Record numbers working multiple jobs as cost-of-living crisis hits home

Austerity among consumers is having an impact on hiring across hospitality, tourism and retail.

Austerity among consumers is having an impact on hiring across hospitality, tourism and retail. Photo: TND

The number of Australians working many jobs continues to grow as the cost-of-living crisis forces people to take on extra work to make ends meet.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures published on Friday revealed about 959,000 people worked at least two jobs over the June quarter, up 7 per cent annually.

ABS head of labour statistics Bjorn Jarvis said growth in multiple job holders continue to outpace economy-wide employment growth.

“As a result, the rate of multiple job-holding climbed to a new high of 6.7 per cent in the June quarter 2023,” he said.

“Over the 25 years before the COVID-19 pandemic, the rate of multiple job-holding had usually been between 5 and 6 per cent. It has generally been increasing over the past two years and has now been 6.3 per cent or higher for the past seven quarters.”

Women and younger people continue to be the most likely Australians to hold multiple jobs, with the healthcare and social assistance industries having the highest number of overall workers with two or more roles.

Source: ABS (click to enlarge).

There were two key reasons for the rise in people taking on multiple jobs since COVID-19, Indeed APAC economist Callam Pickering said.

First, more people are taking advantage of the historically strong jobs market, with unemployment sitting near a 50-year low. That makes it easier to find a second job.

‘Tight labour market’

Bosses are still looking for more staff, according to the latest ABS figures, which show that there are still 424,000 job vacancies across the economy – though this has fallen recently.

“We continue to have an incredibly tight labour market and this level of job creation suggests that Australian businesses continue to struggle with staff count – even in a more challenging economic environment,” Mr Pickering said.

“That might change next year – since shifts in labour market conditions lag shifts in the broader economy – but there has been minimal change so far.”

Secondly, the cost-of-living crisis has pushed many people into budget stress and there are few better ways to deal with the strain of higher bills and mortgage repayments than taking on extra work.

Inflation, though falling, is still running at an elevated rate and has been particularly acute in essentials such as rents and utility bills, not to mention the sharp rise in mortgage costs.

These are costs households can’t easily reduce, and so the addition of extra income becomes the best way to relieve the pressure.

Source: ABS (click to enlarge).

Work may disappear

What’s worrying, however, is that with experts expecting the jobs market to slow in the next 12 months, some of the work helping people make ends meet could begin disappearing.

As the economy slows, the Reserve Bank expects the unemployment rate to rise from 3.7 per cent to 4.4 per cent by the end of next year.

That could happen largely because thousands of Australians are pushed out of work, or because an influx of migration makes the pool of available workers larger.

There is some good news at least – the jobs market is currently strong enough that Mr Pickering expects rates of multiple job holding to continue in the short term.

“We expect this upward trend to continue in the near-term as households grapple with the impact of high inflation,” Mr Pickering said.

“People will continue to seek more hours, either in an existing job or via an additional job, to deal with higher costs and rising obligations.”

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