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Report on Vulnerable Workers in Victoria

This report draws on the Roundtable on Sustainable and Inclusive Work for Vulnerable Workers on 3 December 2020 held by the RMIT University Fairer Start initiative. It addresses the nature of vulnerable work during the pandemic and highlights some existing services for fair and sustainable work in the Australia. 

June 2021

In June 2021, RMIT’s CPOW together with the Business and Human Rights Centre, jointly released a report that brought home the urgency of law reform and support for vulnerable workers.

In 2020, the urgency of addressing vulnerable and insecure work was apparent to everyone. A report launched today by RMIT University shows how important it is for government not to lose sight of this urgency.  It proposes a range of legal and service-based initiatives that should be adopted by Federal and State government to create more secure work and better opportunities for vulnerable groups to align skills and work.  

The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated existing vulnerabilities of insecure workers in Australia. Insecure work has been a driver of COVID-19 transmission, revealing the prevalence of vulnerable workers and its society-wide flow-on effects.  Individuals, families and communities experiencing disadvantage have borne the heaviest burden of the COVID-19 pandemic and its accompanying isolation restrictions on any measure of social, health and economic impact. 

The economy is in recovery now but the causes of worker vulnerability and insecurity remain. 

The report recommends a range of proposals and initiatives based on consultation with key service providers for improving the employment conditions of vulnerable workers, including: 

  • Addressing the growth of casual employment. 
  • Legal reform to broaden the coverage of labour laws.   
  • Extending social safety nets so they are accessible for all workers. 
  • Greater support for those organising and representing gig and casual workers.  
  • Partnerships and coalitions for positive action to support workers and create employment opportunities.  
  • A suite of changes to stop migrant workers being forced into insecure work. 

It also describes several positive examples of services and initiatives that have improved conditions of work over the period of the pandemic, showing that there are firm pathways out of insecurity. 

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