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The Growth of Non-Traditional Employment: Are Jobs Becoming More Precarious?

Staff research paper

This paper by Greg Murtough and Matthew Waite was released on 26 July 2000. The paper investigates whether Australian labour statistics adequately capture the diverse characteristics of 'non-traditional' employment. The intention is to facilitate a more informed debate about the growing relative importance of non-traditional employment.

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A staff research paper by Greg Murtough and Matthew Waite on The Growth of Non-Traditional Employment: Are Jobs Becoming More Precarious? examines the limitations of statistics for the analysis of non-traditional employment. Particular attention is given to problems interpreting the measure of casual employees in data published by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

Much of the discussion about non-traditional employment in Australia has drawn on the ABS measure of casual employees because it is one of the few regularly published measures of non-traditional employment. It shows that the share of all employed persons who are casuals - often interpreted as an indicator of 'precarious' employment - grew from 13 per cent in 1984 to 22 per cent in 1999.

The staff paper finds that the ABS measure of casual employees in August 1998 was overstated by 34 per cent, because it included people who were not genuine employees with a casual employment contract, and at least one-third of all employees with a casual employment contract did not work in a way that was casual (occasional, irregular or short term).

These problems illustrate the limitations of available statistics for the analysis of non-traditional employment. the types of employment identified are very broad; many owner managers are treated as employees; and the terminology can be confusing.

Background information

Greg Murtough (Research Manager) 03 9653 2163

Leonora Nicol, Media and Publications 02 6240 3239 / 0417 665 443

Preliminaries
Cover, Copyright, Contents, Acknowledgements, Key points

1 Introduction

2 Definitions used for ABS labour statistics
A closer look at the definition of casuals

3 Would the true casual workers please stand up?

4 What do the new Australian data tell us?
Precariousness

5 International comparison of survey methods
United States
Canada
European Union
International Labour Organisation

6 Causes of non-traditional employment growth

7 Concluding comments

References