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Insecurity complex – is casual and contract work "insecure"?

The latest target of the union movement is casual and contract work.

According to the ACTU, Australia is facing a "growing crisis of insecure work".  Their "independent" inquiry into casual work, chaired by former Labor Deputy Prime Minister Brian Howe, has "heard from dozens of witnesses" about the difficulties they have faced as a casual or temporary worker.

While this may be true of individual experiences, the statistics do not bear this out, according to Mark Wooden of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research.

Writing in the Australian Financial Review, Wooden observed that in a regular survey of job satisfaction taken in 2010, 59 per cent of all employees reported a score of eight or higher, a high level of satisfaction.  60 per cent of employees in non-standard jobs (eg. casual or contract) reported high job satisfaction.

The National Institute of Labour Studies also recently found that there was no evidence that casual or contract employment are harmful to a person's mental health.

In February of this year, only 17 per cent of a sample of Australian workers surveyed by Roy Morgan Research thought there was a chance they might become unemployed.  This compares to 21 per cent in 1975, 25 per cent in the early 1980s and 32 per cent in the early 1990s.

According to Wooden, job security does not depend on the formal nature of the employment arrangement but the value of the employee's skills to the employer.

Whether full-time, part-time, permanent, casual or contract, IHR recommends close attention to the relevant employment contract to ensure the employment arrangement delivers the maximum benefits to the business.

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