Casual workers in Australia face widening disparities

New research conducted by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) reveals that casual workers in Australia are facing an increasing wage disparity compared to their permanently employed counterparts.

The study found that across all industries, casual employees earn AUD 11.59 (USD 7.71) less per hour than their permanent counterparts. The hourly wages for casual workers are at AUD 28.95 (USD 19.26), whereas permanent employees receive AUD 40.54 (USD 26.97) per hour. This staggering pay gap of 28.6% has been steadily widening since 2016 and has now reached its highest level on record.

Even when considering workers with similar skill levels or in the same occupation, the pay gap between casual and permanent workers remains significant, ranging from AUD 3.55 to AUD 3.84 per hour, representing approximately an 11% difference. Interestingly, casual workers are entitled to an additional loading of up to 25%, but this doesn’t bridge the wage gap.

Disturbingly, the ACTU’s research highlights that 50% of casual workers now report being financially worse off compared to their situation 12 months ago. This figure has increased from 36% recorded in the previous year.

Casual work arrangements currently encompass approximately 2.6 million workers in Australia, constituting almost one in four employees. Notably, women make up 55% of the casual workforce. Industries with the highest rates of casualization include retail, accommodation, food services, healthcare, and social assistance, accounting for 55% of all casual workers.

In light of these findings, the ACTU is urging the government to discard the law changes proposed by former Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s administration. Instead, they advocate for the introduction of a “common sense” definition of casual work as part of the government’s forthcoming Industrial Relations reforms.