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Contract and temp jobs are on the rise in Australia: Here's where they are

Photo: Jean-Pierre Muller/AFP/Getty Images

Employers plan to hire more contract workers — to fill temporary holes in positions or to deal with a sudden surge in work — over the next year.

Almost one-quarter (23%) of Australian employers say they now employ temporary or contract staff regularly with another 44% using them for special projects or workloads, according to the 2017 Hays Salary Guide.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics estimates there are one million independent contractors, or about 9% of those employed nationally, up from about 980,000 five years ago.

Add to that casual employees, who now account for 22.6% of employees, up from 20.8% four years ago.

Recruiters Hays say the increase will be greatest in IT departments, where 37% of employers say they will use more temporaries and contractors over the coming year.

IT jobs are where the biggest pay rises are on offer in Australia at the moment. Most in that industry will get 3% or more.

In the temp and contract world, hiring will also rise in 32% of Project Management and Purchasing/Procurement departments, 30% of Marketing departments, 28% of Engineering departments, 25% of Operational Management departments, 23% of HR departments, 18% of Sales departments and 12% of Accountancy & Finance departments.

“Highly-skilled temporary and contract staff are certainly becoming the new normal in workplaces, creating a blended work force of temporary and permanent employees who work side-by-side,” says Nick Deligiannis, managing director of Hays in Australia .

“Temporary and contract employees fill staffing or knowledge gaps, assist with projects, bring particular expertise that is difficult to find or not required daily, and offer flexibility since they can be released at short notice without financial penalty.”

But according to Deligiannis, there’s another factor contributing to the increase — non-routine jobs.

“If we look at the skills in demand, it is professionals who can undertake non-routine work who are seeing the highest job growth,” he says.

“This is likely to continue, with automation and artificial intelligence already beginning to take over manual and repetitive tasks — just think of automated self-service checkouts in retail stores or assembly lines in manufacturing plants.”

Job site Indeed has analysed search data to uncover the careers least likely at risk of being made obsolete through automation — those requiring unique human skills such as creativity.

Among them, the combination of creativity and complex manual skills of the chef make their kitchen creations robot-proof. Cybersecurity careers are also secure, and in demand, with job postings for roles in Australia up by 124% in the last two years

“Yes robots and AI are expected to also be used as another tool to help us do our job better, but with automation taking over routine tasks it is knowledge workers who are more likely to be needed in future,” says Deligiannis at Hays.

“By their very nature temporary and contract employees possess a high level of relevant knowledge. They are experts in their field and come into a workplace to add value immediately. It’s no wonder then that we’re seeing an increase in the use of temporary and contract staff,” he said.

According to Reserve Bank research, routine manual jobs as a share of employment have fallen by 10 percentage points in the past three decades while cognitive routine jobs have fallen since the early 2000.

The 2017 Hays Salary Guide is based on a survey of more than 2,950 organisations representing 3,021,984 employees.

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