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New research released today at the National Community Summit: Creating Secure Jobs and a Better Society suggests that Australia has the second-highest rate of temporary workers in OECD countries.
President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU), Ged Kearney, said that the findings were surprising. She was also astonished to see that people’s perceptions of the importance of the mining industry to the national economy were vastly exaggerated.
Empirica Research was commissioned to gain insights into people’s attitudes towards insecure work, the economy and the welfare system for the summit, held in Canberra this morning, with Prime Minister Julia Gillard addressing the summit on Thursday. It brings together more than 100 people from the community sector, government, unions and academia.
ACTU President Ged Kearney said the Summit would be presented with new data showing that Australia had overtaken Spain and now lagged behind only Chile for the highest rate of temporary work in the OECD at 27.9% of the workforce.
In her opening speech, Ms Kearney said that the social compact that has bound Australia together for more than a century is under threat from fundamental changes in the workplace.
“Many of the changes to our workplace have had negative effects on workers and their families,” she said. “We have forgotten that the burdens of economic change do not fall equally, that the drive to a more efficient and flexible economy has hurt some people more than others and increased inequality.”
Ms Kearney also said the growth of job insecurity in Australia requires meaningful discussion and a plan of action. “Those who argue that insecure work is inevitable, it is not an issue, or somehow what workers want, are missing the point and are increasingly finding themselves on the wrong side of this debate,” she added.
Readers should not that temporary agency work is generally a small subset of all temporary work discussed above.