Jesuit Social Services recently made a submission to the federal inquiry into insecure work undertaken by the Senate Select Committee on Job Security.
The extent of casual or insecure employment in Australia has been an issue brought to the fore this past year. During the height of the pandemic, many people in insecure jobs were working to provide the kind of services that we relied on, including crucial healthcare, social support, cleaning, food and transport, in circumstances that often exposed them to greater health risks. In Victoria, a number of local government areas hit hardest by COVID-19 also had a higher percentage of people in insecure jobs.
We know that casual work is associated with an absence of key protections, including sick pay, annual leave and superannuation, that hours and continuity of employment are uncertain, and that wages are often lower. During the pandemic, the lack of protections for casual workers – who are often forced to work multiple jobs to make ends meet, and in situations where not attending work means foregoing pay – was rightly viewed as problematic from a public health perspective. It’s also an issue of basic fairness and equity. All workers deserve protections, whether casual or contracted.
Our submission focuses on some of the key issues impacting disadvantaged people in seeking and retaining employment, and makes several recommendations to the Federal Government, including:
- Legislative reforms that uphold and strengthen workers’ rights, guard against issues of exploitation, and increase opportunities for secure, permanent work.
- An increase to the base rate of JobSeeker and related payments by at least $25 per day.
- Replacing the compliance-focused jobactive system, including inflexible mutual obligation requirements, with a new model that prioritises funding for intensive, flexible and individualised training and support for disadvantaged people seeking work.
- Replacing the Community Development Program with a model in line with that proposed by Aboriginal Peak Organisations Northern Territory that is community-driven; based on genuine, long-term collaboration across governments, employers, Indigenous organisations and communities; and facilitates participation and community development in remote areas, including work on services and projects identified by, and with value for, remote communities.
- A federal social procurement policy that includes clear and ambitious targets for creating meaningful employment opportunities for people experiencing disadvantage.
- Providing affordable access to home internet, data and associated technology for low-income households to ensure no Australian is excluded from broader social and economic participation.
- Partnering with State and Territory governments to urgently increase investment in social housing, targeting the building of 30,000 new social housing dwellings as an immediate priority.