participation. It may also enable workers to optimally balance paid work with other aspects of their lives.
1. For more information on how casual employment may be defined, see 'Measures of Casual Employment' in Australian Labour Market Statistics, October 2008, cat. no. 6105.0, ABS, Canberra.
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This page last updated 15 March 2010