Employers are increasingly discriminating against job applicants with a history of fixed-term or casual employment by denying permanent roles, one expert says.
Labour researchers claim it is a widespread problem and there is no obvious end in sight to the catch-22 for workers seeking greater job security.
Jim Stanford, director of the Centre for Future Work in Sydney, said the practice trapped jobseekers in a cycle.
“It’s incredibly frustrating for people who are trying to get a foot in the door of the labour market,” Dr Stanford said.
“They’re told they have to have experience, and even when they get experience they’re told they don’t have the right kind of experience.”
Dr Stanford said the problem was not limited to those with only fixed-term or casual experience.
“The same trap can catch people who do anything else, like working as a volunteer or getting an internship,” he said.
“It really is a buyer’s market in Australia’s labour market right now. You can offer a job with rather inferior features and still have dozens of people applying for it.
“In that type of world, employers can be very arbitrary in picking out certain criteria to exclude many people from consideration.”
Discrimination adds to workplace insecurity
Karen, who works in the financial services sector in Brisbane, said her inability to land a permanent role made her nervous.
Employers have suggested to her during interviews her resume does not support her receiving a full-time contract.
“You don’t always know [why interviewers turn you down]. It just depends on what the feedback is,” she said.
“But if the answer is something along the lines of ‘she hasn’t stayed in the one place very long, has she?’, then that’s got to be an indication I think.”
Karen said the lack of job security made basic life planning very difficult.
“That means that I play chicken with the credit card limit and do a lot of juggling,” she said.
“I suspect [this trend] is the new black. I think it’s a cop-out for the employers worried about how far ahead they can plan.”
Economist Saul Eslake said this type of workplace discrimination contributed to a much broader feeling of insecurity at work.
“[That includes] a diminished role for unions in the workplace, [and] people feel far less willing to ask for wage rises or to ask for wage rises of the same size they might have done previously,” Mr Eslake said.
“They’re less likely to protest against other changes in working conditions.”