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Excessive hours, unpaid overtime and the future of work: an update

Labour market Labour supply Work insecurity Employment Wages Quality of work life Overtime Australia

To investigate the prevalence of overwork and unpaid overtime, the Centre for Future Work commissioned a survey of over 1400 Australians on the incidence of overwork and Australian attitudes toward it. The results are surprising.

Highlights include:

  • There is growing evidence of polarisation in Australian employment patterns, between those with full-time, relatively secure jobs, and a growing portion working part-time, casual, temporary, or insecure positions.  Barely half of working Australians are now employed in standard full-time jobs, with the rest in part-time, casual or self-employed positions.


  • Many full-time workers want to work fewer hours, but most of those in part-time or casual positions want more hours. The coexistence of overwork and underemployment is evidence that labour market polarisation and insecurity is hurting the work lives of millions of Australians.


  • Across all forms of employment, Australians work an average of 5.1 hours of unpaid labour per week (up from 4.6 hours in 2016). This unpaid labour represents between 14 percent and 20 percent of the total time spent working by Australian employees. 


  • The aggregate value of this “time theft” is large and growing. We estimate the total value of unpaid overtime in the national economy at over $130 billion in 2016-2017, up from $116 billion last year.


  • There would be significant economic, social, and health benefits from providing workers with stronger protections against unpaid overtime, and finding ways to better share available work.


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