Casual consequences: the impact of non-standard employment

Against a backdrop of growing concern over casual and contract employment rates, University of Melbourne researchers are assessing the real impact of 'non-standard' forms of employment on workers.

Working at the margin: the consequences of non-standard employment

Against a backdrop of growing concern over casual, fixed term and sub-contractor employment rates across Australia, this Melbourne Institute project aims to assess the impact of 'non-standard' forms of employment on workers.

Using data gathered as part of the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, the project's chief investigator, Professor Mark Wooden is investigating the various labour market pathways that can be followed by workers and the impact they have on their earnings, job satisfaction and mental health

Typically, casual, fixed term and sub contractor employment arrangements are associated with job insecurity, unpredictable working hours and limited opportunities for career progression, but the research team is also finding they can serve as a crucial entry point into the labour market and, for some, be a better match with personal preferences.

The project is expected to run until 2018, with the broad aim to  improve the understanding of the nature and impacts of non-standard forms of employment in Australia.

Project principles

For this research, non-standard employment is defined to include:

  • casual work, where employment can be terminated with limited or no notice,
  • arrangements specifying employment of some pre-determined fixed duration,
  • labour hire, where employment is outsourced to agency workers, often on a short-term and/or casual basis, and
  • among the self-employed, independent contractors, who sell their services to clients on a fixed-term basis.

The project will address the following overarching research questions:

  • What are the labour market pathways followed by workers, especially those who experience non-standard employment, and who follows which pathway?
  • How does non-standard employment affect worker outcomes, including earnings, job satisfaction, mental health, and other measures of material and emotional wellbeing?
  • How do these effects vary across workers with different characteristics, or across different kinds of non-standard employment?

The two key hypotheses underlying much of the proposed research are:

  • work outcomes will be less a function of a job’s contractual status and more a function of how work is organised in the workplace within contractual employment types, and
  • impacts of non-standard employment are likely to vary across workers according to their job and personal characteristics.


The research aims to provide a better understanding of the impact of the casualisation of the labour market on workers, helping to inform current debate about the regulation of employment arrangements.


Mooi-Reci, I, and Wooden, M, 'Casual Employment and Long-term Wage Outcomes', Paper presented at the Conference of the European Society of Population Economics, Berlin,  June 16-18, 2016, and the Australian Conference of Economists, Adelaide, July 11-13, 2016.