Precarious work for far less pay greeted journalists who took redundancy between 2012 and 2014, even though most (60%) managed to find work in the journalism industry after redundancy.

It is estimated that in 2012 between a fifth and a seventh of the Australian journalism workforce was made redundant as both News Corp and Fairfax embarked on massive redundancy rounds. And the cost-cutting hasn’t really stopped.

For the past few years, a team of journalism academics has been tracking the post-redundancy careers of Australian journalists who left media companies in the upheaval of 2012 and since. The New Beats project’s latest academic paper was published late last month and tracks the careers of 225 mostly senior journalists who were made redundant between 2012 and 2014.

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More than half were still in the industry when surveyed in late 2014 and early 2015. The researchers found a third (31.1%) were still working in journalism full time. Another chunk (29.8%) were combining journalism with other work to pay the bills. One in five (22.2%) were now working outside of journalism. Of the remainder, 7.6% were still looking for work, 4% were taking a break, and 5.3% had retired.

Of the half who still worked in the industry, juggling a few roles was common — 29.9% worked for a few organisations. The next most common source of work for redundant journalists was newspapers, which employed 19% of those who stayed in the industry. Relatively few went to work for online media outlets; only 12 of the 225 journalists tracked by the study did so, or 8.8% of those still in the industry. Magazines seemed to employ more redundant journalists (9.5%) than online media outlets did.

Most of those who were made redundant (77.3%) worked full time. But after redundancy, that figure shrunk, even for those who got jobs outside of journalism. Just 35% of those who continued in the industry found full-time work, while 48% of those who left it did. Around a quarter (23.4%) of those who stayed in journalism turned to freelancing, while 10.2% were contractors and another 8.8% said they were now self-employed.

Perhaps because of this, it’s not surprising the study found large reductions to income. Half, or 49.1%, of the journalists made redundant had been earning more than $100,000 in their roles. After redundancy, only 26.2% were in that category. Of those who had found work in journalism after redundancy, there was a hefty hit to their hip pockets. While roughly half had made less than $100,000 before taking a redundancy, after redundancy the percentage of journalists in the sample on less than $100,000 swelled to 84.6%.

The exception to the general income loss was younger journalists; those under 35 years old were far more likely to find jobs in the field without loss of income. The study speculates that this could be a reflection of their lower salaries to start with, and “the appeal of younger workers as potential employees”. Issues of age discrimination in employment were a key factor in the post-redundancy careers of those aged over 51 (the group that experienced the most significant income drop).

Peter Fray

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