Current Work Issues

Work patterns and trends have changed over the years due to a number of reasons. Some of the main issues are discussed below.
Unemployment Self-employed Workers
Outworkers Unpaid Workers
Changes in Technology  



People are unemployed when they cannot find work. There are many reasons for someone being unemployed. They may have just left school or they may have been made redundant from a position. Other reasons for unemployment include being unfit for work or having a company go out of business. Some people are only unemployed for a short while, for example, they may lose their job when the company they work for closes, and then find a new job a few weeks later. 

Other people find it hard to get a new job as they may have been in the same job for many years and not have any experience with looking for work.
Many people choose to do volunteer work when they are unemployed so that they keep in touch with work practices and improve on their work skills. Some volunteers might help in the community by visiting older people and carrying out odd jobs for them. Some old people find it almost impossible to buy their weekly shopping because they can no longer drive and so volunteer workers help them get the things they need.

Self-employed Workers

A self-employed worker is a person who has their own business and they may choose to work from home or they may have an office somewhere. Self employed work is suitable for people who need to be at home and enjoy working as their own boss. This work is not suited to everyone and self-employed people need to remain motivated in order to keep their business.

Workers who are self-employed are found in a range of jobs such as electricians, plumbers, dressmakers and hairdressers. However, there are other workers in these types of occupations who would work for an employer.


Sometimes instead of going into work, people can work from their own homes. There are approximately 300 000 Australians working as outworkers. Some outworkers are only receiving a small amount of money and do not receive the benefits that other workers receive. Many outworkers are from a non-English speaking background and do not know what they are entitled to. However, sometimes outworkers are in a better position, particularly if they have children at home or live far away from the workplace.

Unpaid Workers

The value of unpaid work is often overlooked yet the amount of money that these jobs are worth is extremely high. Most of the unpaid work occurs through domestic activities such as child care, purchasing and cleaning. It is estimated that the value of such work is $209 billion dollars. Volunteer work and community work is estimated at $18 billion dollars.  In New Zealand, the value of unpaid work is estimated at 52%, while in Australia it is estimated at 58%. (Australian Economics Trends - Lumley Group 1997). At least 65% of the unpaid work is carried out by women.

The table below shows the different activities included in unpaid work and the approximate percentage of time spent on each job.


1. Housework - 40.3%
2. Shopping for household items - 20.8%
3. Gardening, home maintenance - 14.5%
4. Pet care - 3.3%
5. Child care - 13.4%
6. Paper work and bills - 4.3%
7. Transport - 3.4 %


Changes in Technology

Changes in technology have meant that certain jobs no longer exist and new jobs have been created. For example, people who design web site pages would not have existed ten years ago. Office clerks have had a lot of their tasks replaced by computers and message people are becoming rare due to workers using email to contact each other and send messages around the office.

Power tools have replaced a lot of hand tools that used to take more time to complete a job. For example most sheep shearers use power shears, and experts can clip 200 or more sheep a day. They remove the fleece in one piece so the various parts can be easily identified for sorting and grading. In early shearing days hand held clippers were used and only a few sheep were shorn each day. Due to the changes in technology more work can be completed in less time.

Communication technology has greatly improved many work practices. People no longer have to wait for something in the mail. They can receive it by fax or electronic mail (e-mail) and get the job done much more quickly. It is also easier to send information to many people at the same time rather than individually contacting people through the mail.

Due to the changes in technology more work can be completed in less time, however jobs have been lost and in many cases people have been replaced by computers and other machinery. This has increased unemployment figures in some industries, yet paved the way for new jobs in other industries.

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