Auspoll: Being casual at work is ‘Un-Australian’
With the PM bedding down in western Sydney this week and the Opposition leader “guaranteeing” workers’ pay and conditions won’t be worse off under the Coalition last week, it’s likely the discussion will focus at least in part around workplace relations – a traditional ALP strength (which our research mostly confirmed last month) given profile in a once-traditional ALP heartland.
But what of the national sentiment regarding our working lives? Last week we asked people whether Australian “employers needed greater flexibility to create more jobs” or if Australian “employees needed greater job security”, or indeed if the balance was right.
The result: 38% agree most that employers need to have more flexible employment conditions, 42% agree most that employees need to have more stable working conditions and 21% agree the balance is right between the two sides of the industrial table.
On the surface, this suggests the nation is pretty evenly divided in terms of being pro-business or pro-workers – but the picture is much more complex than that.
What’s really interesting is that these split views are largely consistent no matter which demographic group you look at – similar numbers of people agree with each statement whether in NSW or QLD, whether male or female, whether aged 18-30 or 50-65 years.
What is more, these views are also consistent regardless of current type of employment. For example, a similar number of people currently working in a permanent job (39%) or working on a casual or contract basis (43%) agree that employees need more stability. (And yes, similar numbers also agree employers need greater flexibility – 36% and 40% respectively).
So what does all this reveal? It suggests that, because there’s no discernible pattern demographically, any given person could probably agree with either or both sides of the argument.
This can be seen to highlight why old rhetoric about “bosses vs workers” or “big business vs unions” is probably falling on deaf ears – at least for most of us. People understand this is not an either-or distinction anymore: there are no jobs if employers can’t see a business case and build a strong economy, but equally there’s no point having a job that doesn’t value you as an employee and can’t be relied on to pay you a living wage.
So does this negate any chance the PM has of connecting with “workers”, whether in western Sydney or nationally? Certainly, many see re-igniting the spectre of Work Choices as one of the best opportunities the ALP has – and Abbott’s clearly worried about it too.
However, framing this election about protecting jobs in Australia as something that happens distinctly from enabling business to flourish is likely to, well, mostly fall on deaf ears.
But, there is a caveat. Most of us may understand there needs to be a balance in workplace relations, but most of us also want that within the context of permanent employment, not casual or contracted.
Overall, 77% of people, whether currently working or not, prefer to have permanent employment. And 3 out of 5 people currently working on a casual or contract basis would prefer to have permanent employment.
What is more, while similar numbers of each group are worried about their working situation getting worse (42% in permanent jobs vs 45% in casual or contract jobs), permanent employees are more likely to feel in control of their working lives (56% vs 45%) and that their life is economically stable (47% vs 34%). Addressing the shift to the “casualisation” of work, then, is likely to be a more fruitful frame than simply raising old ideologies across the workplace divide.
Auspoll is the social research and campaign specialist unit of The Leading Edge, a global research and strategy consultancy. Darryl Nelson is Senior Research Partner and leading Australian expert in framing theory. For a copy of the research, please email email@example.com
Comments on this post will close at 8pm AEDT.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…