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.

Research Objectives

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.


Journal Articles
  • Mooi-Reci I and Wooden M. 2017. Casual employment and long-term wage outcomes. Human Relations 70(9), 1064-1090. [doi:10.1177/0018726716686666]
  • McVicar D, Wooden M,  Laß I and Fok Y-K. Forthcoming. Contingent employment and labour market pathways: bridges or traps? European Sociological Review.
Working Papers / Conference Papers
  • Laß I and Wooden M. 2018. Temporary Employment Contracts and Household Income. Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 14/18, December 2018.
  • Laß I and Wooden M. 2017. Measurement, prevalence and the socio-demographic structure of non-standard employment: the Australian case. Paper presented at the IZA Labor Statistics Workshop on the Changing Structure of Work, Bonn, 29-30 June 2017.
  • McVicar D, Wooden M,  and Fok Y-K. Contingent employment and labour market pathways: bridge or trap? IZA Discussion Paper no. 10768, Institute of Labor Economics, Bonn, May 2017. [Also presented at the Understanding Society Scientific Conference, University of Essex, 11-13 July, 2017.]
  • Laß I and Wooden M. The structure of the wage gap for temporary workers: evidence from Australian panel data. Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 8/17, March 2017. [Also released as IZA Discussion Paper no. 10670, Institute of Labor Economics, Bonn, April 2017.]
  • 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.