Liquid Life and the Casualisation of the Australian Workforce

History has taught us that the social norm is to work 9-5. In primary school we were taught to obey our teacher, sit up straight and place our hands on the desk which are all characteristics of the industrial workforce. Lets now jump to the present were we are seeing a dramatic shift in the workforce known as casualisation. This versatile workforce now expects employees to be available 24/7 and technology has allowed this to happen. The homogenization of networks has decreased time and space meaning you are never in one place at the one time. 10 years ago the average routine of an employed citizen would be to wake up, get ready for work, travel to work and then only begin work related activities ‘at work’, that’s 9 – 5.

However society today is part of a dramatic paradigm shift that is breaking away from the preconceived ideas that reflected the industrial workforce, and moving onto a fundamental shift known as knowledge production. In turn this means that our routine now consists of anticipatory labour; checking emails and preparing for work and the notion of liquid labour; the convergence production (work) and consumption (life) (Deuze 2006). This liquid life is a precious life, lived under conditions of constant uncertainty (Deuze 2006). Thus the 9-5 workday has become obsolete and society now follows the norm of a portfolio work life.

Bouncing back on the casualisation in the workforce, I was shocked to discover the fear and uncertainty university academics suffer prior to semester. An article by Grahame McCulloch outlines how Sharni Chan and expert in politics and public policy is on the brink of homelessness due to the casual work she has been offered by the University of Sydney. Chan fears that now in her final year of her PHD and after 10 years of casual academia she does not have a career to show of.

I’d also like to reflect on a personal incident regarding university tutors and their ability to connect to students. Twitter is the desired form of communication between tutor and student, personally I was worried that my question might get lost in the twittersphere, however within 1 minute of a question being asked my tutors replied. I was amazed at the speed of the reply because it was sent after uni hours and I also considered the ‘space’ the tweet was sent. This directly reflects the notion of liquid labour were work is not only done at work but converged with life. I’d also like to introduce a term called presence bleed; were one is never in once place at the one time. For example you may be at home having a conversation with your family but at the same time replying to a tweet sent to you by a student.

Casualisation of the workforce does not end at academics. Economists warn of a growing trend of casualisation in the Australian workforce and for more information follow this link.

Are we the beginning of a new generation of workers who will be juggling casual employment, blog or other form of online occupation, freelance work, a social life, a family and bills. It’s scary to think that soon we’ll be the ones applying for job after job and burdened by the insecurity of casual employment.

I’d like to hear what your thoughts are regarding this issue and if you’re as scared as I am?!?


Deuz, M 2006, Liquid Life, Convergence Culture, and Media Work, March 19, Indiana University.



Image source:

About Nicola Salter

Nicola. 21. UOW Graduate
This entry was posted in DIGC202 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Liquid Life and the Casualisation of the Australian Workforce

  1. Presence bleed is the bit that really scares me! For example, I’m writing this comment while sitting in a conference session in Singapore. After this, I’ll be checking work emails & am also live tweeting the conference…..

  2. nicolasalter says:

    WOW talk about multitasking. My tutor made a great point yesterday that whilst she plays with her three year old she’s also tweeting us. I felt quite guilty that I’m taking away her family time but in reality we all do it to ourselves. I’m usually watching TV, tweeting, checking my newsfeed on facebook and having a conversation all at the same time…

  3. sineadryan13 says:

    I, like you Nicola was worried when I first began contacting tutors through social media forums such as Twitter, I always thought that my question or query would never reach my tutor. Surprisingly though I now think it is the best way to communicate with tutors. Technology enables everything to become instant and teachers and students for example no longer have to wait for the select few hours that they have in class together to communicate. While this is a positive thing though I feel that it can also be really negative and take away the sense of peace and privacy that once came with ones ‘home life.’

    For your question, I am so scared that we will have to rely on casual work and deal with working in a world with no job security, but I don’t think there is any way around it unfortunately.

    • nicolasalter says:

      It extremely surprising how much I rely on twitter to ask DIGC202 tutors questions and how much I dread emailing marketing tutors because it takes them a good week to reply!

  4. lelefos says:

    What scares me a little is that I am already so reliant on my media platforms to perform daily tasks, and I am not even out of uni yet! So if the previous generation have already adapted and started to succumb to this notion of anticipatory and liquid labour how bad am I going to be if I ever become a knowledge worker! However, I am sure that if liquid labour continues to infiltrate industries at the rate that it is we will adapt and change our ways so that more of a distinction can be made between work and personal life (or we might just all become zombies…).

  5. jamesayre says:

    It reminds of that whole there is no one screen anymore. While watching TV; you’re checking Facebook; while checking Instagram on your phone; while talking to the person next to you doing the same think. Mulittasking has a whole knew meaning these days.

    The speed of reply from your tut is a prime example of constantly being connected.

    Great post!

  6. Dacria says:

    In my opinion this whole notion of always available isn’t completely bad for the reason you said before with your subject enrollment while overseas. Being always connected has provided so many benefits and it’s good to see no one is really pushing the boundaries of what they shouldn’t do with this perpetual access. Here’s to a future where everyone is everywhere and no one exploits it

  7. keelythompso says:

    I am definitely as concerned as you are about the casualisation of work! I don’t know about you guys, but I am REALLY worried that when my degree is finished and I have the qualifications, there will be no position available relating to my skills and I could be considered ‘obsolete’. Although, I guess with the path we have chosen by studying media communications, where information is produced so regularly and in such great amounts, as well as new technologies being developed as we speak, it seems to be a risk we have to take!

  8. Its not something i personally relish. I like the different spheres of my life to remain relatively separate. I have a mode for where ever I am and being in limbo between two or more of these isn’t an attractive prospect for me. But i also don’t think that its something that I have to be particulary concerned about. Society may orient it self this way more and more, but there will always be rewarding jobs out there that simply don’t require constant connection. My preference would be to avoid blurring my lines, but if society continues moving that way I’m perfectly happy to find a little niche where i can simply clock in and out like back in the good ol days.

  9. Something that I’ve been looking into lately is the informal economy, also known as the shadow economy. It’s the sector that comprises mainly casual work and is usually a characteristic of developing economies. What’s startling, is that women dominate this type of economy for reasons ranging from childcare to their silent work in family businesses. Theres more information here ( if you’re interested. Judging from these statistics, if the workforce becomes increasingly casualised, women will be those baring the brunt of it.

  10. At first, like you, i was a bit hesitant on asking my tutors questions on Twitter. But like you said, the speed at which it was answered was surprising. This definitely demonstrates how we know all live a “liquid life”. Constantly juggling between work and home life. I would have to say i am most definitely as scared as you are!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s