The latest ‘work-life’ survey shows that things aren’t getting any easier for many workers, despite much rhetoric about the importance of the issue, according to UniSA’s Centre for Work + Life Director Professor Barbara Pocock.
The Centre for Work + Life launches its 2010 Australian Work and Life Index (AWALI) report at a CEDA event at the Hilton in Adelaide on Tuesday August 3. The report’s authors are Prof Pocock, Dr Natalie Skinner and Sandra Pisaniello.
Conducted annually since 2007, AWALI measures how work affects the rest of life for employed Australians.
The 2010 report shows that a quarter of full-time women and one fifth of full-time men are dissatisfied with their work-life balance – significantly more than three years ago.
With over one quarter of full-time workers putting in 48 hours or more a week, many employees are working more than they would prefer, and most workers – including older workers – are not eager to increase their hours of work.
Prof Pocock says the economic slowdown has not been associated with less work-life interference for working Australians.
“Unfortunately negative work-life interference appears to be recession-proof,” Prof Pocock says.
“Despite the 2008-09 international economic downturn, and a decline in total hours worked, work-life interference has not declined. Australian GDP has continued the relatively robust growth of the past decade. However, there has been a redistribution of GDP from wages to profits, with the profit share of GDP now at a record level, in part reflecting falling unit labour cost and rising employee productivity.
“Many households are giving more to paid work, while taking home a declining share of its rewards.”
Prof Pocock says while policy makers are interested in increasing labour market participation, many workers have other plans, often because their workplaces are too demanding, inflexible or make it hard to combine work with the rest of life.
“Many Australian workers want to cut their hours – and this will improve work-life outcomes for many, especially those working long hours, or more than they would like. For others, improved flexibility, better quality jobs and more supportive supervision and work cultures will be beneficial,” says Dr Natalie Skinner.
“While improved rights for parents to request flexibility (as embodied in recent changes to the Fair Work Act), are a step in the right direction, more is needed. The accumulating AWALI evidence suggests that reducing negative work-life interference requires more change in the terms of work.”
AWALI 2010 makes seven key policy proposals:
More say over working flexibly – many work places are far from flexible and many workers are seeking more flexibility, including those who are not parents.
Reducing long hours of work – efforts to prevent long working hours.
Reducing the burden on working women – efforts to redistribute unpaid work and care, and provide more flexibility in working conditions.
More support for working fathers – more flexibility at work and ‘father-specific’ forms of leave.
More supportive workplace culture, practice, management and leadership – first line supervision and workplace cultures that ‘walk the talk’ of flexibility and workload management.
Holidays matter – managing workloads to ensure workers take their holidays, and increasing leave opportunities.
Future research – to develop better metrics to monitor and drive change overall.
Prof Pocock says successive AWALI surveys show work-life interference is not in decline in Australia.
“Despite much rhetoric about the importance of the issue, and its importance in the lives of many Australians, effective action is slow in too many places,” she says.
“More reliable measurement of costs and consequences and more practical and robust guides to effective action might help. Clearly, talk is not enough.”
AWALI 2010 can be downloaded from http://www.unisa.edu.au/hawkeinstitute/cwl/default.asp