Fact sheet

Fact Check: The ACTU's Sally McManus said Australia has the highest rate of temporary work in the OECD. Is she correct?

Casual employees Temporary employment Trade unions

As wages growth and job insecurity loomed large in the 2019 election campaign, Secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Sally McManus claimed that Australia had the highest rate of temporary work in the OECD and the third-highest rate of insecure work. Is this correct? Ms McManus's claim is not clear cut. The most recent data compiled by the OECD puts the rate of temporary employment in Australia at 5.2 per cent of "dependent employment". This would place Australia among the lowest OECD member countries for its reliance on temporary workers (29th out of the 32 listed). However, experts told RMIT ABC Fact Check that the OECD's definition of "temporary employment" is narrow and doesn't capture Australia's casual workforce, which accounts for 24.7 per cent of all employees. Including these workers would lift Australia's placing among OECD countries. Even so, making international comparisons is problematic. This is because there is no formal or agreed legal definition of temporary employment; nor is there an international database that collects national employment figures in a consistent fashion. Ms McManus also claimed that Australia had the third-highest rate of insecure work. Experts told Fact Check that measuring job insecurity was difficult because it relied on subjective indicators, most of which were applied in employment surveys. Also, the lack of a consistent international survey of insecure employment complicated comparisons between countries.
Verdict: Not clear cut

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