Australians don’t talk much about the working poor – but the pandemic recession could do us | Greg Jericho


Recessions always change the way we work, and the pandemic recession, while shorter than the past, shouldn’t be any different.

The most common victim of the recession is the full-time work of men.

Before the recession of the 1990s, more than 80% of men aged 25 to 64 worked full time – in three years, that number had fallen to less than 74%. And he never recovered. Even at the height of the mining boom, it never came back above 76%.

The GFC has reduced it further. Before the pandemic it had fallen to 73.3%, and now it is 72.5%.

But if the decline in this work has not been as large as in previous recessions, what the last labor account figures show is that although there has been a significant recovery in employment since the middle of last year, the main reason is that people are in a second or third job.

We don’t talk much about the working poor here in Australia. It’s much more of an American accent – especially considering their paltry minimum wage of US $ 7.25 an hour compared to our A $ 19.84 (which, even in US dollars, would still be around double at US $ 15.30).

But no one really works more than one job unless they need the money.

Yes, there are a lot of people like me who work more than one job and enjoy both, but this is my luck rather than my choice. However, it would be taking an absurdly optimistic view of the data to think that the outcome of the pandemic was a wave of people just wanting to work two or more jobs for the fun of it.

In the first three months of this year, a record 828,200 people held multiple jobs. And given that during the same period there were in fact 1.08 million “side jobs” – jobs that were not the worker’s primary source of employment – suggesting that he There were around 249,000 people working more than two jobs – also a record, and 26% above a year before that.

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During the pandemic, the loss of these secondary jobs was much greater than the loss of people’s “main job”, that is, the only job or the highest paying job.

Between March and June of last year, primary jobs fell just over 5%, but secondary jobs fell 20%.

Since then, primary jobs have increased 3.3%, while secondary jobs have jumped 34%.

There are still nearly 300,000 fewer “main” jobs than before the pandemic.

Roughly, the only industries that have seen a significant increase in principal work are (unsurprisingly) health care and social services, as well as professional, scientific and technical services.

There are, however, some 75,320 more “secondary” jobs than at the start of last year, and most of them are in administration and support.

This is not entirely surprising either, as this industry has the largest number of people with secondary jobs. Before the pandemic, just over a quarter of people working in administration and support did so on a secondary basis; it is now 32%.

Today 7.5% of all jobs in Australia are secondary jobs and 6.3% of all workers have more than one job (around 1.2% have more than two).

This is where we come to the feeling of the working poor – those who have one job, but find they need another (or more) to make ends meet.

And this need for more work actually fueled the “recovery”.

Since the trough in job losses last June, secondary jobs have accounted for nearly 40% of all jobs recovered.

It’s a recovery that’s certainly nice to see, but the rise in secondary work makes it clear that more people than ever are unable to get by on a single income – and well-paid full-time or full-time work. partial is less available than in the past.

The hope, of course, is that this is just a blip – that once the impact of the pandemic is completely gone, we will return to previous levels.

But what all the recessions of the past have shown is that the changes that occur in the workplace due to a recession mostly persist even after the recovery.


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