Job security & the future of work: Australian workers’ views

Job security & the future of work: Australian workers’ views
Author/editor: Sheppard, J, Biddle, N, Gray, M et al
Year published: 2018


Data collected for the Australian National University (ANU) annual ANUpoll series shows Australians are comfortable with their job security, however they are less optimistic about finding a different job for the same or better wage.

ANUpoll data shows about 88 per cent of Australians think it is 'not at all likely' or 'not too likely' they will lose their job, or in the case of business owners, lay off employees or close the business.

The data also shows more than half of all Australians say it would be 'not easy at all' to find a job with another employer with approximately the same income and fringe benefits.

Lead researcher on the ANUpoll series Dr Jill Sheppard said while Australians appear secure in their current job, they are pessimistic about their future employment prospects.

"These findings are interesting in the context of the current wage growth debate. People may be confident in their job security at their current employer, but think they won't get better conditions elsewhere. They might be tempted to remain in their current job to maintain the conditions they have now," Dr Sheppard said.

"The biggest concern relating to job security is that an employer finds someone overseas will to do their job for less money, with nearly 20 per cent of Australians feeling 'very concerned' about this."

The industries most concerned about losing their job to an overseas worker willing to work for less are retail trade, accommodation/food services and agriculture, fishing and forestry (all between 20 and 30 per cent 'very concerned').

ANUpoll also regularly measures Australians satisfaction with the way the country is heading. In the six months between ANUpolls, satisfaction with the direction of Australia dropped nearly 10 per cent, and dissatisfaction rose nearly 10 per cent.

"This ANUpoll suggests Australia is facing a crisis of public dissatisfaction," Dr Sheppard said.

Key findings

ANUpoll interviewed more than 2,500 people and results weighted to represent the national average.

Almost nine in ten workers believe it is not likely they will either be laid off or need to lay off workers (if self-employed) in the coming 12 months.

However, more than half of all workers believe finding employment that could match their current pay and benefits would not be easy at all.

Feelings of current job security and prospects of equivalent future employment vary widely by sector of employment.

The most acute concerns among Australian workers are that they will be laid off because their employer finds someone overseas to dotheir job for less pay, or because poor management will lead to their unemployment.

The least pressing concern among those listed is that workers will be replaced by robots or computer programs.

Retail workers feel the most exposed to threats to their employment. Mining sector workers are the least concerned by the listed threats.

Most Australians believe their job or occupation will exist in its current form in 50 years time. One in four Australians think their job will ‘definitely exist’ in 2068.

Construction and accommodation and food service workers are the most confident that their jobs will still exist.

Australians are circumspect with regard to drastic technological changes, but one in five believe that doctors will commonly rely on computer programs to diagnose and prescribe treatments within the next 20 years.

Australians commonly perceive their society as ‘like a pyramid with a small elite at the top, more people in the middle and most at the bottom’. But they would prefer that it was a ‘society with most people in the middle’.

About the poll

ANUpoll is conducted for The Australian National University (ANU) by the Social Research Centre, an ANU Enterprise business. The poll surveys a national random sample of the adult population (the ‘Life in Australia’ panel), and is conducted via the Internet (76 per cent of respondents) and phone (24 per cent of respondents). The use of this mixed-mode frame is to ensure coverage of households without Internet access.

In this poll, 2,513 people were interviewed between 16 October and 5 November 2017. Among individuals who received the survey (i.e. members of the ‘Life in Australia’ panel), a completion rate of 67.7 per cent was achieved. Taking into account the recruitment rate to the panel, the cumulative response rate is calculated as 10.6 per cent. The results have been weighted to represent the national population. The poll’s margin of error is ± 2.5 per cent.

Updated:  31 July 2018/Responsible Officer:  Centre Director/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications