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Low paid workers. Helen Masterman-Smith Centre for Work and Life University of South Australia Hawke Research Institute for Sustainable Societies. www.lowpayproject.com.au. Funding Partners LHMU SA Unions Unions NSW Victorian Trades Hall Council Brotherhood of St Laurence

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low paid workers

Low paid workers

Helen Masterman-Smith

Centre for Work and Life

University of South Australia

Hawke Research Institute for Sustainable Societies

www lowpayproject com au

Funding Partners

  • LHMU
  • SA Unions
  • Unions NSW
  • Victorian Trades Hall Council
  • Brotherhood of St Laurence
  • Australian Research Council
about the study
About the study
  • Over 90 low paid workers (plus other stakeholders)
  • Low pay = $14/hr or $530/wk or $26800/year
  • Service industry workers
    • SA – childcare
    • Vic - cleaning
    • NSW - luxury hotels
  • Book release in 2008
working low paid
Working low paid
  • 1 in 4 Australian employees are low paid
  • Wages
  • Fairness and justice
  • Hidden costs reduce value of wages
  • Making work pay

Welfare barriers

      • [Many people say]… I’m giving up work because it’s more beneficial for me to stay on government money … it’s the extras like transport and health and teeth. … they’d prefer to work, but if it’s only twenty dollars difference … why travel an hour and half to try and get to work? (Simone, luxury hotel worker).

Tax barriers

      • … [my second job is] taxed at about fifty percent I think. Because I’m a low income, I will get some of that back at the end of the year at tax time, but that’s pretty heavy for a second job… (David, cleaner)
working low paid cont
Working Low Paid cont…
  • Poorer Conditions - eg. working time:
  • Long hours/short hours
    • … because of the low rate of pay … you basically have to work longer hours than you wish to, to earn a reasonable amount of money. (Kelly, childcare worker)
  • Multiple jobholding
  • Shift work and unsocial hours
  • Unpredictability, limited flexibility
  • Intensification
    • Well you don’t do the job as good as you can because you haven’t got time. … because they undercut the contractors, … and they’re expected to do a lot more work, and then they put it on to us, but they don’t want to give us the hours or anything to do it. (Lyn, cleaner)
  • Working Sick and Unhealthy Workplaces
  • Unionism – members supportive, but deafeatism increasing under WorkChoices
living low paid
Living low paid
  • Low pay = working poverty???
    • … the price of food and petrol going up every bloody week. Well that\'s made it more of a struggle on the budget because I mean three kids. Shopping\'s gone from like $100 a week to about $160 a week. ... that\'s just food shopping. … The petrol I used to do $40 a week up to about $50, $60 a week. … There\'s bills I\'ve been putting off to cover everything. … I get extensions on everything (Bianca, cleaner).
  • Time and financial poverty
  • Health and Well-being
    • No time or money for prevention/treatment
low pay pathways
Low Pay Pathways
  • Stepping stones myth
    • I have worked my bones out, you know, and never got anywhere else but just a cleaner.
  • Stumbling blocks
    • … there’s always going to have to be someone who has to clean the bins
  • Thwarted training
    • …it’s like a vicious circle because really you can’t just give up your paid work
  • Cut-price careers
    • I wouldn’t say that was a stepping stone. To me, it was just what I do.

Table 1 Low Paid Workers Labour Market Transitions, Percentages, Australia, 2001-2003

Source: HILDA, Wave 1-3

what is to be done
What is to be done?
  • Traditional responses
    • Minimum standards
    • Tax credits
  • Working life model
  • Transitional labour markets
    • Childcare
    • Paid maternity leave
    • Career paths for the low paid
    • Education/training
    • Welfare/tax policy reform

Research leaders:

Barbara Pocock (Uni of SA)

John Buchanan (Sydney Uni)

Susan Oakley (Adelaide Uni)

Iain Campbell (RMIT Uni)

Ian Watson (Sydney Uni)