Australian employers are lagging behind their global counterparts in terms of contingent labour use, but are still ahead of other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, says Talent2 CEO John Rawlinson.
According to Talent2's quarterly Market Pulse survey of some 748 companies throughout Asia-Pac, contingent labour made up 15% of the Australian workforce, in contrast to just 12% for the region as a whole.
In comparison, according to recent data from the Aberdeen Group, 22% of the global labour force were contingent workers.
Rawlinson told Shortlist the results illustrated that Australia had a well-developed contingent workforce, but was still behind more mature markets like the US, where "organisations employ a fairly big percentage of their workforce on a temporary or contingent basis".
While Australia's contingent labour use had not matched the level of penetration in the US, he said it was "accepted in Australia that most organisations, for flexibility reasons, will want to have a chunk of their workforce that works on a contract or contingent basis".
Australia's labour hire industry was also better developed than most of its neighbours in Asia, where minimal demand for contingent labour had stunted industry growth, said Rawlinson.
"I remember a decade ago asking the question 'why don't we do more contracting business in Asia?' and one of the reasons was that people in those countries won't work contract or temp - they see that as second rate - and they want a permanent job," he said.
However this attitude was changing, said Rawlinson, as uncertain market conditions forced Asian employers to hire a growing proportion of their workforce on a contingent basis.
"Volatility is the new black and when you're in a volatile, rapidly changing environment the organisations that will do best are the ones that are nimble [and] flexible… and having part of your workforce [employed] on a contingent basis certainly helps with that," he said.
Perm hiring at a standstill
Rawlinson said anecdotal evidence suggested Asia-Pacific employers were holding off on permanent hiring decisions until the market stabilised.
"Most of the clients that we speak to still have plans to invest and grow and get into new markets but... that level of uncertainty generally slows down hiring," he said.
Rawlinson said he expected demand for contractors to continue in the near future, and believed perm hiring was not far off a recovery.
"I would think that in the next quarter we'll see a pretty buoyant market for contracting and in the quarter after that - if Greece and Italy don't go broke - we'll probably see a good lift in perm hiring as companies get back to their hiring plans," he said.