Woman :: Women bear the brunt of precarious working conditions

The rise in flexible working arrangements is having a particularly adverse impact on women, with a University of Melbourne study finding that those working in casual or contract jobs reported much higher levels of job strain compared to their full-time counterparts.

Women in fixed term and casual employment are also more likely to report being subject to unwanted sexual advances at work.

Associate Professor Tony LaMontagne, from the University of Melbourne?s McCaughey Centre, will today (Tuesday 29 May) present the findings of his research at a seminar on Labour Market Flexibility and Regulation.

Associate Professor LaMontagne?s research investigated the work conditions of over 1100 Victorians, comparing their modes of employment and levels of job stress and other working conditions.

?There is an increased trend of casualisation of labor markets around the world. Previous research has shown that precarious employment is linked to bad health outcomes,?? Associate Professor LaMontange said.

?However, the ways in which precarious work arrangements harms health are not clear.

?Our study shows that people working in more precarious conditions ? such as part-time or full-time casual work, labour hire or fixed-term contracts ? have higher levels of job strain and lower levels of control over their jobs.

?These measures of job stresses are associated with poor health outcomes, such as a two to threefold increase in the risk of depression.

?Yet legislation which aims to increase labor market flexibility ? such as WorkChoices ? may accelerate the trend of working conditions which have a negative impact on people?s health.?

Associate Professor LaMontagne said women, in particular, bore the brunt of precarious employment arrangements.

His research found:

? Overall, women were more likely to report being under strain at work than men;
? Six percent of women compared to two per cent of men of women said they had received unwanted sexual advances at work;
? Women in casual full-time and fixed-term jobs reported much higher levels of unwanted sexual advances than those in full-time or permanent part-time jobs;
? Men working in labor hire or casual work reported high levels of job strain and low levels of job control compared to those in permanent full-time work;
? Women working in labor hire or full-time casual jobs reported high levels of job strain and low levels of job control compared to permanent full-time workers.

?It is often argued that people in casual work have lower skill levels and less responsibility and therefore it?s presumed their jobs are less stressful,?? Associate Professor LaMontagne said.

?But this research shows that in many cases people in casual work are more stressed.

?Occupational health and safety law says employers must provide a safe workplace but there is a poor understanding of job stress and other hazards in various employment arrangements.

?WorkSafe is obliged to protect workers from psychological hazards as well as physical, while these are much harder to quantify this research suggests that it should be a priority for investigation.?

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