Multiple job holders in Australia: motives and personal impact.

Author:Barnberry, Larissa


Multiple job holding, also called moonlighting or secondary job holding, is an important topic for research and policy, both in Australia and in several other industrialised societies. Official labour force statistics in Australia suggest that the number of multiple job holders is significant, amounting to around 6 percent of all employed persons in 2007. But beyond basic data--which map the extent of the phenomenon and provide a broad profile of multiple job holders--surprisingly little is known about the topic. Commentators remain divided on basic issues of interpretation and assessment. Is multiple job holding a plight or a pleasure? Is it a malign or benign feature of contemporary labour markets? This article uses qualitative data from interviews with a small sample of multiple job holders in Australia in order to explore motives and personal impact. It reveals the complex mix of pressures and enticements that can influence an employee's decision to work in two or more paid jobs.

  1. Introduction

    Multiple job holders are persons who hold more than one paid job. Multiple job holding is a significant issue for labour market research in Australia because it affects statistical measures, for exam pie estimates of the number of part-time workers (Abhayaratna et al. 2008, p. 213). At the same time, it is implicated in debates on increased flexibility and changing labour markets.Thus, it is linked to labour restructuring in sectors such as agriculture (Robertson, Perkins, and Taylor 2008) and higher education (Junor 2004). More broadly, it is associated with an increasing reliance on less-regulated employees in the workplace (Slavnic 2010; Andrews, Caldera Sanchez, and Johansson 2011). It is sometimes conceptualised as one of the forms of non- standard employment that are increasing in significance in industrialised societies (Rouault 2002). Certainly, it is interrelated with features such as the growth of part-time jobs (Abhayaratna et al. 2008), the growth of casual jobs (Burgess, Campbell, and May 2008), increased underemployment (Campbell 2008), and changes in patterns of working time such as increased work during unsociable hours (Headey, Warren, and Harding 2006, p. 67).

    The topic is also significant in Australia because it is relevant to a range of government policies, such as employment and social welfare policy (Saunders 2011), tax policy (Bajada 1999) and labour regulation (Quinlan 2003). Similarly, the topic is relevant to human resources (HR) policy at the firm level in terms of job performance, commitment, work-life balance and absenteeism (Guest et al. 2006).

    In spite of the importance of the topic for research and policy, few studies have been conducted. Scholars and policymakers remain divided about the interpretation and assessment of multiple job holding. Is it a malign or benign feature of contemporary labour markets? Is it a plight or a pleasure?

    Research is needed to advance our knowledge of multiple job holding. This article presents an empirical study that provides a step forward. The article begins by reviewing the current state of knowledge in Australia, drawing on statistics from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), supplemented by consideration of the limited number of academic studies from Australia as well as the larger body of literature from other countries. We suggest that the central research questions concern the motives of workers for multiple job holding, and the personal impact of devoting extra effort and time to additional jobs. The following section presents our study, centred on qualitative interviews with a small sample of multiple job holders drawn from the 2009 Victorian Work and Life (VicWAL) survey. The subsequent section presents the results; a final section offers a conclusion.

  2. Current State of Knowledge

    Official ABS statistics, supplemented by other surveys (Headey, Warren, and Harding 2006; Louie et al. 2006), offer basic information on multiple job holding in Australia. While a special ABS survey on multiple job holding was discontinued in 1998 (ABS 1997; 2004; 2007a), additional data are available from the monthly Labour Force Survey (LFS) (ABS 2011), and from supplementary surveys such as the triennial Working-time Arrangements Survey (WAS) (ABS 2009b), and from other special surveys such as the 2007 Survey of Employment Arrangements, Retirement, and Superannuation (SEARS) (ABS 2007b).

    Different sources produce varied estimates of the extent of multiple job holding (Bell and Elia 2003, pp. 14-15). This stems partly from different definitions and methods. For example, in the LFS multiple job holders are defined as 'people who worked in more than one job during the survey reference week, or who held a second job from which they were absent' (ABS 2009a). Official LFS figures may underestimate the actual situation because they only capture second jobs during a single reference week, and because workers may be reluctant to acknowledge second jobs that a re outside the formal economy, for example because of cash-in-hand payments.

    According to 2007 SEARS data, multiple job holders accounted for approximately 6 per cent of the total workforce; that is, around 657,000 workers (ABS 2009a; cf. ABS 2009b). These ABS figures can be compared both with figures from the first three waves of the Household, Income, and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey (2001 to 2003), which recorded levels of 8.3, 8.7 and 8.5 per cent (Headey, Warren, and Harding 2006, p. 67), and with the even higher estimate of 13 per cent recorded in a 2003 Victorian survey of employed persons aged 18 and over (Louie et al. 2006, p. 475). In all recent surveys, multiple job holding is more common amongst employed women than amongst employed men.

    ABS data provide basic information for the main job and the second job held by multiple job holders. (1) The median number of hours in the main job was around 30, while the median in the second job was around 10. As the figure for the main job hints, some main jobs (45 per cent) were full-time but most (55 per cent) were part-time, indicating that multiple job holding is more prevalent amongst part-time workers. (2) On the other hand, almost all second jobs were part-time. In terms of industry, people whose main job was in arts and recreation services were most likely to be working a second job (12 per cent), while those whose main job was in mining were least likely to have a second job (1 per cent). Second jobs were concentrated in particular industries--retail (14 per cent of all second jobs), health care and social assistance (12 per cent), education and training (10 per cent), accommodation and food services (9 per cent), and agriculture, forestry, and fishing (9 per cent) (ABS 2009a).

    Type of employment is a significant feature. Most multiple job holders (80 per cent) had a main job that was waged, either casual (29 per cent) or other (51 per cent), with the remainder (20 per cent) classified as owner-managers (ABS 2009a). This is similar to the profile for the jobs of single job holders. However, the second jobs of multiple job holders were different; second jobs were overwhelmingly identified with either casual employment status (46.5 per cent of all second jobs) or with participation in small businesses (42 per cent), with only one in 10 classified as a waged job with permanent or fixed-term status (ABS 2009a).

    None of the relevant Australian surveys asks participants their reasons for working more than one job. Nor, apart from occasional snippets such as in relation to time stress (ABS 2009a), do they explore the impact of multiple jobs. Apart from the data summarised above, and related commentary (Harris and Preston 1990; Headey, Warren, and Harding 2006), little additional research has been conducted in Australia.The only substantial direct study relates to part-time farming in Victoria in the 1970s (Wills 1978), though more recent occupational or industry studies offer indirect insights. Junor's study of higher education notes the increasing reliance on sessional teaching and the prevalence within this work of several distinct types of multiple job holders--from the outside industry expert, who has a full-time job outside the education sector, to the multiple part-time and (or) casual job holder, who patches together different positions across courses or faculties or universities (2004, p. 286). Another example is a recent study, largely based on interviews with cleaners and childcare workers, which inter alia draws attention to the way in which low-wage workers supplement their income by taking on multiple jobs (Masterman-Smith and Pocock 2008, pp. 64-66). The authors note that juggling two or more jobs is often difficult because of changing schedules or reduced availability for short-notice casual shifts or the frequent turnover of casual jobs. Another difficulty for workers is the reluctance of employers to tolerate multiple job holding because of the implications for workers' compensation in case of illness or injury. The Masterman-Smith and Pocock study also highlights the tax and social security angle, pointing out that second jobs are taxed at a higher rate and that some workers move into informal arrangements of cash-in-hand in order to avoid tax or the withdrawal of entitlements (2008, pp. 65-66; 204).

    Multiple job holding is more extensively studied in other countries, where it may be discussed under different names: 'secondary' or 'second' job holding, 'moonlighting' in North America, and 'pluriactivity' in a borrowing from the French (Rouault 2002). It is a strong feature of industrialising societies, where the informal sector is large and workers are obliged to cobble together income from several marginal jobs (Lee, McCann, and Messenger 2007). However, the more relevant comparison to the Australian situation is that of other industrialised societies, especially other English-speaking countries. In a...

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