HON ADELE FARINA (South West) [11.27 am] — without notice: I move —
That we acknowledge job insecurity has negative impacts on the mental health of workers and job productivity, and call on businesses operating in Western Australia not to terminate permanent jobs in favour of short-term contract jobs.
[Speeches and comments from various members]
HON ALISON XAMON (North Metropolitan) [11.54 am]: I rise on behalf of the Greens to indicate our support for this important motion and thank Hon Adele Farina for bringing the matter of the correlation between precarious employment and mental health issues to the attention of this house. It is a very important issue. We know from research that precarious employment is, unfortunately, on the increase. I note the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre report “Future of Work in Australia”, released in April this year, which found that precarious employment is a growing concern for government, industry and community sectors as we move forward. That encapsulates not only the inadequacy of working hours and employment benefits, which has already been spoken about, but also the insecurity of the job itself and, importantly, a lack of employment rights and entitlements.
We know that precarious employment has been increasing for both men and women since 2009 but, interestingly, even more rapidly for men than for women. The issue of casualisation is anticipated to become an even greater concern in the future, particularly if more and more workers are recruited on casual terms to positions that previously would have attracted a permanent or fixed-term contract. The other part that we need to be concerned about as we move into the future is that the overall gap between the youngest cohort and older workers has widened by nearly 30 per cent since the start of this decade. Casual workers now make up a significant subset of those people who are precariously employed.
Another publication that was released in 2015 provided an overview of casual employment in Australia. This is about the issue of casual workers in comparison with ongoing workers. It was found that they tend to be significantly younger, with 39.3 per cent of all casuals aged under 25; they are more likely to have no superannuation coverage, which is a huge concern as we move forward; they are more likely to have a preference for working even more hours and are more likely to work at unsociable hours, and I include weekends in that definition; they are less likely to usually work overtime or get opportunities for overtime; and they tend to have quite a lot of variation in their earnings from week to week, which creates a significant financial stress. Concerningly—I do not think this is a coincidence—they also tend to be less likely to be a member of a union and are also 50 per cent less likely to receive training from their employers. I say this because it is important that we note that, although increasing casualisation and job insecurity is a concern for workers right across the spectrum, it is having a disproportionate impact particularly on younger workers.
As has already been well canvassed, many studies show that there is a very strong connection between job insecurity and poor physical and mental health. This is effectively creating a mental health crisis for young people. Insecure work is absolutely playing a role in this. We know that the size of the effect of job insecurity on health and mental health can be as large as the effect of unemployment. Simply, people who are in safe and secure jobs cope better with stressful working conditions and life events. A lot of this is self-evident. They are more likely to have secure housing, they are more likely to plan for the future and they are more likely to meet ongoing expenses, and they are less likely to be left in a position in which they have to work week to week—all the circumstances that will significantly impact on people’s resilience and capacity to maintain mental health and deal with stress levels. The benefit of promoting levels of secure work is broader than just to the individual worker. We need to think about this as a community. When a significant section of our workforce is under that level of mental strain, that overflows into the community and has an impact on people’s home and family lives. In fact, the evidence shows us that the higher the level of job security, the higher the level of productivity. If people are not particularly concerned about the fundamental humanity of their fellow citizens, surely at the very least they would be concerned to ensure that they are getting the absolute best from people working, and that would mean they would seriously want to look at addressing the issue of job insecurity and casualisation.
Simply, we need to make sure that young people in particular, the younger generations, are not going to be left behind in this regard. Government has a role to play and could take responsibility for recognising the changing nature of work. That means that we need to be all supporting legislation that upholds young workers’ rights in particular—all workers, but noting the impact on young workers—including fair pay and conditions. It is also about noting the important role that training plays in this area. We need to ensure that bodies such as skills training councils are able to be effective and engage with industry to ensure the training sector is getting the right information so the right courses are being built to prepare people for the jobs of the future. This is young people as well as people who need or seek to transition into other areas of works. These reskilling opportunities are going to need to be accessible and affordable. It is highly problematic when people are discouraged from being able to undertake these training opportunities simply because of cost. We need to ensure the training delivered gives people high-level transferable skills that have the capacity to form a key part of a range of jobs or opportunities for people’s careers going into the future. We need to address this issue. I thank the honourable member for bringing this matter to the attention of the house. It is one that we should all be taking very seriously.
[Speeches and comments from various members]
Motion lapsed, pursuant to standing orders.