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New report: Workers feeling the pinch as drop in real wages take their toll

14 June 2022 By ASU

Following a major survey of ASU members, we are proud to launch the report “Feeling the Pinch” with The Insight Centre which reveals that workers including receptionists, administrative assistants, and call centre workers are living from paycheque to paycheque with many resorting to desperate measures to get by.

New research has shed fresh light on the human impact of falling real wages in Australia, with data showing that private sector administrative workers are being pushed to the edge amid the biggest gap between wages growth and inflation in more than 20 years.

The report includes evidence from the ASU survey of private sector clerical and administrative workers, giving insight into how this cohort is experiencing financial pressures and changing working conditions in 2022. Clerical and administrative workers make up about 13.5% of Australia’s total working population and 28% of the female workforce.

Following 18 months of declining real wages, 7 out of 10 surveyed said that the past year has left them ‘worse off’ or ‘much worse off’ financially. Only 7% of survey respondents feel they are living comfortably on their present income.

Three in 10 respondents have foregone health care in the past 12 months because they can’t afford it. Nearly half (48%) feel that they are just ‘coping’ and 43% are finding it either ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ on their present income.

“Private sector wages simply aren’t keeping up. When just 7% of surveyed workers say they are able to live comfortably on their present income, that’s a big flashing warning light for the entire economy.

“The call centre workforce is growing, but these jobs aren’t paying the bills. More than 1 in 10 Australian call centre workers are going without meals, and more than 1 in 10 have pawned or sold something they own just to make ends meet.” ASU Assistant National Secretary Emeline Gaske, said.

The ongoing trend towards working from home can also intensify the pressure for some households. 27% of workers state that working from home has increased their household expenses, and 21% report dealing with mental health issues as a result of working from home.

Last month it was reported that inflation had outpaced wages growth for six consecutive quarters for the first time since the late 1990s, when the ABS started tracking the wage-price index.

Of those surveyed, 48% of call centre workers and 29% of other staff like receptionists and administrative assistants are living paycheque to paycheque, and 30% and 19% respectively indicate that they have difficulty meeting basic living expenses.

If that wasn’t enough, 66% of survey respondents worked unpaid overtime in the last week, with a majority working more than 3 additional hours without pay.

Ms Gaske said it was sadly understandable that nearly one-third (31%) of all workers surveyed indicated that they are likely or extremely likely to change industry or sector over the next 12 months.

“The result of this wage crisis is families going without essentials like food and health care, workers selling their possessions to get by, and if nothing changes, we will see businesses suffer too as thousands leave their employers.”

The Australian Services Union is calling for these workers to have a 5.5% wage increase in the 2022 National Wage Case.

The full report can be found here: Feeling the Pinch: How Low Wage Growth and Rising Prices are Impacting Private Sector Clerical and Administrative Workers

Contact Details
Name: Pia Akerman
Telephone: 0412 346 746