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Deliberately Casual? Workers' Agency, Health, and Nonstandard Employment Relations in Australia

Keuskamp, Dominic PhD; Mackenzie, Catherine R.M. PhD; Ziersch, Anna M. PhD; Baum, Fran E. PhD

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: June 2013 - Volume 55 - Issue 6 - p 620–627
doi: 10.1097/JOM.0b013e31829176eb
Original Articles

Objective: We explored Australian workers' experiences of nonstandard employment, how it related to health and well-being, and the role that Bourdieu's forms of capital (cultural, economic, and social resources) played in underpinning workers' agency.

Methods: Qualitative data from semistructured interviews with 32 causal workers were analyzed on the basis of framework analysis.

Results: Most participants were “deliberate casuals” who had chosen casual over permanent employment, with half of that group naming improved health and well-being as motivation. Those with greater access to capital felt more able to exercise choice, whereas those with fewer capital resources felt constrained to be casual. Gendered structures and labor market dynamics were also significant in shaping agency.

Conclusions: Access to capital and a buoyant labor market underpinned workers' agency in Australia, enabling some to gain health and well-being benefits from nonstandard employment.

From the Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity, Flinders University, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia.

Address correspondence to: Dominic Keuskamp, PhD, Southgate Institute for Health, Society and Equity, Flinders University, GPO Box 2100, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia 5001 (

The study was funded by the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (grant number: 375196).

Authors Keuskamp, Mackenzie, Ziersch, and Baum have no relationships/conditions/circumstances that present potential conflict of interest.

The JOEM editorial board and planners have no financial interest related to this research.

©2013The American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine