Business Daily Media

What it's like to be a 'black economy' worker

  • Written by Miriam Vandenberg, Public Health Lecturer (University of Tasmania) and PhD Candidate, Southgate Institute for Health, Society & Equity, Flinders University
What it's like to be a 'black economy' worker

Nina, not her real name, works for a cleaning company that sends her into private homes, in exchange for about $20 per hour, cash-in-hand.

She’s had numerous cash-in-hand jobs over the past few years. She used to work in restaurants where the pay was around $12 per hour. She told me she does it quite simply “for the money”.

Nina is like many other workers who are part of “the black economy” in Australia - businesses and individuals who operate outside the tax and regulatory system. The federal government announced a raft of measures to counter[1] this in the recent budget.

Read more: Precarious employment is rising rapidly among men: new research[2]

But the black economy is more common than we think – how many of us have paid tradies, gardeners or cleaners cash without the exchange of relevant paperwork? For many people this is actually an important source of income.

I recently interviewed 24 black economy workers in South Australia and I found that they come from many different walks of life. They are also from different backgrounds from the highly educated with multiple degrees to those with limited education.

For example, Nina’s life is complex – she has family caring responsibilities, there are household debts and her husband “doesn’t allow her to work elsewhere”, despite her skills in other areas.

I found that some of the people I interviewed turn to the black economy simply to make ends meet, while others are “forced” into this type of work by their employers.

Many feel disempowered and experience multiple barriers to finding formal work that is fair and decent. I wouldn’t say that anyone I have interviewed has become a black economy worker by choice - their stories are rarely straight forward.

I asked Nina about the impact of informal work she does on her health and well-being. She described to me various injuries she has sustained and her concerns about being exposed to toxic cleaning chemicals. There are no required occupational health and safety standards to adhere to, though Nina chooses to wear gloves.

Read more: Workers are actually feeling less insecure in their jobs[3]

But like so many other black economy workers I have interviewed, it’s the psychological effects of this type of work that often come to the fore – the powerlessness and lack of control, exploitation, shame and the stress associated with “being caught”.

Nina told me she feels “like I’m someone from a lower class”.

She said:

I really would like to have a formal job and I’d love to pay tax, as long as I can pay for myself and my family, but unfortunately it is very hard.

Some of the workers I interviewed are battling with mental illness and others are migrants who struggle to have their qualifications recognised.

There are actually many legal activities contributing to the black economy such as people who pick vegetables and fruit in season and those who tutor high school students in chemistry and physics. I interviewed people who work in horticulture, retail, hospitality, arts, construction, tutoring, recycling, mechanical repairing, the beauty industry and childcare.

Some of these industries will be targeted by the government[4] in response to the recommendations[5] of the Black Economy Taskforce. For example, the establishment of a hotline to detect black economy activities and the expansion of reporting requirements and measures aimed at visa holders.

The notion of a “fair go” is a well-recognised Australian mantra, and one that is being used to sell[6] the government’s crackdown on the black economy. Many Australians would agree that everyone should pay their fair share of tax.

But the government’s budget announcements also implicate much smaller businesses as well as individuals, where the flow-on effects are likely to be felt by those who say they have little choice but to work for cash-in-hand.

Building a society where everyone pays their fair share of tax is in all our interests, however, let’s hope it doesn’t have unintended consequences.

Authors: Miriam Vandenberg, Public Health Lecturer (University of Tasmania) and PhD Candidate, Southgate Institute for Health, Society & Equity, Flinders University

Read more http://theconversation.com/what-its-like-to-be-a-black-economy-worker-96537

Business Reports

Six reasons why it pays to automate billing in your business

Harnessing the power of technology to improve the efficiency and accuracy of your billing process can supercharge productivity and profitability. Is your enterprise plagued by billing errors, or struggling to get invoices out...

How Sport4 is changing the way you watch sports

Forget about pay-per-view or checking the score at half time – Sport4 is changing the way Australians watch sports.  Fresh from their national debut at the Judo Australia National Championships, Sport4’s automated sports...

Advantages of Vacation Rental Management Software

The first vacation rental management software systems were launched in the early 1980s. At the time, they were majorly used by hotel owners to manage their properties online. The main functions included hotel reservations and ...

TIP Group grows; appoints new senior executives

Teaminvest Private Group Limited (ASX:TIP) has appointed two new senior executives to further accelerate the company’s growth. Timothy Wong has been appointed Head of TIP Equity (the company’s private equity division) and...

What to Look for in a Point of Sale System

When you're looking for a point of sale system for your business, there are a lot of things to consider. What type of business do you have? How many employees do you have? What features are important to you? In this blog post...

Why Roe v. Wade's demise – unlike gay rights or Ukraine – isn't getting corporate America to speak up

Many Americans reacted with outrage to the Supreme Court's decision to dismantle the constitutional right to abortion.AP Photo/Rick BowmerCorporate America – once known for carefully avoiding public stances on hot button iss...



NewsServices.com

Content & Technology Connecting Global Audiences

More Information - Less Opinion