There has grown to be a distinctive problem in Australia of extended working hours. According to OECD figures, Australia has the second longest working hours in the develop world, only shorter than the working hours of South Koreans. On top of this, Australia has the fastest growing working hours in the OECD. [ACTU 2002] This is unusual, considering both the long-term historical movement towards shorter hours that existed up until the 1980's, and the counter trend within most OECD nations of shorter working hours. The highly unequal distribution of labour within Australia has created what have been called the workrich? and the workpoor? some are overworked while many continue to be underemployed or unemployed. This situation has perpetuated widespread health problems for those who are overworked, including increases in cardiac disease, infertility, high blood pressure, tobacco and alcohol consumption, mental illness and sleeping and eating disorders. [ACTU 2002] Thus the problem of redistributing work, and reducing the hours of the overworked is a social a moral problem, requiring government intervention, and cultural change.
Trends in Working Hours.
The evidence concerning recent extensions of working hours, and the number of employees working those longer hours in the Australian workforce, is varied, but consistent and comprehensive. The Australian Bureau of Statistics provides details concerning working hours through the Labour Force Survey. The proportion of full-time employees who had worked extra hours in the last four weeks has risen markedly since the early 1980's. [ABS 2003] Currently, more than 31 per cent of full time employees work more than 48 hours per week. Between 1981 and 2000, there was a 76 per cent increase in the number of people working more than 45 hours per week, and a 94 per cent increase in the number working 50 to 59 hours per week, and between 1983 and 2000, there was a 50 per cent increase in those working more than 60 hours per week.