How workers really feel about their job security

job_security

Three myths about the Australian workforce seem to have become widely accepted in the public consciousness as if they were “facts”.

One of these has been that “casualisation is increasing in the Australian workforce”, despite being proven incorrect in 2016 by the Conversation and by the ABC as recently as a few weeks ago.

Another, is the idea that Australian workers are receiving a ‘record low’ or ‘unfair’ share of total national income, which is nowhere near as clear cut as its proponents make it out to be.

More recently, there have been claims using misrepresented statistics that job insecurity in Australia is rising. But what are Australian workers’ perceptions of job security?

Every quarter the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) releases data on workers’ expectations of future employment. More specifically, they ask if the respondent expects to be working with their current employer or business in 12 months, and if not, why?

As of February 2018, 11.3 million of the 12.5 million workers in Australia expect to be with their current employer or business in 12 months, which is more than 9 in 10 Australian workers. This number has not changed significantly since records began in 2001. In fact, over the past 16 years there has been a slight fall in workers’ perceptions of job insecurity.

Chart 1: Share of workers employment expectations in 12 months

Chart1

Source: ABS Labour Force Australia, Detailed Quarterly, Feb 2018

 

As shown in Chart 2, of the 10% of people in the workforce that do expect to leave their job in the next year, about half are leaving in order to change jobs or seek other employment. Only 1.2% expect to not be with their current employer because of seasonal arrangements and 0.5% because of downsizing or the business shutting down. The share of the workforce not expecting to be with their current employer in the next year because of seasonal arrangements is the same as it was in May 2001, while the share of workers expecting to lose their current job in the next year due to shutting down/downsizing has fallen from 0.9% in May 2001 to 0.5% in February 2018.

Chart 2: Reasons for not expecting to be with current employer or businesses in 12 months, share of total workforce

Chart2

Source: ABS Labour Force Australia, Detailed Quarterly, Feb 2018

 

Workers’ expectations of losing their job in the next 12 months tends to move in line with labour market conditions and does not appear to be misguided. As shown in Chart 3, the share of workers expecting to lose their current job in the next 12 months is closely aligned with the unemployment rate.

Chart 3 – Unemployment rate and share of workers expecting to be shutdown/downsized in the next 12 months

Chart3

Source: ABS Labour Force Australia, Detailed Quarterly, Feb 2018

 

The nature of work is changing in the Australian and global economies as new technologies and new ways of working evolve. It is vital that Australia retains a flexible labour market to take advantage of these opportunities. There are of course other measures of job security, and debate will continue, but the perceptions of Australian workers themselves as to the stability of their employment do not suggest any prevailing insecurity.

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Innes Willox
Ai Group Chief Executive since May 2012, Innes joined as Director International and Government Relations in 2008. Prior to this he held a number of senior roles in both the public and private sectors: Australian Consul General to Los Angeles (2006-08); Chief of Staff to Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alexander Downer (2004-06); and Manager for Global Public Affairs, Singapore Airlines (2000-04). He began his career as a journalist, with his positions including Chief Political Correspondent and Chief of Staff at The Age.

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