The number of Australians working multiple jobs is now at a record high, according to a new report

The number of Australians working multiple jobs is now at a record high, according to a new report
ACTU secretary Sally McManus. Photo: Getty
  • The number of Australians working multiple jobs reached a record high of 867,900 in June.
  • The demographics most prone to taking on extra work were millennials and Gen Z, who accounted for 55% of the cohort. 
  • Experts are calling on the Morrison government to crack down on job security as businesses continue to casualise the national workforce.

Australians are taking on additional jobs in droves as the national workforce suffers surging casualisation and the government fails to address job insecurity, experts say. 

A new report released by the Australian Council of Trade Unions on Thursday warns that, without measures to improve job stability in Australia, the post-pandemic labour market will be dominated by severe work-life imbalance fuelled by insecure work, after the number of Australians working multiple jobs reached a record-high of 867,900 in June this year.

Of those working more than one job in June, some 209,100 reported to be working three or more jobs, a 10.8% jump on the year before, while the demographics most prone to taking on extra work were Millennials and Generation Z, who accounted for 55% of the cohort. 

ACTU secretary Sally McManus said the trend is deeply concerning

“The record number of Australians working three or more jobs is a deeply concerning trend,” McManus said. “The Morrison government is overseeing the erosion of the financial security that secure employment has provided for generations of Australian workers.”

“The Morrison government urgently needs to address the insecure jobs crisis plaguing this country,” she said. “Australian workers have been doing it extremely tough for almost two years.”

The pandemic itself has had a profound negative effect on job security, the report found, as businesses across the health and social work sectors rushed to secure more than 36,200 cleaning and support workers to deal with changing public health requirements, amid a climate of economic uncertainty. 

The healthcare and social assistance sectors recorded some of the largest increases in employing staff with multiple jobs through June.

Dan Nahum, an economist at the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work, said the aged care sector is just one example.

“COVID-19 has been reintroduced into multiple aged care homes in Victoria, in part via staff who worked in multiple locations,” Nuham said. “We have been here before, but this time, the Commonwealth Government should have prevented this channel of contagion.

“The poorly-managed vaccine rollout, including inexplicable delays in vaccinating aged care residents and staff, has played a key role in the current outbreak,” he said. 

“But there is another policy factor at play as well: multi-site, insecure, and precarious work in Australia’s aged care sector.”

According to the ABS, the number of Australians working two, three or more jobs has been increasing steadily since the Bureau started tracking it in 1994. When it started, those with multiple jobs accounted for 5.7% of the labour market, before dipping slightly to 5.5% in 1998. 

In June this year, that number swelled to 6.3% of the national labour market, where 7.5% of all jobs are now secondary ones. 

Casual jobs now account for almost 60% of all waged jobs created since the trough of the recession, according to a Centre for Future Work report, while part-time work accounts for almost two-thirds of all new jobs, and “very insecure” jobs — like gig economy, and work undertaken on platforms — account for most of Australia’s rebound in self-employment.

The ACTU report suggests that low wages are one driver of the trend. It points to an average wage gap of 17.5% between multiple job holders and full-time staffers, with incomes of $40,500 and $49,083 respectively. 

Meanwhile, women were found to be even worse off, with a multiple job median income of about $36,500, compared to the $46,200 received by men. 

The other driver, according to the report, is businesses taking on new staff on a casual basis in response to the pandemic. 

McManus said the trend should spark renewed criticism of the Morrison government’s approach to employment policy, which she said is leaving Australians without the opportunity to enjoy life outside of work. 

“How do working people with multiple, insecure jobs plan for a life outside of work? The Morrison government needs to act to ensure that working Australians have the quality of life that all working people should be able to rely on,” McManus said. 

“More than half of those with two or more jobs are women,” she said. “As usual women are left worse off. This government refuses to prioritise even the most basic of women’s rights.”