Thirty-three per cent of the workforce in NSW is predicted to be part-time within the next four decades. Here’s what your organisation can do to prepare for the rise in part-time work.
We’ve been waving goodbye to the nine-to-five grind from Monday-Friday for some time now, and last week’s release of the 2021-22 NSW Intergenerational Report (IGR) drove the point home.
Published every five years, the report includes predictions on a range of issues including population growth, employment and industry growth areas.
One of the primary findings – that part-time work in NSW will comprise 33 per cent of the workforce within four decades, compared to 31.8 per cent today – is reflective of the shift in Australia more broadly, and reiterates previous findings that have found a similar trend.
In 2017, the Reserve Bank of Australia found that Australia ranked behind the Netherlands and Switzerland as having the highest proportion of part-time workers.
And in the year leading up to April 2021, full-time and part-time employment increased by 249,600 people and 388,300 people respectively, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
HRM speaks to Ben Hamer, AHRI board member and leader of PwC’s Future of Work market to find out what’s contributing to the rise in part-time work, and how organisations can best prepare.
*The increase in part-time work is one of many key findings to emerge out of the IGR. For a summary of the other results, scroll to the end of the article.
What’s causing the rise in part-time work?
The rise in part-time work can, in large part, be attributed to workers’ increased desire to exert choice and control over their careers.
“It’s no longer about being nine-to-five in the office. People want to have flexibility around the way they live and work,” says Hamer.
The report also indicates that women’s participation across all age groups is set to increase from 73.1 per cent in 2018-19 to 75.8 per cent in 2060-61. Male participation, however, is anticipated to stagnate during this period. Given that women are more likely to work part time, the associated increase in part-time work is a natural flow-on effect.
While the surge in part-time work is a national industry-wide shift, it’s impacting certain industries more than others – particularly those that operate on a roster system, such as aged care and hospitality – which are also the “areas where we are expecting to see a massive amount of growth”, says Hamer.
“Where you have economies highly dominated by services industries, that’s where you’ll see an increase in part-time work.”
Image source: 2021-22 NSW Intergenerational Report.
Moreover, the rate at which we’re speeding towards increased part-time work is likely to have been exacerbated by COVID-19.
“For some of the industries that have been hit hard, including the arts, hospitality and tourism sectors, they are leveraging part-time work as part of their rebuilding strategy,” says Hamer.
“It’s a way of getting people back to work while demand still picks back up.”
In addition, Hamer notes that portfolio careers, where an individual takes on multiple contracts or roles concurrently as a way of diversifying their work experience, are becoming increasingly popular.
How can we prepare?
Within the inherent power dynamic between employers and employees, sometimes the scales tip towards employers, while other times they lean in favour of employees.
Hamer says that while we expected it would lean towards employers – as tends to happen in times of recession – it’s instead sitting with employees, especially as we enter a post-COVID workforce where they are increasingly asserting their rights to flexible working conditions.
“It shows there is confidence within the employee camp. Organisations need to adapt and respond to the expectations of employees, and think about how they can have greater propensity for part-time work in their organisation.”
First and foremost, he says organisations need to shift their mindsets to ready themselves for the rise in part-time work.
PwC’s study of 32,500 participants from 19 countries, including more than 2000 Australians, found that 90 per cent of Australians want to work from home in some capacity.
“The increasing shift in part-time work plays into that. We need to build more collaborative places in the office, have less fixed desks and a more mobile workplace.”
In addition, diligent job design ensures roles are designed for the individual’s hours, and allows capacity for administration, team management and other non-task specific activities, says Hamer. This consideration is important as these additional tasks often “get overlooked and are the ones that get done outside the contracted hours”.
Following the lead of Victoria Police’s right to disconnect clause, which has also been industrially enforced in France, encouraging greater delineation between work and personal life may help to ensure part-time employees are working their contracted hours, and not full-time hours with part-time pay.
Could job sharing offer a solution?
Structured mechanisms that enable part-time work to be conducted more easily, such as job sharing arrangements, could also help organisations prepare for the workforce of the future.
“We tend to have this idea that every role needs to be full-time and in the office, whereas I think organisations need to challenge those norms and ask, ‘Can this be done part-time?” says Hamer.
“There is still a lot of ill-informed cynicism around job sharing being really difficult. People think there are too many touch points and handovers, and it’s easier for one person to do a role.”
But Hamer urges organisations to challenge traditional norms, and remain open to alternative arrangements.
In the public service, for instance, two applicants joining forces to apply for the one role is becoming an increasingly accepted practice.
“It’s a bit like a music duo,” he says. “They might see one full-time role advertised and they will say, ‘Here are two applications under the one role as part of a job share arrangement.’”
Two people teaming up in advance of coming on board might also reduce the likelihood of difficult and unproductive workplace relationships surfacing.
Hamer says one of the key determinants of a successful job sharing arrangement is the “dynamic and relationship between the two people”.
“If in a job sharing relationship one person quits and needs to find something else, it could make or break the position depending on their relationship.”
However, two people applying together “gives greater confidence to the recruiter if it’s an established and strong working relationship”.
To encourage greater uptake of job sharing arrangements, leaders in an organisation need to partake in job sharing too.
“The more examples we get of senior leaders adopting this approach, the more buy-in from the company and the employees lower down the hierarchy too,” says Hamer.
“We need an acknowledgement from organisations that the world is changing and part-time work has a big piece to play in that.”
Prepare for a future of increased part-time work with AHRI’s short course on Workforce Planning.
The course runs on July 21.
More findings from the IGR
*In addition to the rise in part-time work, here’s a quick summary of the other key findings to come out of the IGR:
- Productivity is predicted to increase at 1.2 per cent per year over the next 40 years, making it the biggest driver of economic growth.
- The five fastest growing skills are science, programming, operations analysis, systems evaluation and technology design.
- The average salary will jump from $86,000 today to the equivalent of $139,000 in the 2060s.
- By 2016, 25 per cent of the population is anticipated to be aged 65 or over, compared to 17 per cent today. In addition, workforce participation is expected to rise from its current percent at 65, to 61.6 per cent in 2061.