oitRobust growth of part-time employment in Australia
Many people believe that over the next decade businesses will need to look at alternative employee pools and offer flexibility to attract and retain new staff. However, significant change is already occurring. During the past twenty years there has been a slow but fundamental shift in the structure of the Australian workforce in response to both social and economic change. Part-time employment has become an important and growing component of the labour market. Many individuals are already enjoying the flexibility of part-time work, while many businesses are already reaping the benefits of offering part-time employment.
The part-time work revolution is rapidly gathering pace, pushed along by both workers and employers. Part-time employees currently account for more than 29% of the total workforce. Additionally, more than 55% of part-time employees are individuals at their prime working age (between 25 and 54 years old). Various supply and demand factors are causing the robust growth of part-time employment in Australia including:
- Individuals seeking to combine work with other lifestyle activities (such as raising a family, study, sport or other leisure activity);
- Mothers returning to the workforce to supplement the family income;
- Changed generational expectations and attitudes regarding employment;
- Older workers (54 years +) seeking to transition more slowly into retirement;
- Employers seeking a more operationally flexible workforce, due to changing economic conditions;
Our society has become increasingly affluent and educated, with a growing number of individuals seeking part-time or flexible roles to fit in with their personal lifestyles. These individuals place a high value on their non-work time for a multitude of reasons including a desire to spend more time with a young family, a wish to undertake further education, the need to train or compete in sporting activities and a desire to undertake other leisure activities. Many of these individuals are extremely skilled and talented workers but seek a work/life balance.
More than 71% of all individuals in part-time work are women. The 2007 Household, Income and Labour Dynamics survey revealed that families with at least one part-time worker are likely to earn above the median household income. The survey also showed that nearly two–thirds of families with at least one part-time worker belonged in the top 40% of household incomes in Australia. Current taxation law provides a strong incentive for women to return to the workforce (on a part-time basis) and supplement the family income. No tax is paid on the first $6000 of income with a tax rate of just 15% payable on income between $6001 and $34,000. Therefore, with one member of the family working full-time and another working part-time the total family income can be substantially increased with minimal tax impact.
Generations X & Y (those born after 1965) have different work/life expectations and attitudes to the Baby Boomer Generation. The X & Y Generations undertake more travel, get married later, have children later and change their careers more often than previous generations. Generations X & Y view time as a currency, a very valuable currency, with work being considered as a way to earn money so that their free time can be enjoyed, and they are seeking more free time than any other generation. However, this does not mean that they are not hard workers; it just means that they have a different perspective on life than their Baby Boomer employers. To attract, employ and engage Generation X & Y workers, employers need to offer flexible working conditions and hours.
During the next twenty years, it is almost certain, that there will be a higher proportion of older people (65 years +) in the Australian population than every before. The first of the Baby Boom generation begin turning 65 years old in 2011. By 2014 the average age of an Australian worker will be 40 years old. This presents two challenges for businesses – a shrinking supply of highly skilled labour and an increasingly large demographic of older Australians to be provided with goods & services. However, fortunately, longer life expectancy is increasingly resulting in older workers seeking a slower transition to retirement and full-time leisure. But, flexible employment policies are required by businesses to meet the needs of older workers. Only those employers prepared to provide a wide range of part-time work will be successful in attracting the older experienced workers.
Businesses are offering more and more part-time jobs to the workforce for two main reasons – attract skilled workers and improve operational flexibility. Attracting skilled and experienced workers will be an ongoing problem for Australian businesses during the next twenty years. Additionally, in the short to medium term, economic conditions will weaken, and there will be an increasing requirement for businesses to become more flexible and respond rapidly to competitive pressures and changing patterns of consumer demand. In December 2008 the Australian economy lost 44,000 full-time jobs as companies reduced labour costs to brace for a possible recession. However, part-time positions soared increasing by a massive 42,800 to 3,102,200. Therefore, with an economic downturn of unpredictable length expected in Australia, businesses are starting to increase the employment of part-time workers to enable a quick response to changes in demand for products & services.
CIRCLE Recruitment & HR was established as a recruitment business entirely based around flexibility and part-time work place practices originally. . When employees are offered this level of independence and flexibility, regular patterns emerge and enable the employer to effectively manage the work force. In 2007, CIRCLE Recruitment & HR was recognised by the Federal Government for the Company’s efforts in introducing flexibility into the workplace, being awarded a Special Commendation in the National Work and Family Awards by the Minister for Employment and the Workplace.
Ross MacMillan holds a Bachelor of Commerce (Accounting, Finance and Systems) from the University of NSW, he is a member of the Institute of Chartered Accountants, member of the Securities & Derivatives Industry Association and a fellow of the Financial Services Institute of Australia.
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