For hundred of thousands of Australians who work more than one job a week to try and make ends meet, there is never a time when they’ve truly knocked off work.
Life is an endless and exhausting calendar juggle, mixing and matching shifts at different locations, on various days, at contrasting hours and for different employers.
Overlaying that is the demands of home life – school drop offs and pick ups, managing domestic responsibilities and trying to pay the bills.
All the while lurks a nagging anxiety that at any moment, whatever semblance of stability you’ve been able to maintain could vanish with a phone call telling you that you’ve lost hours at work or your job.
The routine that underpins a stable life for others is a pipe dream for these Australians. Sadly, recent figures show that more and more of us are joining their ranks.
The number of Australians being forced to pick up more than one job to make ends meet increased 4.3 per cent in the June quarter and 8 per cent for the year to June, reaching a new record of 900,000, with workers in healthcare and social assistance hit the hardest, according to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics this month.
That amounts to 6.5 per cent of Australia’s total working population in multiple jobs.
Australian workers are suffering an epidemic of instability, driven by employers who decide to abandon their workers to the anxiety and stress of the insecure work market rather than employ them in permanent jobs.
These workers would struggle to do the simple things many of us take for granted, like securing a loan to buy a house or a car, convincing a landlord to offer them a long term lease, or plan something as simple as a family holiday.
“This is the highest rate since the quarterly series commenced in 1994, and about 0.5 percentage points above its pre-pandemic level,” Australian Bureau of Statistics head of labour statistics Lauren Ford said.
The Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Sally McManus, said that it’s clear the situation can’t continue.
“Record numbers of working people are being forced to string together multiple jobs in order to pay the bills. This is at a time when profits for our biggest businesses keep climbing and labour productivity is at the highest level in a decade. This just shows the need to update our workplace laws so wages move again.”Sally McManus, ACTU Secretary
The headline rate of unemployment is the blunt instrument that is the mostly widely used tool in deciding the health of the labour market. The truth is, it often masks the reality for many workers, who are counted in the employment figures if they work just one or more hours a week.
The reality is that there are millions of working Australians right across the country who are struggling to find the type of secure work that would deliver enough hours to support themselves and their families.
McManus points out the insecure work trend isn’t an accident. It’s a deliberate design feature of the economy created by employers who see fatter profit margins in maintaining an army of readily available, casualised workers.
“This problem has been exacerbated by employers slicing and dicing what were once full time, permanent jobs into multiple, insecure, outsourced, low-paid jobs. Australia can do so much better than this.
As inflation continues to gallop ahead and interest rates head higher as well, workers without the security that a permanent offers are straddling an economic knife-edge that must be at times unbearable.
“The record number of people working more than one job at a time of low unemployment exposes how serious our problems are, headline figures mask the reality of working life in Australia in 2022.”
“This is at a time when profits for our biggest businesses keep climbing and labour productivity is at the highest level in a decade,”McManus said. If Australia is serious about maintaining its commitment to the “fair go”, ending the scourge of multiple jobs in insecure work for those who want a secure job would be the place to start.
Why multiple jobs, insecure work and anxiety is now the Australian way