Healthy humans drive the economy: we’re now witnessing one of the worst public policy failures in Australia’s history
Australians are getting a stark reminder about how value is actually created in an economy, and how supply chains truly work.
The great (gendered) resignation is not what you think. It’s worse
The great resignation is apparently upon us — workers are walking away from bad jobs. But in Australia, the exodus of women from the workforce says more about structural barriers than worker empowerment.
If You Thought Employers Were Exploiting Workers With Too Many Insecure Jobs Before The Pandemic, Wait Till You See The Figures Now
Australia paid a big price for the over reliance on insecure jobs prior to the pandemic. But as our economy recovers, insecure jobs account for about two out of every three new positions. In this commentary, originally published on New Matilda, Economist Dan Nahum explains why that’s a very bad thing – especially in front-line, human services roles. In the context of COVID-19, the effects of insecure work in these sectors, in particular, reverberate across the whole community with dangerous and tragic consequences.
Why is Job Quality Worsening?
Over time, insecure work has become more prevalent in the Australian economy. Key drivers of worsening job quality include: decades of economic policies which constructed unemployment “buffers”; insufficient paid work available for all who need it; reductions in the level of unemployment benefits to below-poverty levels, collapse in collective bargaining coverage, and failure to regulate insecure work.
Rage & Optimism as an Activist Economist
Crikey is reclaiming the “angry woman” trope in a new column about what women achieve through rage, passion and determination. In this inspiring and poetic feature with our Senior Economist Alison Pennington, Alison explains how rage about how the economy works (or doesn’t work) powers her forceful work as an activist economist.
Expansion of Employer Power to Use Casual Work Hurts Women Most
As women lead mobilisations against workplace gendered violence, the federal government passed legislation expanding employer power to use insecure, casual labour in its IR bill – laws that will disproportionately impact the pay and security of women’s jobs.
Wrecking superannuation, not protecting women, is the government’s priority
It doesn’t matter what the crisis, when it comes to the Morrison government the message is clear: you’re on your own.
Yes, lockdowns mean lost jobs. But data shows that not locking down causes much more economic damage
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
IR Bill Will Cut Wages & Accelerate Precarity
The Morrison government has proposed sweeping changes to labour laws that will expand unilateral employer power to cut wages and freely deploy casual labour. Together, the Coalition’s proposed changes will accelerate the incidence of insecure work, undermine genuine collective bargaining, and suppress wages growth. Impacts will be felt across the entire workforce – casual and permanent workers alike.
Porter IR Bill a Wish List for Business
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 Pandemic is Our Clarion Call to Rebuild Good Jobs
Victorians emerging from lockdowns now confront Australia’s harsh COVID-era work reality marked by more insecure jobs, mass unemployment, and long-term work at the kitchen table.
Victorian Inquiry Offers Novel Routes to Regulating Gig Work
Findings from a landmark inquiry commissioned by the Andrews Victorian government into the work conditions in the “on demand” (gig) economy have been released. The report’s findings are timely with COVID-era unemployment surging and an expanding pool of vulnerable workers relying on “gig” work to meet living costs.
Austerity Threatens Women’s Access to Paid Work
Women have suffered the worst labour market impacts since the shutdowns. Gender-unequal impacts have been due to women’s greater exposure to customer-facing industries shut down first by public health orders, higher employment intensity in insecure and part-time positions, and an increased caring burden unmet by the state. But instead of providing countervailing support, the federal government is accelerating women’s work crisis.
Unleashing a National Reconstruction Plan Fit for Our Era
Our nation is confronting the most significant economic challenge in nearly a century. Australia’s own experience of long-term, sustained public investment during post-war reconstruction shows direct tools of government planning and investment will be essential to our recovery today. Yet Scott Morrison continues to pretend his hands are tied: “if there’s no business, there’s no jobs, there’s no income, there’s nothing.”
Australia Needs Universal Paid Sick Leave To Get Through the Pandemic
Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy recently issued a directive that going to work with the ‘sniffles’ is ‘off the agenda for every Australian in the foreseeable future.’ But with millions of workers without access to paid sick leave, government plans to lift restrictions on economic activity could risk dangerous and costly outbreaks.
Responding to the Economic Emergency
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.
Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss
In a new guest commentary for the journal Canadian Dimension, Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford argues that existing power relationships in the labour market are being reinforced, more than disrupted, by the process of technological change.
Paid Parental Leave for Fathers Advances Parental Equality
Rising pressure on individuals and families to meet their caring needs is the “human face” of decline in workplace protections and bargaining power that has gathered pace since 2013. Meanwhile, the need for fathers and male spouses to take on more caring and household labour is routinely discussed in the public domain. But how have Australia’s work/care policies worked to support a redistribution of caring and household labour to males and fathers?
Stuck-in-the-Mud’ Workers Not to Blame for Wage Stagnation
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.
Where To Now for Union Campaign? Workplace Express
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.
Jobs and a Living Wage
Australians tend to bring a fair bit of swagger to international comparisons of economic performance. After all, Australia has experienced twenty-eight consecutive years of economic growth without a recession—a record for industrial countries. We are the ‘lucky country’, with one of the highest material living standards in the world, a wealth of natural resources, and a ‘no worries’ ability to withstand global economic shocks.
Job Creation Record Contradicts Tax-Cut Ideology
The Australian Bureau of Statistics released its detailed biennial survey of employment arrangements this week (Catalogue 6306.0, “Employee Earnings and Hours“). Once every two years, it takes a deeper dive into various aspects of work life. Buried deep in the dozens of statistical tables was a very surprising breakdown of employment by size of workplace.
The REAL Diary of an Uber Driver
ABC recently announced plans for a new 6-part television drama called “Diary of an Uber Driver.” The Centre for Future Work’s Director Jim Stanford wonders if this drama will truly constitute insightful drama – or whether it will serve to whitewash the labour practices of a controversial, exploitive industry.
Australia’s Upside-Down Labour Market
Workers produce more, but get paid less. Business invests less in real capital, but their profits grow. Technology advances at breakneck pace, but so many jobs are degraded and menial (not to mention horribly paid). What gives? Australia’s labour market truly seems “upside down.”
The Year Past, and the Year to Come
Workforce (a labour relations bulletin published by Thomson-Reuters) recently surveyed major IR figures in Australia on what they saw as the big issues in 2018, and what they expect as the major talking points for 2019. Jim Stanford, economist and Centre for Future Work director, was one of those surveyed, and here are his remarks. What
Industry-Wide Bargaining Good for Efficiency, as Well as Equity
In this commentary, Centre for Future Work Associate Dr. Anis Chowdhury discusses the economic benefits of industry-wide collective bargaining. In addition to supporting wage growth, industry-wide wage agreements generate significant efficiency benefits, by pressuring lagging firms to improve their innovation and productivity performance. The experience of other countries (such as Germany and Singapore) suggests that
Are States Filling the Democratic Void?
The recent Victorian election results showed Australian voters want governments to play a pro-active role delivering public services, infrastructure, improved labour standards, and sustainability. They showed that in a time of deep cynicism with federal politics, States (and Territories) can play an important role filling the democratic void left by dysfunction and policy paralysis at
“Permanent Casuals,” and Other Oxymorons
Recent legal decisions are starting to challenge the right of employers to deploy workers in “casual” positions on an essentially permanent basis. For example, the Federal Court recently ruled that a labour-hire mine driver who worked regular shifts for years was still entitled to annual leave, even though he was supposedly hired as a “casual.” This decision has alarmed business lobbyists who reject any limit on their ability to deploy casual labour, while avoiding traditional entitlements (like sick pay, annual leave, severance rights, and more). For them, a “casual worker” is anyone who they deem to be casual; but that open door obviously violates the intent of Australia’s rules regarding casual loading.
Insecure work: The New Normal
Most Australians know in their guts that it’s pretty hard to find a traditional permanent job these days. And now the statistics confirm it: less than half of employed Australians have one of those “standard” jobs. And more than half experience one or more dimensions of insecurity: including part-time, irregular, casual, contractor, and marginally self-employed jobs.
Wages Crisis Has Obvious Solutions
Mainstream economists and conservative political leaders profess “surprise” at the historically slow pace of wage growth in Australia’s labour market. They claim that wages will start growing faster soon, in response to the normal “laws of supply and demand.” This view ignores the importance of institutional and regulatory factors in determining wages and income distribution. In fact, given the systematic efforts in recent decades to weaken wage-setting institutions (including minimum wages, the awards system, and collective bargaining), it is no surprise at all that wages have slowed to a crawl. And the solutions to the problem are equally obvious: rebuild the power of those institutions, to support workers in winning a better share of the economic pie they produce.
Tanya Martin Executive Assistant
Jake Wishart Senior Media Adviser