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Original research
Is casual employment in Australia bad for workers’ health?
  1. Markus H Hahn1,
  2. Duncan McVicar2,
  3. Mark Wooden1
  1. 1Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
  2. 2Queen's Management School, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Duncan McVicar, Queen's Management School, Queen's University Belfast, Belfast BT9 5EE, UK; d.mcvicar{at}


Objectives This paper assessed the impact of working in casual employment, compared with permanent employment, on eight health attributes that make up the 36-Item Short Form (SF-36) Health Survey, separately by sex. The mental health impacts of casual jobs with irregular hours over which the worker reports limited control were also investigated.

Methods Longitudinal data from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey, over the period 2001–2018, were used to investigate the relationship between the eight SF-36 subscales and workers’ employment contract type. Individual, household and job characteristic confounders were included in dynamic panel data regression models with correlated random effects.

Results For both men and women, health outcomes for casual workers were no worse than for permanent workers for any of the eight SF-36 health attributes. For some health attributes, scores for casual workers were higher (ie, better) than for permanent workers (role physical: men: β=1.15, 95% CI 0.09 to 2.20, women: β=1.79, 95% CI 0.79 to 2.80; bodily pain: women: β=0.90, 95% CI 0.25 to 1.54; vitality: women: β=0.65, 95% CI 0.13 to 1.18; social functioning: men: β=1.00, 95% CI 0.28 to 1.73); role emotional: men: β=1.81, 95% CI 0.73 to 2.89, women: β=1.24, 95% CI 0.24 to 2.24). Among women (but not men), mental health and role emotional scores were lower for irregular casual workers than for regular permanent workers but not statistically significantly so.

Conclusions This study found no evidence that casual employment in Australia is detrimental to self-assessed worker health.

  • mental health
  • longitudinal studies
  • organisation of work

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  • Contributors DM and MW planned the study. MHH conducted the data analysis. All authors drafted and edited the paper. DM submitted the paper.

  • Funding DM’s visit to Melbourne for the purposes of this research was funded by the Faculty of Business and Economics, University of Melbourne, Visiting Research Scholar Scheme.

  • Disclaimer The findings and views reported in this paper, however, are those of the authors and should not be attributed to the Australian Government, DSS or any of DSS’ contractors or partners.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Patient consent for publication Not required.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data availability statement Data may be obtained from a third party and are not publicly available. The data are available on request through the National Centre for Longitudinal Data Dataverse (

  • Supplemental material This content has been supplied by the author(s). It has not been vetted by BMJ Publishing Group Limited (BMJ) and may not have been peer-reviewed. Any opinions or recommendations discussed are solely those of the author(s) and are not endorsed by BMJ. BMJ disclaims all liability and responsibility arising from any reliance placed on the content. Where the content includes any translated material, BMJ does not warrant the accuracy and reliability of the translations (including but not limited to local regulations, clinical guidelines, terminology, drug names and drug dosages), and is not responsible for any error and/or omissions arising from translation and adaptation or otherwise.

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