In response to challenging economic conditions, Australians working shifts in various industries are increasingly holding multiple jobs, a 25-year peak known as 'poly-employment', as revealed by 'The Big Shift: Navigating Australia's Evolving Employment Landscape' report. Compiled in partnership with leading economist, Dr. Shashi Karunanethy, the report evaluates over 114 million shifts worked by more than 679,000 Australian shift workers.
The report, which was released by Deputy, a prominent shift work management platform, found that all significant industries saw a 7% increase in workers with multiple jobs in 2023. This is a higher percentage than both the United States (5.2%) and the United Kingdom (4.9%). The rise of poly-employment results from escalating living costs and ongoing housing pressures. Among all industries, the hospitality sector leads with 8% of its workers holding multiple jobs, followed by healthcare at 7% and retail at 6%.
Dr. Karunanethy explained, "We're seeing an unprecedented number of shift workers holding multiple jobs, a phenomenon we refer to as poly-employment, in response to the cost of living crisis. The majority of these are young female shift workers. Using poly-employment as a means to navigate rising costs and the search for sustainable employment, reliable shifts, and financial stability."
Earlier data by the Australian Bureau of Statistics supports this claim, highlighting that part-time working women not only out-earn their male counterparts, making $816.60 per week compared to $758.70 per week, but they also make up a larger percentage of employees - 29% of the workforce compared to 13% represented by part-time males.
In terms of age, a majority of poly-employed workers are from Gen Z (65%) and Millennials (27%). The report shares the experience of one Gen Z shift worker, Tylah Sherritt, who says, "I've worked in hospitality since I was fifteen years old and I've always had multiple jobs on the go. Working multiple jobs at the same time allows me to pick up shifts that fit my schedule, stay engaged with the work, and socialise with different people too."
Generational differences in shift work became more pronounced in 2023 with an increase in Gen Z employment across the hospitality and retail sectors. Dr. Karunanethy points out that this growth is happening much quicker than expected, "about three years ahead of the projected timeline, and far ahead of their counterparts in other markets."
In the evolving employment landscape, night-time economy activity is being encouraged to stimulate Central Business Districts (CBDs). Deputy's research reveals that for every 10% increase in night-time dining and entertainment spending, there's a 6.2% increase in night-time hospitality shift work hours in New South Wales, and a 5.6% increase in Victoria. Noting this shift, Dr. Karunanethy states, "This travel deficit has led to a preference for recreational activities that are both affordable and local, resulting in heightened spending in CBDs and a notable 7.5% increase in spending within the hospitality sector from January to September 2023."
Chief Financial Officer at Deputy, Emma Seymour, commenting on the report’s findings, expressed, “Rising living costs are driving many Australians to find, or expand, employment in shift work, with record high numbers of shift workers engaged in poly-employment." In this uncertain period, she emphasised the crucial role of businesses in providing efficiency, flexibility, and stability to their workforce.