Young female shift workers hold multiple jobs to make ends meet

All major industries have experienced an unprecedented rise in the number of shift workers working multiple jobs, including 7% of healthcare workers, the data from shift work management platform Deputy found.

The number is higher than figures seen in both the United States (5.2%) and the United Kingdom (4.9%) and is a reaction to the rising cost of living and ongoing housing pressures, a major cause for concern for shift workers across the country in 2023.

“The common theme we are seeing across the report is rising living costs driving many Australians to find, or expand, employment in shift work, with record high numbers of shift workers engaged in poly-employment,” said Deputy’s Chief Financial Officer Emma Seymour.

During this tumultuous period, it was crucial that organisations offered flexibility, and stability to their workforce, she said.

Even in industries where workers historically preferred to hold only one job, the report found decadal highs in multi-job holders at 5% of their workforce.

This trend is led by the hospitality industry, where 8% of workers hold multiple jobs, followed by 7% in healthcare and 6% in retail.

The majority of multi-job holders were young female shift workers commonly seen in the health and aged care industry, said Dr Shashi Karunanethy, Chief Economist at Geografia who collaborated on the report.

“We’re seeing an unprecedented number of shift workers holding multiple jobs, a phenomenon we refer to as poly-employment, in response to the cost-of-living crisis,” he said.

Young female workers were commonly seen in the health and aged care industry.

Shift workers from healthcare and aged care industries tend to hold multiple roles within the same industry. Agency or contract nurses, often in aged care often work multiple jobs if they are unable to get enough hours from their primary position. 

“Females make up 58% of workers working multiple jobs and the majority of these female workers are young. Having entered the workforce during the pandemic, a period of instability and widespread layoffs, this generation is using poly-employment not only as a means to navigate rising costs, but also in the search for sustainable employment, reliable shifts, and financial stability,” said Dr Karunanethy.

Recent data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics found that while females generally make less than men, part-time females are not just out-earning their male counterparts, making $816.60 per week compared to $758.70 per week, they are also out-working part-time males, making up 29% of employees compared to 13%.

Generational changes in shift work

Generational differences also came into play, with the overwhelming majority of multiple job holders being from Gen Z (65%) followed by Millennials (27%).

Healthcare is the only industry where Millennials still accounted for the majority of work hours. In the medium term, this trend was expected to continue given the healthcare industry’s propensity to attract and retain older workers, the report noted.

The report analysed 114,200,375 shifts and 778,232,332 hours of 679,860 shift workers from December 2019 to December 2023.

Access the full Deputy report here.

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