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Supporting responses to insecure work

· Sam Perkins,Employment,Insecure work,Analysis

FPL Advisory has conducted a review of the academic literature and public debates around insecure work in Australia, and we now present our Occasional Paper on Insecurity in the Australia Labour Force. In the Paper, we explore the impacts of non-standard work on different cohorts of people, focusing on the most marginal types of work. As a result of this process we hope to shed further light on the issue of insecure work and the people it can harm.

Through researching, writing and then consulting on this project, we have seen that there are groups that are qualitatively different in terms of their experience of insecure work. A policy response to insecurity should not be equally concerned for a government administrator on six figures and a two-year contract as it does of a low-skilled, ageing worker stringing together café jobs. With this in mind, we propose the Four Cohort Model of Security at Work.

The Model places different types of work into four categories ranging from “Cohort 1: dependable work and income” to “Cohort 4: highly unreliable work and income”. This allows us to sort types of work into categories more appropriate for policymaking than the single criterium of whether or not a job is “secure”. This is first and foremost a practical tool for targeting policy that balances concern for the wellbeing of insecure workers in a generic sense with the need to match policy instruments with the reality on the ground.

In other words, the Model seeks to support policymakers in treating different problems separately, and deliberately divides a complex spectrum into a series of general categories in order to facilitate this. The Model involves a number of value judgements as to which category a type of work is allocated, for example we consider that a casual worker with marketable and in-demand skills (say, a recent engineering graduate) is not exposed to the same long-term consequences of uncertainty as a casual worker who is unskilled or low skilled. We look forward to public feedback and will continue to refine the Model over time.

Our focus on Cohort 4 is not to say that other kinds of work are otherwise perfect. Efforts to improve the working conditions of insecure workers in other ways are still pursuing a worthy policy goal.

The evidence we’ve seen indicates that insecurity is a persistent issue in the workforce but it is not a broad and monolithic issue that can be resolved with sweeping reforms. Targeted action that has a clear target audience and established outcomes is needed. We hope that our Occasional Paper adds to the public’s understanding of this issue and helps to inform effective policy solutions.

Sam Perkins is a Policy Analyst at FPL Advisory.

FPL Advisory is a team of specialists resolving risks and creating opportunities with respect to government. We work with public sector and corporate clients to execute strategies for owning and managing change.