Training and its impact on the casual employment experience

By Hielke Buddelmeyer, Felix Leung, Mark Wooden Research report 12 June 2013 ISBN 978 1 922056 55 9

Description

The proportion of people who are employed casually has been stable over the last 15 years at around 20% of the working-age population. For most, casual employment is a relatively temporary state. There are some though for whom casual employment is a more enduring state. Does undertaking work-related training help those who are casually employed move into permanent or fixed-term work? And does such training have any impact on the level of satisfaction casually employed people have with their jobs, employment opportunities and life in general? Using data from the Household Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey, this report investigates these issues. The authors find the impact of training per se on helping to move individuals from casual employment to more permanent work was minimal, as was the impact of training on an individual's satisfaction with their job or life.

Summary

About the research

About one in five adult Australians is employed on a casual rather than an ongoing or permanent basis. From the point of view of skills acquisition, casual workers tend to participate less in work-related training than their permanently employed counterparts.

The focus of this research is whether the lower rate of participation in work-related training is an issue. Does undertaking training help those who are casually employed to move into permanent or fixed-term work? Further, does training have any impact on the level of satisfaction casually employed people have with their jobs, employment opportunities and life in general? These issues are investigated using data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey.

Key messages

  • Casual workers are less likely to participate in work-related training than those in permanent or fixed-term employment.
  • There is little evidence that receiving work-related training affects the probability of moving into permanent or fixed-term employment.
    • The apparent finding that casual workers who undertake work-related training are more likely to move into permanent or fixed-term work than those who do not becomes invalid when the panel nature of the data is exploited to account for unobserved differences between those receiving and those not receiving training.
  • There is also little evidence of any strong impacts of work-related training on the level of satisfaction reported by casual workers with their job or life.
    • The exception to this is satisfaction with employment opportunities among casually employed women.

The apparent lack of benefits from training is not surprising, given that casual workers are generally employed on short tenures, thus limiting the value of training to both the employees and employers.

Tom Karmel
Managing Director, NCVER

Executive summary

This study uses data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey to examine outcomes for a key group of non-standard workers ― those employed in casual jobs. The outcomes considered are: transitions from casual work into other types of employment and other labour force states, and reported levels of job satisfaction; satisfaction with employment opportunities; and overall life satisfaction (wellbeing). In particular, we examine whether these outcomes differ between casual workers who have participated in work-related training over the last 12 months and those who have not done so.

We summarise the report’s key findings below.

First, in the context of the prevalence of casual employment, the characteristics of casual workers, and the prevalence of work-related training among casual workers:

  • 11.5% of working-age men and 16% of working-age women occupy casual jobs (as their main job).
  • Young people are more likely than those in older age groups to be casual workers.
  • Around 22% of male casuals and 24% of female casuals have received work-related training in the last 12 months. This is around half the corresponding proportions of those in fixed-term or permanent jobs.

Second, in relation to transitions from casual employment to other forms of employment and factors associated with the probability of such transitions:

  • On average, around 21% of casual workers in any one year are in permanent employment the following year. A further 9% are in either fixed-term or other forms of employment the following year.  
  • Casual workers who receive work-related training are more likely to move into permanent or fixed-term employment over the following 12 months than casuals who do not receive work-related training. The gap is bigger for men (6.4 percentage points) than for women (1.6 percentage points).
  • It is more likely that these gaps reflect differences in other characteristics of workers who do and do not receive work-related training, rather than being a causal impact of training on transitions per se.
  • Transition rates from casual to permanent employment are lower for those with a work-limiting disability and higher for those with higher levels of education. 

Third, in relation to satisfaction with employment opportunities and satisfaction with life overall, how each satisfaction measure is associated with different types of employment, and how each satisfaction measure is associated with participation in work-related training:

  • On average, people say they are reasonably happy with their jobs, their employment opportunities, and their life overall.
  • Casual employees report lower levels of job satisfaction and lower levels of satisfaction with employment opportunities than workers in permanent jobs, although there is no difference in overall wellbeing.
  • For men, these associations remain, even after controlling for a host of other factors that might influence reported satisfaction levels. For women, only the association between reported satisfaction with employment opportunities and casual employment remains after controlling for other factors.
  • Reported levels of job satisfaction and satisfaction with employment opportunities among casual workers are higher for those who have participated in work-related training in the last 12 months compared with those who have not. There is no difference in reported overall wellbeing.
  • These gaps largely disappear when we control for other factors that may influence reported satisfaction levels. Only a small gap in reported satisfaction with employment opportunities remains, and only for women.

The report briefly discusses some of the possible implications of these findings for casual workers themselves and for training providers. The key implications are:

  • For casual workers there is little evidence that receiving work-related training affects the probability of moving into permanent or fixed-term work; nor does receiving work-related training affect reported levels of job satisfaction or overall life satisfaction.
  • The gap between participation rates in work-related training for casuals and other types of workers suggests there may be room for growth in the market for work-related training for casual workers. On average, however, casual jobs are shorter in duration and may require lower skill levels than other types of jobs, so the demand for training from workers and their employers may always be relatively low.
  • The fact that such training appears to have little impact on both rates of transition into non-casual forms of employment and on reported job satisfaction seems likely to reinforce this.

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