Page 1062 - Week 04 - Wednesday, 16 March 2005

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and maintaining essential family and community relationships that deliver satisfying and engaging outcomes for our society. Work and life are frequently not being balanced in today’s society.

In 2003 almost three million workers performed overtime work on a regular basis. Long hours of work can consolidate unsafe and unhealthy conditions in the workplace. The physical effects of overwork and stress are multitudinous and can include high blood pressure, long-term fatigue, constant tiredness and poor sleeping patterns. Depression is a serious concern. The impact on individual workers is significant, yet the ramifications extend beyond these immediate concerns. Long hours worked generate time poverty and can have a significant effect on a worker’s family life and structure. Long-hours workers report concerns with family relationships due to exhaustion, stress and time poverty.

Long-hours workers lack common time. Withdrawal from community activities can have a significant and long-lasting impact on community relationships and challenges our social fabric. Our capacity for civic engagement is weakened and fundamental mechanisms of social change and community organising are undermined. These changes are actually causing dysfunctional outcomes for the economy as a whole, particularly its long-term sustainability. The increase in long-hours work in our economy is presenting a challenge to sustainable economic growth, democracy and citizenship.

At the other end of the spectrum, 2001 figures demonstrate that about one-third of part-time workers would prefer to be working more hours. This figure represents about 10 per cent of all employed persons, which is a significant section of the workforce. The problems at this end of the hours spectrum are clear. Insufficient hours fail to provide workers with adequate pay, job security or employment opportunities.

The implications are clear for the individuals and for the broader community of failing to provide workers the space to achieve their work-life balance. Labour is not an expendable force. The sustainability of our economy and our society is dependent on an investment in the wellbeing of our workforce. The ACT Labor government is at the forefront of seeking to ensure a balance between work and life for the good of the workers, business, our economy and our community.

It is, apparent, however that the federal government has abrogated this fundamental responsibility in favour of short-term profit margins. At one end of the hours spectrum, many workers in Australia are working significantly extended hours on a regular basis. Over the last 20 years, the number of hours spent in paid work in Australia has risen by 23 per cent, and more than a quarter of the Australian workforce is now working more than 45 hours a week.

People engage in long-hours work for a variety of reasons, some very willingly, and some who, despite their commitment to work, experience the stress of overwork and the impact that this can have on their family life and community involvement. Research suggests that more than half of those currently working extended hours would prefer fewer hours and shows high levels of dissatisfaction with work-life balance among these workers. Eighty per cent of long-hours workers are shown by the ABS to be employed in the private sector.

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