Part-Time: Today’s Choice for Job Seekers and Employers Alike

The latest ABS figures show a substantial growth in the flexible workforce with over 29% of all Australian jobs now being part time. It seems that the pursuit of the elusive work/life balance and a precarious economic climate have coupled to make part time the choice for job seekers and employers alike. And, in recent years, a new breed of worker has arisen – “the career contractor”.

Allison Baker, co-founder of job site HireMeUp.com.au, is such an animal. Career contractors are people who contract out their services to a number of different employers. They don’t need – or want – a full-time job with one company.

“Contracting is a career for me,” Ms Baker said.  “I don’t want a full-time job where I go to the same place, same time and see the same faces every day. I guess it comes from my student days when I was the ‘Part-Time Queen.'”

Since she was just shy of 16, Ms Baker always had two, if not three, different part-time jobs in rotation simply because she liked the variety.

“I never jumped from job to job, I’d stay with the same employer for years and take on different roles at each working one shift here, another there. Once my schedules were coordinated, it was smooth sailing,” Ms Baker said. “With my work today, I still love the variety of having different people and different businesses to work with – it’s fun! Best of all, I love having the freedom to work the hours I choose and balance my life with my work. If I want to bury myself in work, I can. If I want to come up for air and enjoy life outside of work, I can.”

So dedicated to the concept of flexible hours, Ms Baker and her friend started a website geared toward finding flexible hours jobs and employers – and job “matchmaking” the two. Hiremeup.com.au has been an instant success and continues to grow.

But job seekers aren’t the only ones thinking that part time could be the perfect match. It seems that more and more employers are moving toward employing part timers over full-time staff.

Jacqueline Young, owner of The Mobile Office, an administration and bookkeeping company that helps small businesses get organised, said that she only employs part timers.

“I employ predominantly students and working mums and I’m more than happy to work around their needs for classes or kids”, Ms Young said. “I find that I get a happier, more loyal work team and that’s so much more stable for my business.”

Ms Young credits her flexible attitude with enabling her to get the pick of talent.

“Because I’m happy to be flexible, I get put ahead of other employers and I get the pick of the crop in terms of staff”, she said. “Just last week I employed a working mum. When she asked me what hours I wanted, I told her to work around what suited her child and school commitments. She couldn’t believe it, but I know that I’ll have her loyalty because very few other employers will give her that freedom.”

The research in favour of adopting flexible work arrangements is vast – higher productivity, increased profits, lower absenteeism, improved staff morale and loyalty, decreased turnover, the list goes on. Flexible work appears to be a win-win and, certainly, the way the working world is heading.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics in May 2011 alone, full-time employment decreased by 22,000 jobs while part-time employment increased by 29,800 jobs. And, similar trends have been reported in previous months. In fact, the percentage of part-time work has been on a steady upward climb for the last 30 years with a spike in the last 10 years.

Graph depicting steady rise in the total number of part-time hours worked since 2001; Courtesy of the ABS Labour Force Report May 2011

“The movement to part time is not going to go away”, Ms Baker said.  “We’re seeing more and more jobs being advertised for part time and project-based positions. With retail suffering and business reeling from spiraling costs, employing people part time – and, therefore, only when you need them –  is becoming a very attractive option.”

And when you couple that with more employers seeing the benefits of part timers versus full timers, it seems that everyone’s getting more flexible.

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