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How work has changed since the 1960s

How work has changed since the 1960s


Work in the 1960s revolved around a nine-to-five workday, men supported their wives and children at home and jobs usually involved physical labour.

Staff smoked on the job, even in the office, and there was no call for correct etiquette in the staff kitchen as tea ladies brought mid-morning refreshments around to workers.

Fast forward 50 years and social revolutions have placed women on a more equal standing in the workplace and technology has produced more sedentary and mental work.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics analysed the past five decades to find substantial growth in the number of people in the workforce, particularly women, who now return to jobs after having children.

``There is also considerable diversity in how families participate in the labour force,'' its latest Australian Social Trends report reveals.

``The traditional male breadwinner arrangements have declined since the 1960s and now both partners of couple families are likely to be employed.

``People have access to more paid leave entitlements and types of leave than those of 50 years ago. Personal carer's leave and maternity/paternity/adoption leave all form part of the family-friendly leave provisions which help parents juggle paid work and family responsibilities, the latest being the national Paid Parental Leave scheme which was introduced in January 2011.''

The 1960s marked the start of the women's liberation movement which brought wives and mothers out of the home and into part-time work, previously unheard of.

In 1961, 34 per cent of women were employed (59 per cent today). Those that were married wouldn't have been employed by the public service, which did not lift its ban on hiring married women until 1966.

It was the year the contraceptive pill went on sale in Australia, which gave women greater choice of when and how many children they were going to have and therefore their ability to participate in the workforce.

Most of the jobs in the 1960s were in production such as agriculture or manufacturing, which employed 46 per cent of workers. Now that proportion is just 23 per cent.

Australian Institute of Social Research executive director Professor John Spoehr said technology had transformed the way people worked.

``Where once hardly anyone used a computer in the workplace, the majority of people are engaging with computers or some form of information communication technology that's really transforming the way we communicate,'' he said.

``Hardly any letters are being opened (today) and emails are coming in to the inboxes by the dozens each day.

``The other big transformation is the rise of the vocational qualifications of workers in the workplace.

``We are better educated than we were half a century ago and that's led to higher incomes.''

He said it led to increased employment in the services sector, ranging from retail to health and community services.

It is also harder to obtain entry-level jobs straight from school today than in the 1960s, with completion of Year 12 and an additional qualification, whether vocational or from university, increasingly a prerequisite to get a job.

``On-the-job experience was important 50 years ago. Employers did invest in training of their employees and the whole apprenticeship system was more significant and more invested in by employers than it has been now,'' Prof Spoehr said.

``There's some prospect of that changing as employers are competing more for skilled labour in the next 10 years in the face of an ageing workforce.''

A higher education than Year 10 will often still be required as the workforce requires high levels of literacy and numeracy and higher general levels of communication skills.

Tony Robins, founder of Tony Robins Recruiters, has worked in the Adelaide recruitment industry for 47 years and said many more positions were advertised today than when he first entered the industry. Word of mouth is still a key factor but employers now have to cast the net wider than they did 50 years ago by advertising positions.

``A lot of recruiting was done by word of mouth, who you know. If someone could recommend you,'' he said. ``There was a reasonably substantial workforce available for work.

``There wasn't a huge shortage of skills. There's a huge shortage now of people who have skills.''

He said only chief executives or those reporting to them were headhunted in the 1960s with most senior staff working their way up within the company. Overseas migrants, who have skills employers need, are now sponsored to work in Australia.

Mr Robins said the things that had not changed were employees wanted to work for a good employer who recognised their efforts. Employers wanted staff who remained loyal.


Timeline of events which affected the workforce 1961 to 2011

1961: The Pill - oral

contraceptives go on sale.

1966: Ban on married women

in the public service is lifted.

1969: ACTU wins equal pay

case for women.

1974: Four weeks annual

leave becomes standard.

1977: First work-related child care centre

since World War II opens.

1979: 12 months maternity leave introduced

for women.

1984: Sex Discrimination Act comes into effect.

1986: Universal superannuation is provided for

Australian workers.

1987: Female students outnumber male students

at university for the first time.

1992: Unemployment peaks at 10.9 per cent

2009: Fair Work Act passed by Federal Parliament.

2011: National paid parental leave scheme introduced.

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics


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