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.

Impact

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.

Outputs

Journal Articles
  • Laß I and Wooden M. 2019. The structure of the wage gap for temporary workers: evidence from Australian panel data. British Journal of Industrial Relations 57(3): 453-478. [doi:10.1111/bjir.12458]
  • Laß I and Wooden M. Forthcoming. Temporary employment contracts and household income. Social Indicators Research. [doi:10.1007/s11205-019-02147-3]
  • Laß I and Wooden M. Forthcoming. Trends in the prevalence of non-standard employment in Australia. Journal of Industrial Relations.
  • McVicar D, Wooden M, Laß I and Fok Y-K. 2019. Contingent employment and labour market pathways: bridges or traps? European Sociological Review 35(1): 98-115. [doi:10.1093/esr/jcy045]
  • Mooi-Reci I and Wooden M. 2017. Casual employment and long-term wage outcomes. Human Relations 70(9): 1064-1090. [doi:10.1177/0018726716686666]
Working Papers / Conference Papers
  • Laß I. 2018. The impact of non-standard employment on marriage and separation among cohabitations. Paper presented at the European Population Conference, Brussels, 6-9 June. [Also presented at the Autumn Meeting of the Family Section of the German Sociological Association, Bamberg, 10-11 October 2019.]
  • Laß I. 2019. On the link between non-standard employment and partnership dissolution in Germany and Australia. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association, New York City, 10-13 August 2019. [Also presented at the 15th Conference of the Australian Institute of Family Studies, Melbourne, 25-27 July 2018; the Australian Sociological Association Conference 2017, Perth, 27-30 November 2017; the 13th Conference of the European Sociological Association, Athens, 28 August-1 September 2017; and the 7th Community, Work & Family Conference, Milano, 25-27 May 2017.]
  • 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.
  • Laß I and Wooden M. 2017. The structure of the wage gap for temporary workers: evidence from Australian panel data. Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 8/17, March. [Also released as IZA Discussion Paper no. 10670, Institute of Labor Economics, Bonn, April 2017 and presented at the 31st European Society for Population Economics Conference, Glasgow, 14-17 June 2017].]
  • Laß I and Wooden M. 2018. Temporary employment contracts and household income. Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 14/18, December 2018. [Also presented at the Work, Employment and Society Conference, Belfast, 12-14 September 2018, and at the 32nd European Society for Population Economics Conference, Antwerp, 25-27 June 2018.]
  • Laß I. and Wooden M. 2018. The impact of temporary employment on the financial well-being of Australian families. Paper presented at the XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology, Toronto, 15-21 August 2018.
  • Laß I and Wooden M. 2019. Non-standard employment and wages in Australia. Proceedings of the 2019 Reserve Bank of Australia Conference – Low Wage Growth, Sydney, 4-5 April 2019. [Available at: https://www.rba.gov.au/publications/confs/2019/]
  • Laß I and Wooden M. 2019. Temporary employment and work-life balance in Australia. Melbourne Institute Working Paper No. 11/19, October 2019. [Also presented at the European Sociological Association 2019 Conference, Manchester, 20-23 August 2019.]
  • McVicar D, Wooden M and Fok Y-K. 2017. Contingent employment and labour market pathways: bridge or trap? IZA Discussion Paper no. 10768, Institute of Labor Economics, Bonn, May. [Also presented at the Understanding Society Scientific Conference, University of Essex, 11-13 July, 2017.]
  • Mooi-Reci I and Wooden, M. 2016. Casual employment and long-term wage outcomes. Paper presented at the30th European Society for Population Economics Conference, Berlin, June 16-18. [Also presented at the Australian Conference of Economists, Adelaide, July 11-13, 2016.]

Investigators