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Employment arrangements: Employment arrangements in the late 1990s
Most employees in Australia, especially adult men, work in ongoing full-time jobs which provide a steady income. This income covers time spent on the job as well as periods of paid leave from work, such as recreation and sick leave. However, the proportion of workers in such jobs has been in decline. Between 1988 and 1998, the proportion of all male employees in full-time jobs with access to paid leave decreased from 88% to 75% and among women, from 60% to 50%.
At the same time, the proportions of workers working part-time or on a casual basis increased. For instance, the proportion of employees in casual jobs increased from 19% to 27% between 1988 and 1998 (see Australian Social Trends 2000, Work: National summary table). Casual jobs are commonly understood to be those subject to termination at short notice, not offering leave entitlements and with varying hours of work.1 Many part-time jobs are casual. However, there are also many employees who work on a permanent part-time basis, where they receive leave entitlements.
Associated with these trends has been the development of yet other types of employment arrangement. These include jobs organised as fixed-term contracts, those in which payment is made on a commission basis and those organised through labour hire firms. Self employment is also becoming more common.2
While some people have benefited from these changes, enjoying the increased flexibility, others have found themselves in employment arrangements they consider unfavourable. Certainly there is evidence to show that increasing numbers of workers feel less secure in their jobs.3
The extent to which people are employed in jobs with more precarious working arrangements than the traditional job varies between men and women according to their life cycle stage, and according to the industries and occupations in which they work.
PROPORTION OF EMPLOYEES(a) IN FULL-TIME JOBS WITH PAID LEAVE
The 1998 Forms of Employment Survey provided new information about employment arrangements between employers and employees. This has enabled employees in traditional jobs (ongoing full-time jobs, with leave entitlements) to be distinguished from those employed on an ongoing part-time basis (that is in ongoing jobs, with leave entitlements and working part-time), and those who considered themselves to be employed on a casual basis. In 1998, 61% of employees were identified as working in a traditional job, 9% in an ongoing part-time job and 22% in a casual job, 82% of whom worked part-time. Other groups identified in the survey were people in restricted tenure jobs (such as seasonal or temporary jobs and jobs with fixed term contracts) and people engaged through, and paid by, labour hire firms. In 1998 these two groups represented 5% and 1% of employees, respectively.
Indicators of security
By definition alone, the different employment arrangements give some idea of relative levels of job and income security. A further appreciation of the precarious nature of some employment arrangements is gained by looking at other differentiating characteristics. These include duration in employment and the proportion of people who take up a second job. Comparing people in casual employment with those in traditional jobs highlights these differences.
In 1998, employees in traditional jobs had relatively steady earnings (only 12% had variable monthly earnings), all had access to paid holiday and paid sick leave and most (64%) had a duration in employment of more than two years. Among those in casual jobs, on the other hand, relatively high proportions had variable monthly earnings (62%) and few had any paid leave (3%). Furthermore, a substantial proportion (10%) had more than one job. The percentage of people in casual jobs with a duration of tenure of more than two years was comparatively low (about 26%), although many people employed on a casual basis do remain in their jobs for long periods. In 1998, 278,600 casual employees (19% of the total) had been with their employer for four years or longer.4
Differences also appear among the other types of working arrangements in ways that might be expected. Generally, however, compared to those in traditional jobs, employees in each of the other employment arrangements were less likely to have a steady monthly income, less likely to have paid leave, more likely to leave their job after a short time (as indicated by the low percentage with a duration of more than two years) and more likely to have more than one job.
Differences between men and women
High proportions of men, overall 74%, but especially those in age groups in which they are most likely to have family responsibilities, work in traditional jobs. In 1998, 77% of male employees aged 25-34 years were employed in traditional jobs and the proportion among those aged 35-54 years was about 82%.
Conversely, much higher proportions of women than men work in ongoing part-time and casual jobs. These differences partly reflect the traditional caring roles women have for children and other family members (see Australian Social Trends 1998, Trends in women's employment). Nevertheless, in the 25-34 year age group, the group in which child care responsibilities is likely to be highest, the proportion of women in traditional jobs was the highest (58%) compared to women in other age groups.
The proportions of men and women employed in either restricted tenure jobs or jobs in which they were paid by a labour hire firm were much the same. The likelihood of having these two arrangements also varied little according to age, although among men it generally decreased with age.
Youth and older employees
Among young employees (those aged 15-24 years) the proportion employed in traditional jobs was relatively low. However, this is likely to reflect the fact that many of these employees are studying (see Australian Social Trends 1996, From school to work). Students are likely to prefer the non-traditional working arrangements because of the flexibility they offer. Workers appear to move (not necessarily by choice) into more flexible employment arrangements as they approach their retirement. Among male employees, for instance, only 73% of those aged 55 and over worked in traditional jobs compared to 83% of those aged 45-54 years. In contrast, the proportions of men in each of the other working arrangements described (ongoing part-time, casual, restricted tenure and jobs paid by a labour hire firm) were higher for the older group of men. The same pattern occurred for women approaching retirement.
Types of employment arrangements differ greatly across industries. At one extreme, the 1998 Forms of Employment Survey found that over 90% of employees in electricity, gas and water supply were employed in traditional jobs. At the other extreme, the proportion in such jobs among those employed in the accommodation, cafes and restaurants industry was only 32%. Various factors help explain such differences.
Industries with high proportions of workers in traditional work arrangements (including manufacturing and mining) tend to have ongoing rather than seasonal production schedules and thus require a stable workforce. As a result, jobs offered on a casual or other more flexible basis may be less beneficial to the employer. Such industries also have higher than average levels of trade union membership (see Australian Social Trends 2000, Trade union members) which suggests that new arrangements might be more difficult to introduce.
In contrast, industries with high levels of casual employment, such as accommodation, cafes and restaurants; retail trade; and agriculture, forestry and fishing, tend to have seasonal or trading day variations and need greater flexibility in hiring and firing staff.
Low trade union membership rates in these industries could also enable change to be more readily implemented.
When jobs are grouped and ranked by occupation and skill level, it is apparent that non-traditional working arrangements tend to be more common among those employed in lower skilled jobs. In 1998, the two least- skilled occupational groups had the lowest proportions of employees in traditional jobs (33% of those in elementary clerical, sales and service jobs and 43% of those in labouring and related jobs). In contrast, 89% of employees who were managers and administrators were employed in traditional jobs. Those in the lower skilled jobs were more likely to be employed on a casual or ongoing part-time basis than those in higher skilled jobs.
Contrary to the general pattern of greater security for higher skilled workers, those employed as professionals were more likely to be working in some non-traditional jobs than those in other occupational groups. The proportion of professionals working in restricted tenure jobs was, for example, unusually high. In 1998, 11% of those employed as professionals worked in restricted tenure jobs compared to 2% of intermediate production and transport workers and 2% of elementary clerical, sales and service workers. Particular professional occupations with high proportions in restricted tenure jobs included doctors, tertiary education teachers, and scientists (40%, 31% and 29% respectively).4
Employment through a labour hire firm was most common in advanced clerical and service type jobs, at 4%. This occupation group includes secretaries and personal assistants, 5% of whom were employed under these arrangements.4
1 Productivity Commission 1996, Future labour market issues for Australia, Productivity Commission, Canberra.
2 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1997, Labour Force, Australia, July 1997, cat. no. 6203.0, ABS, Canberra.
3 Kelley, Jonathan, Evans, M.D.R. and Dawkins, P. 1998, 'Job Security in the 1990s: How much is job security worth to employees?', Australian Social Monitor, Sept. 1998, pp. 1-7.
4 Australian Bureau of Statistics, unpublished data, 1998 Forms of Employment Survey.