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Data in SocietyChallenging Statistics in an Age of Globalisation$
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Jeff Evans, Sally Ruane, and Humphrey Southall

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781447348214

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781447348214.001.0001

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Counting the uncounted: contestations over casualisation data in Australian universities

Counting the uncounted: contestations over casualisation data in Australian universities

(p.327) 25 Counting the uncounted: contestations over casualisation data in Australian universities
Data in Society

Nour Dados

James Goodman

Keiko Yasukawa

Policy Press

Recently, insecure work in universities in many countries has grown exponentially, alongside the rapid marketization of higher education. Reflecting the neoliberal ideal of a flexible workforce, research and teaching at universities is routinely carried out by precariously-employed academics. In Australia, for instance, the bulk of university teaching is now carried out by hourly-paid employees. This structural dependence on precarious academics poses a reputational problem for universities, and universities respond by obfuscating the statistical evidence. We present a case study of tracking down the level of this phenomenon in Australian higher education. The academics’ trade union and allies have used the university-level figures to challenge the advance of academic job insecurity, and are now highlighting the incidence of precarious academic employment nationally. Our own work has highlighted the multiple and conflicting figures being reported by universities, and the systematic underestimation of the actual rate of insecure jobs reported by government departments. We question these unreliable estimates, examples of neoliberalism’s ‘funny numbers’, and develop alternative data and arguments Thereby, we aim to reveal the impact of casualisation and enable critical evaluation of trends in the higher education sector, so as to restore industrial justice.

Keywords:   Precarious employment, hourly-paid academics, casualization, funny numbers, Australia

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