Close to a quarter of Australian businesses (23 per cent) are now employing temporary or contract staff on a regular ongoing basis, with another 44 per cent seeking workers for special projects or workloads.
According to a new study by Hays, during the next 12 months, 23 per cent of businesses expect to increase their use of temporary and contract staff, exceeding the nine per cent that anticipated a decrease in this area.
The increase is expected to be greatest within IT departments, with trends such as automation and artificial intelligence (AI) leading the charge.
Within IT departments specifically, 37 per cent of employers will also increase their use of temporaries and contractors.
Delving deeper, the use of temporary and contract staff will rise in project management and purchasing/procurement departments (32 per cent), marketing departments (30 per cent) and engineering departments (28 per cent), alongside operational management departments (25 per cent), HR departments (23 per cent), sales departments (18 per cent) and accountancy and finance departments (12 per cent).
Hays managing director, Nick Deligiannis, said highly-skilled temporary and contract staff are becoming the ‘new normal’ in workplaces, creating a blended workforce of temporary and permanent employees.
“Temporary and contract employees fill staffing or knowledge gaps, assist with projects, bring particular expertise that is difficult to find or not required daily, and offer flexibility since they can be released at short notice without financial penalty,” he said.
Looking at the skills in demand, Deligiannis added that professionals who can undertake non-routine work are seeing the highest job growth.
“This is likely to continue, with automation and artificial intelligence already beginning to take over manual and repetitive tasks – just think of automated self-service checkouts in retail stores or assembly lines in manufacturing plants,” he added.
Even though robots and AI are expected to be utilised to boost business productivity - with automation taking over routine tasks - Deligiannis said it is knowledge workers who are more likely to be needed in future.
"By their very nature temporary and contract employees possess a high level of relevant knowledge," he explained. "They are experts in their field and come into a workplace to add value immediately.
"It’s no wonder then that we’re seeing an increase in the use of temporary and contract staff."
The recruitment firm also recently found that Australia’s IT and telecommunications industry workers are set to get the most generous salary increases this year, with 20 per cent of employers in Australia’s IT and telco space intending to award salary increases of six per cent or more in their next review.