Major industries, including hospitality, healthcare and retail, have experienced an unprecedented rise in the number of shift workers working multiple jobs, according to a new report from leading shift work management platform, Deputy. A total of 7% of the shift workforce held multiple jobs simultaneously in 2023, exceeding numbers seen in the last 25 years. 

This number is also higher than figures seen in the United States (5.2%) and the United Kingdom (4.9%), in response to the rising cost of living, a major concern for shift workers across the country in 2023.

The trend is led by the hospitality industry, where 8% of workers hold multiple jobs, followed by 7% in healthcare and 6% in retail. Even in industries like services, such as delivery and postal workers, security personnel, and those in employment services, the industry has decadal highs in multi-job holders at 5% of its workforce.

In 2023, hospitality and retail businesses saw a change in generational tides. While these industries have long been made up largely of Millennials, Gen Z now takes up the largest share of employment. 

In 2023, Gen Z accounted for almost two in five (38%) hospitality workers, compared to 34% of Millennial workers. The same trend was seen in retail, where Gen Z made up the majority of the workforce and took up half of the total shift work hours in 2023.

In the services sector, Millennials still make up the majority at 37% of shift work hours. However, Gen Z is close behind at 36% and in 2024, Gen Z is expected to become the largest workforce in the services field as well.

Healthcare is the only industry where Millennials still account for the majority of work hours. In the medium term, this is expected to continue, given the industry’s propensity to attract and retain older workers.

Deputy chief financial officer, Emma Seymour said, “The common theme we are seeing across the report is rising living costs driving many Australians to find, or expand, employment in shift work, with record high numbers of shift workers engaged in poly-employment.

“During this tumultuous period, it is crucial that businesses work efficiently while offering flexibility, and stability to their workforce. Deputy is committed to providing solutions that meet the needs of an ever-evolving workforce, allowing shift workers and the businesses that employ them to not just survive, but to thrive.”

Commenting on the report findings, Geografia chief economist, Dr Shashi Karunanethy said economic uncertainty and slowed consumer spending saw employment rates in the retail sector decline for the majority of 2023.

“Deputy’s recent analysis found that the situation began to rectify towards the end of Q3, with retail employment increasing 2% in September compared to the beginning of the year,” he told Retailbiz.

“Nevertheless, when taking the whole post-pandemic experience, our findings have shown that the retail sector is a significant contributor to employment recovery in Australia. After hospitality, retail leads employment growth, with the sector currently employing 40% more shift work hours compared to January 2021, during pandemic troughs. This may be attributed to the changing generational tides as more Gen Z workers enter the workforce. In 2023, we found that Gen Z made up the majority of retail workers — taking up approximately half of the total shift work hours and surpassing Millennials for the first time.

“Despite its contribution to employment recoveries, Deputy data suggests retail workers are still struggling with the cost of living. In the sector, a significant 35% of workers believe their pay has not kept pace with inflation — a figure notably higher than the 16% average among Australian workers overall. This trend may have contributed to the increase of poly-employment in the retail sector where 6% of shift workers hold at least two positions. 

“The adoption of AI technologies is another trend causing concern to retail workers. Our analysis found that two-thirds (67%) of workers in the retail sector believe AI will bring changes to their jobs. Despite the exposure of certain retail roles to automation, the anticipated expansion of Australia’s consumer markets is expected to compensate for any job losses from automation.

“Over the next five years, the number of sales assistants roles is expected to increase by a net total of 8,600 jobs, followed by cashiers and checkout operators with a net total of 8,500.”