This week Professor Allan Fels, the former head of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC), has begun an inquiry into price gouging across a range of industries, including banks, insurance companies, supermarkets, and energy providers. The inquiry commissioned by the ACTU comes off the back of the highest inflation in 30 years and the biggest falls in real wages on record.
Every now and then a window opens into the soul of the business community, and we catch a glimpse of the values and goals that shape the actions of the captains of industry.
Every inflationary episode embodies a power struggle within society over who benefits from inflation, who loses out – and who will bear the cost of getting inflation back down.
The upsurge of inflation since the COVID-19 lockdowns has not had equal impacts on all Australians. Workers and low-income people have experienced the worst losses: both because their incomes, in most cases, have not kept up with prices, and because they are more dependent on essential goods and services (like shelter, food, and energy) than higher-income households.
The Carmichael Centre at the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work is proud to announce the appointment of Prof. David Peetz, one of Australia’s most outstanding labour policy experts, as the new Laurie Carmichael Distinguished Research Fellow. Prof. Emeritus Peetz has recently retired from a long career at Griffith University, where he served as Professor
The Carmichael Centre at the Centre for Future Work invites applications for the Laurie Carmichael Distinguished Research Fellow position. It’s a three-year posting, with awesome potential to explore a range of progressive issues related to unions, collective bargaining, industrial policy, and workers’ education.
Reserve Bank of Australia governor Phillip Lowe has invoked memories of the 1970s, warning wage growth must be restrained to contain Australia’s surging inflation. In the 1970s, Lowe said last week, “we got into trouble because wages growth responded mechanically to the higher inflation rate”. Now, with inflation above 5%, and tipped to reach 7% by the
Every three months the Bureau of Statistics releases the lesser-known cousin of the consumer price index. It’s called the Wage Price Index (WPI) and it records changes in the overall level of wages, in the same way the price index records changes in the overall level of consumer prices.
Business groups and conservative media are happy to discuss insecure work as if it is nothing new – stable and part of a healthy economy that provides workers with independence. But this is not the case, with insecure forms of work – casual, gigs, temporary work and short-term contracts – taking up a growing share of jobs in Australia.
Australia’s unemployment rate declined to 4.2% in December, and it could fall further (below 4%) in the coming year, barring further waves of COVID or other global shocks. This has some forecasters predicting a quick acceleration in wage growth — which has been stuck for almost a decade now at the slowest pace in Australia’s postwar history.
Will an unemployment rate with a 3 in front it, ensure that we also get wage growth with a 3 in front of it? Don’t count on it.
The Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute is pleased to announce the appointment of two senior staff to its team of labour policy researchers.
As COVID and recession gripped the world, through 2020 and most of 2021 Australia recorded one of the best outcomes: lower infection, fewer deaths, and a faster, stronger economic recovery. That seeming victory has been squandered, however by the appalling and infuriating events of recent weeks. Purportedly in the name of ‘protecting the economy’, key political leaders (led by the Commonwealth and NSW governments) threw the doors open to the virus at exactly the wrong time: just as the super-infectious Omicron variant was taking hold.
Australians are getting a stark reminder about how value is actually created in an economy, and how supply chains truly work.
We are constantly told that the world of work is being turned upside down by ‘technology’: some faceless, anonymous, uncontrollable force that is somehow beyond human control. There’s no point resisting this exogenous, omnipresent force. The best thing to do is get with the program… and learn how to program! Acquiring the right skills (usually assumed to be STEM or computer skills) is the best way to protect yourself in this brave new high-tech future.
With new stay-at-home orders covering many parts of the province, Ontarians are settling in for a month (at least) of daunting isolation. Restrictions are also being tightened in other provinces to slow the spread of COVID-19, until vaccines can turn the tide of the pandemic. Despite accelerating infection and overflowing hospitals, many oppose the new restrictions on
The Centre for Future Work’s Director Dr. Jim Stanford was recently profiled in a feature article published in In The Black, the journal of CPA Australia (the professional body for certified accountants in Australia). The profile, by journalist Johanna Leggatt, discusses the history of the Centre for Future Work, and Stanford’s philosophy of using popular economic knowledge to strengthen movements for social change and workers’ rights.
Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter tabled an omnibus bill on 9 December containing multiple amendments to Australia’s labour laws, including the Fair Work Act. In theory, the bill is the outcome of a series of IR reform discussions the government launched during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time it heralded a new spirt of cooperation between business, unions, and the government — but that spirit didn’t last long. The bill accepts numerous business demands that will further liberalise casual work, undermine genuine collective bargaining, and generally suppress wages even more than they already are.
The Centre for Future Work’s Jim Stanford, and Alison Pennington feature in a collection of interviews on technology, work, climate, and the role of unions, for a new online course Power, Politics and Influence at Work delivered by the University of Manchester, UK.
The Commonwealth government tabled its 2020-21 budget on 6 October, six months later than the usual timing because of the dramatic events associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession. There is no doubt it is a budget unlike any other in Australia’s postwar history. While the budget certainly unleashes unprecedented fiscal power, its underlying logic and specific policy design are unsatisfactory in many ways. We present here analysis and commentary on several aspects of the budget, drawing on input from all of the Centre’s research staff: Economist and Director Dr. Jim Stanford, Senior Economist Alison Pennington, and Economist Dan Nahum.
Disruptions in global supplies of essential medical equipment have served as a wake-up call to Australians that it is always vital for a country to retain the capacity to domestically produce manufactured products that may be crucial to national security and well-being.
The COVID-19 pandemic is producing an unprecedented shutdown of large parts of the national and global economies. Our Director Dr. Jim Stanford provided an overview of the coming recession, how it differs from previous downturns, and the best ways for government to respond to protect Australians as much as possible from the economic fall-out.
109 Australian economists and policy experts have signed an open letter, initiated by the Centre for Future Work, supporting a government wage subsidy to prevent mass unemployment during the coming economic downturn resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
The scale and scope of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 will be unprecedented in our lifetimes. Mainstream economists have belatedly realised the pandemic will cause an economic downturn, but they are not yet appreciating the size of that downturn, nor the unconventional responses that will be required. Simply calling for government “stimulus” is sadly inadequate, given the complete shut-down of work and production that is occurring in many sectors of the economy. The task is no longer supporting markets with incremental “pump-priming.” What’s needed is a war-like effort, led by government, to mobilise every possible resource to protect Australians’ health and livelihoods. Money is not an object – and this epic effort should not be held back by normal acquiescence to private-sector priorities and decisions.
Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford gave a seminar presentation in Sydney on 21 November based on his research paper about the historical and empirical relationship between superannuation contributions and wage growth.
Dr. Jim Stanford, Director of the Centre for Future Work, appeared before the National Youth Commission on 31 October in Sydney to discuss the challenges facing young workers in Australia’s labour market.
In this comprehensive but readable commentary, our Director Jim Stanford challenges five stereotypical claims that are often advanced in debates over the future of work.
The Commonwealth Treasury raised eyebrows recently with a new research report that seemed to pin the blame for record-weak wage increases on workers’ reluctance to quit their jobs in search of better-paying alternatives. The report was presented to the recent conference of the Economic Society of Australia, and elicited gleeful headlines in conservative newspapers blaming “stubborn” workers for their own poor wage results.
The unexpected results of the 2019 Commonwealth election have sparked many commentaries regarding what happened, and why. This article, reprinted with permission from Workplace Express, considers the role of the major #ChangeTheRules campaign mobilised by Australian unions in the lead-up to the election – and ponders the movement’s next steps in the continuing debate over labour market policies and industrial relations. It cites both our Economist Alison Pennington, and our Director Jim Stanford, as well as our previous research on the erosion of collective bargaining in Australia.