Media Release

Precarious employment rising rapidly among men: research

ContactsAlan Duncan, Director
Rebecca Cassells, Deputy Director
Joanne Peckitt, Communication and Stakeholder Engagement Coordinator
Published12 April 2018

— Women fare better than men in employment opportunities —

— Australians require new skills to thrive in workplaces of the future —

Precarious employment over the last nine years has increased for both men and women, but more rapidly for men, according to the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre’s latest report.

The BCEC report, Future of Work in Australia: Preparing for tomorrow’s world, examines changes in the organisation of work, the quality of jobs, the wages workers receive and the likely skills needed to meet the jobs of the future.

BCEC Director and report author Professor Alan Duncan said that while precarious work is typically much higher among the female workforce, the rapid rise among men is cause for concern.

“Our index of precarious work reveals that higher-skilled occupations such as professionals and managers have more stable employment, while traditionally male-held positions such as labourers and machinery operators and drivers are in the most precarious job circumstances,” Professor Duncan said.

Men are also working fewer hours, and real growth in hourly pay has stalled since 2014, particularly among labourers and machinery operators and drivers.

In moving towards the labour market of the future, there will inevitably be a transformation in the nature of work, and the workplace.

“We can expect ‘traditional’ jobs and workplace orthodoxies to give way to new ways of working, and modes of employment,” Professor Duncan said.

“People are likely to change jobs more regularly in the future, to work fewer hours, or to hold more than a single job at some point in their careers.”

Report co-author Associate Professor Rebecca Cassells, Principal Research Fellow at BCEC, said the report also highlighted a big shift towards female-dominated occupations and away from jobs that have typically been held by men.

“The female-dominated health care and social assistance sector averaged 4.5 per cent annual employment growth between 2008 and 2018 – almost three times the pace of employment growth across all sectors,” Associate Professor Cassells said.

Women also dominated the top ten growth occupations between 2006 and 2016, adding 150,000 additional carers and aides, and 185,000 education and health professionals.

“It’s important that as a society we look to re-shape traditional attitudes towards gendered work and ‘male’ and ‘female’ jobs. This will ensure that men are also able to take advantage of future job opportunities,” Associate Professor Cassells said.

The gendered nature of jobs growth is also reflected in study choices, with domestic enrolments in health sciences among women having tripled between 2001 and 2016.

“We may not be able to afford carrying on with gendered patterns of education for much longer if we want to have a society where everyone has a fair chance of getting a job,” Associate Professor Cassells said.

Jobs currently held by lower-skilled men are more susceptible to technological displacement, and they may be less equipped to take up the growing number of human services jobs that will be on offer.

Professor Alan Duncan added that as the Australian labour market moves towards a more highly-skilled workforce, industry, government and educational institutions all have a critical role to play in ensuring that up-skilling programs are available to those workers at risk of being displaced in the new world of work.

“One of the greatest challenges in preparing for the future of work is to ensure that no one is left behind,” Professor Duncan said.

“It is imperative that all workers – particularly low-skilled men – have access to retraining and education opportunities that smooth their transition to new, higher skilled jobs, or into other forms of employment.”

Key findings from the report include:

Is part-time work the new black?

  • Since the late 1970s, part-time work has increased from representing around 15 per cent of all employees, doubling to 31 per cent in 2018.
  • Men working part-time are more likely to cite a preference for this type of work than they did ten years ago.

What should I be when I grow up?

  • In the ten years to 2016, Australia lost around 270,000 manufacturing jobs and gained almost 400,000 jobs in the health sector.
  • Women have dominated the top ten growth occupations between 2006 and 2016.
  • The prevalence of workers with more than one job has remained stable over the last ten years at around 8 per cent.
  • There has been a threefold increase in the number of domestic tertiary enrolments in health in the last 15 years.
  • The share of total tertiary enrolments in IT and Communications has nearly halved between 2001 and 2016.

Job precariousness

  • Since 2009, precarious employment has increased for both genders, but more rapidly for men than women.
  • The accommodation and food services sector records the highest index value of precarious employment, which has also been increasing over time.
  • Labourers working in public administration and safety, accommodation and food services and agriculture have the highest levels of precarious employment across all occupations and industries.
  • Poorer employment conditions, including lack of access to sick and family leave, drive the greater level of precariousness among labourers.

Workplace satisfaction

  • A higher share of workers are satisfied with their jobs now compared to 15 years ago, however the share of very satisfied workers has decreased. Despite flatter wage growth, the share of workers reporting being very satisfied with pay has only fallen by around 3 percentage points – from 22.6 to 19.5 per cent.
  • Employees of own business are significantly happier than other workers.
  • Around 1 in 5 employed persons work on a regular basis from home.
  • Workers who regularly work from home are on average more satisfied with their work than those who don’t.

Will our wages increase?

  • The issue of casualisation will become a concern in the future if workers are recruited on casual terms to positions that would previously have attracted a permanent or fixed-term contract.
  • The overall gap in pay between the youngest cohort and older workers has widened by nearly 30 per cent since the start of the decade.

Will robots take our jobs?

  • The number of robots per thousand employees in Australia has tripled in the last 20 years but still stands at a very low base.
  • Over half of robots in Australia are employed in the lowest skilled jobs.
  • Low-skilled employment share in Australia has decreased in the last 10 years.
  • Female managers are less likely to hold a complex job and more likely to hold a repetitive job, compared to their male counterparts.

Preparing for the Future

  • Over 56 per cent of professionals often require learning new skills for their job.
  • The majority of lower-educated males are employed in jobs that are at high risk of technological disruption.
  • Around 10 per cent of men and 7.5 per cent of women in Australia in 2012 believed that men should have more right to a job than women.