Slow clap for part-time work

October 14th, 2016  |  Published in Economic (in)justice

Minister “applauds” part-time work

Slow clap“I am not going to demonise part-time employment. I’m going to support it and applaud it because it does represent a good choice for so many people,” according to the Employment Minister.

Senator Cash’s applause for part-time work was greeted with a slow clap – at least on my 2020socialjustice Facebook page. In too many cases, part-time work represents underemployment and does not provide a living wage. Here is a collation of responses that I sent to the minister.

Applause greeted by a slow clap

Dear Senator Michaelia Cash, Minister for Employment,

Your applause for part-time work “because it represents a good choice for so many people” would be more palatable and plausible if there was a real choice between full-time and part-time work and if people could earn sufficient to survive.

When you made your comments, there had been a drop of 45,800 in full-time positions, people were counted as “employed” if they worked as little as one hour per week, and there were 19 job seekers for every job vacancy.

I run a Facebook page (2020socialjustice) and when I posted about your “applause” for part-time work, followers were unimpressed. Here is some of what they had to say:

  1. GB – Infuriating, like so much of this government’s spin.
  2. MW – I haven’t noticed any applause for part-time employment. I’ve been working in myUnderemployment current job part-time for fourteen years now, while also being a full-time single parent.
    I recently had to call Centrelink. It took 8 hours to get through. Another day, I spent over 2 hours on the phone, most of it on hold, and ended up having to hang up without any idea of what the actual problem was.
    I find myself thinking how nice it would be if, instead of getting a scary letter saying you must attend at this time on this day, you got a letter requesting you make an appointment at a convenient time within a certain time frame.
    Government want it both ways. They want you working, but they also expect you to drop everything and treat appointments with Centrelink as a priority.
  3. CL – Part-time employment often won’t provide enough income to put food in the belly let alone a roof over a person’s head. An hour a week is rated as part-time, making the unemployment stats look good, even though the figures are rubbery. Most people aren’t Malcolm or Gina where an hour a week could keep you afloat for months.
  4. BL – If you work one hour a week, you’re excluded from the unemployment figures. We’ll be short of real jobs in this country until the government stops treating it as a farm or a mine.
  5. AB – I worked one day a week for the past ten years. Centrelink arranged a few “attend or benefits will be suspended” interviews for me on the only day I was working. These are hard anyway when you live in a country town with no car and no friends who can provide a lift. And the day I worked, trying to finish my day to get home so my young daughter didn’t come home to an empty house before me was always stressful.
  6. NH – I worked two hours a day for seven months. Got me nowhere financially. In fact I was worse off after paying for petrol there and back. All it did was allow the government to cut me off Newstart.
  7. MR – Lots of people take part-time work because it’s all there is.
  8. JE – I would choose a full-time job over a part-time one…if I had a choice, that is.
  9. KM – Part-time work is an awesome choice for school kids who want to earn a few dollars, or people with wealthy spouses, who need the mental stimulation and social interaction. Not so good for people who actually need to survive.
  10. JC – Go get your nails painted and ask the girl how much she earns for working in a high turnover area dealing with toxic-smelling substances.
  11. JS – Senator Cash might like her paid working hours cut down to a few short shifts a week.
  12. CR – Perhaps we could just make the normal working week thirty two hours, and then everyone could be fully employed. On a liveable wage, of course.

I would much appreciate receiving your response to these comments.

Dr Joan Beckwith (PhD)

Unemployed are not parasites

Letter posted Monday 10 October 2016

Interestingly, I could not find an email address for Senator Cash, so I sent the letter shown above by traditional snail-mail. I will post back here if and when I get a reply.

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First-time comments have to be moderated. I try to complete that process, and respond, within 24 hours. Do check back. If you liked this post, you might also like: “This is what it’s like to need income support“, and “When Newstart means NoStart“.

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4 comments on “Slow clap for part-time work”

  1. Jessie says:

    Hello All,
    Sorry for the belated reply.
    I work in a sub-set, you might say, of part-time work, and that is casual/locum work through recruitment agencies. My experience of such work over several years generally is that you are treated with indifference at best and shabbily more of the time. You are expected to hear no evil, see no evil and talk no evil and if you do, do not be surprised to be promptly summoned to management and or receive a call from the recruitment agency pronto about the error of your ways.
    I have had to let go of my solid standards of OH&S practice. As well, often refraining from offering my long standing knowledge, expertise and experiences of decent standards in dealing with staff, including contributing to a positive and enjoyable work culture.
    Middle name only as I want to continue still being offered the only work that this baby boomer can grab.

    • Hi Jessie,
      Thanks for your comments. I love belated replies, and also totally understand your caution about remaining unidentified. Your points about the way you are treated and the curious resentment of what you bring to the situation are very similar to those I’ve heard from a friend who does locum work. There’s something about many current workplace cultures that seems toxic to all involved, and it must be excruciating to have to keep your head down. Your observations of day-to-day practices of power would be fascinating, though. Perhaps down the track when you can retire (hopefully soon by the sounds) you could document them and do some analysis. I think it’s much needed. In the meantime, best with the immediate challenges.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Part time work can equal full time poverty for single parents. I remember Peter Reith boasting at a conference how the government had made it easier for part time work to be included in awards. Well paid women do indeed have a choice, someone on minimum wage, particularly a single parent does not. Part time work assumes a partner also earning money. The problem has only become worse.

    • The reality for single parents, their children, and others living in poverty while ‘enjoying’ part-time work can’t be disappeared by celebration of choice by those who have a choice.
      “17.4 per cent of all Australians aged under 15 are living in poverty, an increase of 2 per cent over the decade to 2014” according to the article linked below from the beginning of Anti-Poverty Week; 730,000 children are living “below the breadline”.
      It also notes: “The latest Poverty in Australia report, which is the fifth of its kind, also shows women are still more likely to live below the poverty line because of lower employment rates, lower wages and because they take on a greater caring role for children and other family members.”
      Putting those two points together paints a sorry picture about poverty in Australia, and that’s what our politicians need to focus on – the capacity of people, all people, to meet their basic needs.

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