Contented Workers in Inferior Jobs? Re-Assessing Casual Employment in Australia

Ian Watson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

39 Citations (Scopus)


The increased number of casuals in the Australian workforce has generated considerable concern about a proliferation of inferior jobs in the labour market. Critics of casualisation have pointed to poor outcomes associated with casual work: job insecurity, lack of training and career paths, marginalisation in the workplace and so forth. Thosewho defend casualisation argue that non-standard employment provides greater choice within the labour market, and that casual employees are no less dissatisfied with their jobs than permanent employees. In this paper, I re-assess this debate by examining a recent analysis of job satisfaction among casual employees by Wooden andWarren in 2004. I argue that findings of contentment among casual employees are subject to both methodological and philosophical weaknesses. In place of subjectivemeasures of job satisfaction, I argue that the quality of jobs should be directly assessed by objective criteria like remuneration. Following this, I fit earnings equations to the HILDA data and find that part-time casual employees earn only a modest premium over permanent full-time employees. When the loadings, which casuals are paid, are taken into account, I find that part-time casual employees are actually penalised by virtue of working as casuals. I conclude that casual jobs are inferior jobs, irrespective of the satisfaction levels of their incumbents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-392
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Industrial Relations
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2005
Externally publishedYes


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