In an article published in BRW on 19/11/12, Fiona Smith provides an interesting commentary on the impact of the ‘casualisation’ of the Australian workforce from both an economic and social perspective.

It highlights the arguments used by employer groups and unions both for and against the growing trend of casualisation.

The economic arguments from the perspective of employer groups are well-understood. Australian organisations have sought to manage their overheads through the introduction of more flexible cost structures, allowing them the flexibility to manage their way through the fragility of weak consumer demand. This is not a recent change but a structural change which has occurred over the last twenty years.

What is interesting and new is the social impact that casualisation threatens to have on the workforce. The article highlights some concerning social costs such as employees’ loss of annual leave, the potential reduction in work/life balance, and the difficulty of obtaining finance due to the uncertainty of their employment status.

These potential impacts are something all of the community must begin to address. All stakeholders need to be prepared to deal with a situation where the economy is managing a class of employee that works the traditional forty hour week but, through no fault of their own, struggles to enjoy access to many of the things we take for granted in the Australian lifestyle.

In particular, employers will need to consider:

  • What their response will be to this unfolding social cost;
  • How they will engage these employees and their representatives, as they start to make up a greater proportion of the overall workforce; and