In Australia’s case, this may be due to the number of people who were involuntarily working part-time or, especially in the case of women, being forced to carry out caring duties that meant they could not work full-time.
The OECD said ensuring people worked “normal” hours could go some way to improving the health outcomes of staff.
“These results suggest that besides regulating maximum hours and overtime, a reduction of normal hours may also be considered as a possible lever of working time policy to enhance workers’ non-material well-being under certain conditions,” it found.
The research showed flexibility in hours, particularly starting and finishing times, boosted key measures of life satisfaction and perceptions of health. In some cases, this lifted the productivity of the entire workforce.
Flexibility around working hours might also deliver a financial benefit to businesses.
“Firms choosing flexible hours also see a decrease in average wage growth – suggesting a possible trade-off between wage increases and higher autonomy in determining hours,” it found.
Separate work by the OECD into structural issues facing global job markets suggested Australians were being hurt by the concentration of the nation’s employers.
It found almost one in five Australians worked in a “concentrated” labour market. These are sectors where there are just a handful of employers.
Rural Australians were the most affected by this concentration, with the OECD saying almost half of workers outside urban areas were affected, compared with the OECD average of 29 per cent.
This concentration meant employers could pick and choose staff, rather than facing competition from firms that might offer higher wages or better conditions to woo a prospective employee.
“As the labour market becomes more concentrated, employers require more skills from workers in similar jobs, reducing job opportunities for workers with fewer skills,” it found.
The OECD said a “moderate” retraining of workers could reduce the concentration level in Australia by 14 per cent, which suggested that “reskilling and retraining policies can play a role in improving labour market conditions where markets are monopsonistic”.
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