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From PMs to everyday workers: The Aussies taking on extra jobs

·4-min read
Composite image of Scott Morrison, and pedestrians on the street looking for jobs.
The ex-PM isn't the only one taking on extra jobs. (Source: Getty)

When it comes to holding multiple jobs you’d be forgiven if you immediately thought of the former prime minister.

But while Scott Morrison was busy loading his plate with extra roles, plenty of Australians were doing the same, working more and more side jobs than ever before - although for very different reasons.

Multiple job holding has been on the rise since 2013 but, since 2020, Australians have taken on second jobs and side-hustles in a major way.

As the next chart shows, more Australians were working multiple jobs in 2021 than at any time since records began.

A graph showing information about people taking on second jobs.
A graph showing information about people taking on second jobs.

So, why the sudden appetite for more gigs?

The data shows that Australians are working more side jobs. Firstly, to put food on the table and fuel in the car as prices rise and, secondly, because the jobs are there, finally.

For a long time, Aussies wanted more hours but underemployment was rising fast. People couldn’t find the hours they needed.

But, in 2020/21, that reversed and suddenly underemployment fell. The labour market strengthened as government handouts propped up spending and the borders remained closed.

People found the extra work they’d craved. Underemployment fell to 6 per cent, the lowest in decades.

How has the employment landscape changed? A lot of people are moving into full-time jobs.

Others are making full-time schedules out of a mish-mash of part-time jobs.

And perhaps a clever few are sneakily working multiple full-time jobs from home, phoning it in via Zoom and collecting more than one full-time salary.

After all this is now the era of “quiet quitting”.

Either way, a second gig would certainly ease the pressures we have all been facing when electricity bills are doubling and a tank of petrol costs well over $100.

Why do people work two full-time jobs?

Aussie researchers looked into the question back in 2012 (the most qualitative data on the topic to date), interviewing people about their motivations.

People like Beryl. Beryl held two jobs as a personal care worker, and told the academics she did it because her hours were all over the place.

“It’s such an unpredictable area that I work in. You can be working 50 hours one week or 20 hours the next, if your clients go into hospital and no longer need care, or if they pass away,” she told the researchers.

Other people took a second job to stack up more cash, the same study found.

“It’s dollars, dollars. You don’t do it for any other reason, why would you?” said Rodney, a full-time manager, part-time consultant on the side.

And some people worked multiple jobs because those jobs actually sound pretty nice.

“The weekend job, it’s not really too much of a work sort of thing,” said Chris - full-time construction worker and part-time baker.

“It’s still work, but I don’t really treat it as a job anymore. It’s more of a casual help out and just … pop in and say g’day to the guys and still help out and do things.”

Your nurse is moonlighting

They call working two jobs “moonlighting” because sometimes that second job happens at night.

Nightshift is a regular occurrence for many employees in the health care sector, and as it happens, health care is one place where second jobs are common and becoming even more common, according to recent data released by the ABS.

As the next chart shows, the number of healthcare workers with multiple jobs recently hit a record, while in education the trend is going the other way - although it did rise during the pandemic.

A graph showing information about people taking on second jobs.
A graph showing information about people taking on second jobs.

While there is no evidence that our former PM took extra money for the extra ministries he assumed, unlike most Aussies working two jobs, who (unless you’re Chris the baker) generally need the dough.

Of course, the average weekly wage in Australia of $1,344.70 (average of all workers, including part time and full time) doesn’t stack up so well compared to the prime ministerial salary of $564,000 a year.

Divide that by 365 to get a daily rate and it is $1,545 per prime ministerial day.

That’s more than the average worker makes each week from all their jobs, and the PM gets it every day of the year, including Sundays, and even when they are in Hawaii.

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