Page 1109 - Week 04 - Tuesday, 3 May 2022
being part of an over-casualised workforce. But it is no secret that young people make up a large majority of the casualised workforce here in the ACT and, more broadly, throughout Australia.
In 2021 the ACT Young Workers Centre delivered their report into the level of insecure work facing young people here in the ACT. They found that 43 per cent of 18 to 25-year-olds are earning less than $400 per week. To put that into perspective, rents in student accommodation at either the Australian National University or the University of Canberra start from $250 per week. It is widely accepted that spending any more than 30 per cent of your income on rent is considered an indication of housing stress. So for these young people, rent is making up 62 per cent of their income. For many young people in this city, this rental cost, high rates of casualisation, stagnating wages and increasing inflation are simply untenable.
More than this, the Young Workers Centre report found that 37 per cent of young people do not have work rosters that they can predict and plan their lives around. We speak a lot about the financial implications of a casualised workforce, but it actually provides flexibility to employers that is so great that casual workers, particularly vulnerable young people, can be considered perennially and permanently on call and available at the beck and call of the bosses.
It is clear that the nature of casualised work more broadly in this country presents a systemic problem for the provision of workers’ rights, and young people should be afforded the right to reasonable working conditions. This motion is a step in the right direction to ensure that this ACT government continues to lead the nation on workers’ rights.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn to our attention the importance of sick leave. It is important to stress that sick leave is important not only for managing your own health but, as this pandemic has shown us, for protecting the health and wellbeing of your colleagues and your community.
It benefits no-one in our community to have casual employees, particularly front-facing staff in the retail and hospitality sector, feeling compelled to work while they are sick, in order to ensure that they can pay their bills and put food on the table. In a country as wealthy as ours, workers should never have to choose between putting food on the table and being able to recover from sickness.
Young people have worked incredibly hard throughout this pandemic. Young people have kept your local fast food restaurant running around the clock. Young people have kept your grocery aisles stocked. Young people dispensed often-lifesaving medications at your local pharmacy. While we stayed at home, an over-casualised workforce, made up predominantly of young people, worked hard to keep us fed, keep us healthy and keep us safe, often whilst subjecting themselves to much higher risk of infection with COVID-19.
It is imperative that this government, and all governments who seek to claim the mantle of the nation’s most progressive government—yes, I am looking at you,