Characteristics and use of casual employees in Australia

Casual employees Work insecurity Employment Labour market Australia
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There were just under 2.5 million casual employees (those without access to leave entitlements) in Australia in August 2016 and around 7.4 million permanent employees (those with access to leave entitlements).

The use of casual employees in Australia grew most strongly from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s. During this time the casual share of all employees increased from around 13 per cent to 24 per cent.

The rate of growth in employees with and without leave entitlements in the past two decades has been more balanced with the casual employee share of total employees increasing marginally from 24 per cent in 1996 to 25 per cent in 2016.

A significant feature of the labour market in the past two decades has been the strong growth in permanent part-time employment for both men and women, and strong growth in casual part-time employment for men.

Young workers aged 15 to 24 years are much more likely to be contracted on a casual basis compared with people aged 25 to 64 years.

Some industries such as hospitality and retail trade have very high concentrations of casual workers while others such as the finance sector have much lower rates.

The occupation groups that recorded the highest prevalence of casual employees were hospitality workers (79 per cent of all workers) and food preparation assistants (75 per cent).

Casual employment is not necessarily temporary employment. Around 81 per cent of casual employees in August 2016 expected to be with their current employer in 12 months compared with around 93 per cent of permanent employees.

Casual workers are much more likely to face irregular and insufficient hours of work and fluctuations in earnings, with around 53 per cent experiencing variable earnings from one pay period to another in August 2016, compared with only 15 per cent of permanent employees. Just under a third (31 per cent) of casual workers preferred more hours of work per week compared with 10 per cent of permanent employees.

Smaller firms are more likely to hire casual workers than larger firms.

Casual workers are much less likely than permanent employees to have access to on-the-job training.

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