A record number of Australians are working multiple jobs, the latest ABS labour report shows

The number of Australians working multiple jobs has reached a record high, the latest ABS labour report shows.
  • The rate of multiple job-holders increased by 0.6 percentage points to 6.4% in the December quarter.
  • The number of Australians working two, three or more jobs has been increasing steadily.
  • Unions say the increase in insecure gig work is harming Australian workers.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

A record number of Australians are holding multiple jobs as the country continues its COVID-19 recovery and faces a workforce transformed by the pandemic.

Labour statistics released by the ABS on Wednesday showed 867,000 people are currently holding “multiple jobs”.

The multiple job-holding rate increased by 0.6 percentage points to 6.4%, the highest proportion of the population since the ABS began tracking this data point.

“The larger percentage increase in secondary jobs reflected an increase in the number of multiple job-holders over the quarter, which rose by 13.1% to over 850,000 people,” Bjorn Jarvis, head of Labour Statistics at the ABS, said.

While the economic recovery was hit by the arrival of the Omicron variant in December, the decision not to return to lockdowns meant the number of Australians in jobs continued to rise. 

The increase in main jobs filled was up 374,000, or 2.8%, with the increase in secondary employment rising by 11.5%. 

The number of Australians working two, three or more jobs has been increasing steadily since the ABS started tracking it in 1994. When it started, those with multiple jobs accounted for 5.7% of the labour market, before dipping slightly to 5.5% in 1998. 

The rise of gig work was accelerated by the pandemic. 

Australian outsourcing platform Airtasker previously told Business Insider Australia it had seen rocketing demand for freelance workers over the past two years. 

Tim Fung, co-founder and CEO of Airtasker, said the pandemic accelerated gig economy trends, and believes the next generation of employees will embrace flexible working even more.  

He said a recent internal survey examining the working habits of Gen Z found 36% said they would prefer to have multiple income streams, and 33% believe it is important to diversify your income. 

Airtasker recorded a 24.8% increase in finance and business tasks over the past 18 months, along with a massive 48% increase in general business and administration tasks overall. 

However many, including Australia’s unions, have responded with concern to the rising number of workers in multiple jobs.

A report released by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) in October warned the post-pandemic labour market will be dominated by severe work-life imbalance fuelled by insecure work.

Of those working more than one job in June, some 209,100 reported to be working three or more jobs, a 10.8% jump on the year before, the report found. 

Its findings mirrored those recorded by companies in the private sector like Airtasker, showing the demographics most prone to taking on extra work were Millennials and Gen Z, who accounted for 55% of the cohort. 

ACTU secretary Sally McManus noted the ACTU report suggested low wages were one driver of the trend. 

It points to an average wage gap of 17.5% between multiple job holders and full-time staffers, with incomes of $40,500 and $49,083 respectively. 

The other driver was businesses taking on new staff on a casual basis in response to the pandemic, the report said. 

McManus said the growing trend was in fact a symbol of the federal government’s failure to support union efforts to secure protections for Australian workers. 

“The Morrison government is overseeing the erosion of the financial security that secure employment has provided for generations of Australian workers,” she said.