Australians work longer hours and are more stressed at work, survey reveals

by Ray Clancy on October 26, 2011

in Jobs in Australia

Increased stress and insecurity for workers instead of work-life balance

Australia is regarded as a dream destination for many people seeking a new life abroad but a new survey reveals that people are under more pressure than ever before, working longer hours than they are paid for and increasingly having work invade their home life.

The largest ever survey of Australian workers by the Australian Council of Trade Unions found that while the modern workplace is for some less physically demanding than in the past, but instead of making jobs easier, working hours have increased and new forms of stress have emerged.

‘Work is bleeding into the rest of a worker’s life and we do not have the means of recognising or dealing with this in a way that suits workers,’ said ACTU President Ged Kearney.

‘Instead we have an increase in stress, and insecurity for workers. This is particularly the case for people in casual jobs, who fear they will lose shifts if they do not comply. Business is shifting more and more financial risk and responsibility onto the workforce. We have a productivity squeeze which means that we are achieving productivity through unpaid work and greater pressure on workers,’ she explained.

‘This should be a wake up call at a time when we are saturated with urging from employer and business groups about the need to effectively take away more rights and reduce pay and conditions to improve productivity and flexibility,’ she added.

Kearney pointed out that the survey gives a rare glimpse into what millions of Australian workers think about what productivity and flexibility mean to them and their lives. ‘What workers told us was that the 38 hour week is often an aspiration, not a reality, while the idea of working overtime means longer hours for no extra pay,’ she said.

‘They’ve told us that when they want to spend time with their family on weekends, they have to juggle extra work commitments, that a night in is frequently a prelude to home work for the next day, and for many, the job for life has been replaced by a series of short and insecure contracts,’ she added.

Kearney said the survey will help inform the future direction of union campaigns in the interest of all Australian workers and workplaces, backed up by recent Australia Institute findings that Australians worked the longest hours of any developed nation.

The survey found that 73% of workers are regularly contacted outside of work hours about their job, 61% work more hours than they are paid for, 47% receive no compensation for their extra hours and 58% have paid for work related expenses and not been compensated.

It also found that a third of workers see senior management as having no real understanding of their business, and no plan for the future. ‘This is a disturbing finding. It suggests also that company managements are often ignoring some of the most innovative and creative people in their organisation, people who could help create productivity solutions: the workers,’ said Kearney.

It also revealed that many workers were concerned about job security, with 22.3% of respondents citing the issue as among their greatest concerns and one in seven, 14.3%, of employed respondents saying they were in a form of non-permanent work arrangement. And one in six, 16.5%, said they were in non-permanent work part time arrangements because they couldn’t find full time work.

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