Aussie tutors join the ‘Precariat’ workforce

Posted By TEU on Mar 22, 2012 |


It is a global phenomenon so widespread that a new name has been coined for it: the ”precariat”.

It describes the millions of people who live a precarious existence of social and economic uncertainty – who jump from one short-term contract or piece of casual work to the next.

James Searle had not expected to join this group’s swelling ranks. Nevertheless, the information technology tutor at Swinburne University is a classic example of a worldwide trend in which Australia has taken an unenviable lead: job insecurity.

Mr Searle has been a sessional teacher at Swinburne since the start of last year; he finds out only at the start of each semester how long his services will be required, and for how many hours he will work.

”I’ll probably be doing it for the foreseeable future,” says the 27-year-old database and information systems expert, who is among a group of sessional teachers at the university who run first-year classes.

Often, says Mr Searle, he is not paid on time and the position’s insecurity can make it hard to plan. He acknowledges there are upsides – it can be convenient, and there are extra penalty rates.

”But it doesn’t count for the things you miss out on, like superannuation,” he says.

Once a permanent job was the norm in Australia, but since the 1980s a dramatic decline in full-time employment and a corresponding jump in casual and fixed-term work like Mr Searle’s has left up to 40 percent of the nation – both blue-collar workers and white alike – in insecure work.

Thanks to Clay Lucas at The Age for the story.

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