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.

That's the core message of new analysis by Centre for Future Work Director Dr. Jim Stanford, published today by the Australian journal New Matilda.

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Catalogue of International Initiatives to Support Workers through COVID-19

The Australian government is still delaying needed measures to support workers in casual, self-employed, or gig positions during the unprecedented labour market turmoil resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Other countries, however, are moving quickly with unprecedented measures to support jobs and incomes for all workers - including those in non-standard employment - to ensure they can take necessary time away from work, and do not lose their livelihoods as a result of the virus. We have assembled a catalogue of international initiatives aimed at achieving these dual outcomes.


Update: On 30 March, the Australian government announced a massive $130 billion wage subsidy program, to catch up with similar schemes that have been implemented in other countries (described in detail below). This is a welcome development, attributable largely to the advocacy of the ACTU and its affiliated unions. However, there are several weaknesses in the design of the scheme – most acutely, the fact that it excludes over 2 million short-tenure casual workers and foreign visa workers. Watch this site for a more detailed analysis of the pro’s and con’s of the government’s package. And we will continue to update the catalogue below with relevant developments from other countries as the world continues to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.


 

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Gender Equality Still Far-Off in Australia's Labour Market

While women have made some progress in closing the wage gap and other dimensions of gender inequality in Australia, they still face daunting and persistent barriers to their full participation and compensation in Australia's economy.

That's the conclusion from a new Factbook on gender economic inequality in Australia, released by the Centre for Future Work to coincide with International Women's Day on 8 March.

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Financialisation and the Productivity Slowdown

There has been much discussion in recent months about the apparent slowdown in Australian productivity growth. Rather than dredging up the usual wish-list of the business community (more deregulation, more privatisation, and more deunionisation), it's time to look at the deeper, structural factors behind stagnant productivity. In this commentary, Dr. Anis Chowdhury, Associate of the Centre for Future Work, looks to the perverse role of our overdeveloped financial sector in slowing down productivity-enhancing investment and innovation.

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The Long-Term Costs of Frozen Wages

New research from the Centre for Future Work has dramatised the lasting consequences for workers' lifetime incomes – even after they retire – of wage freezes.

A wage freeze is often described as a "temporary sacrifice," that supposedly ends once normal annual wage increments are restored. However, this report confirms that the legacy of even a temporary pay freeze is a permanent reduction in lifetime incomes and superannuation, which can easily ultimately result in hundreds of thousands of dollars of lost income. These long-term effects are illustrated with reference to a real-world example: an 18-month pay freeze imposed on workers at Jetstar in 2014-2016.

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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.

Stanford highlights seven ways in which the nature of work and employment is demonstrating a fundamental continuity, despite changes in technology and work organisation: ranging from the predominance of wage labour in the economy, to employers' continuing interest in extracting maximum labour effort for the least possible labour cost.

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Seminar Presentation: Superannuation & Wages in Australia

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. Watch a summary version of his talk below. The full paper is posted at: The Relationship Between Superannuation Contributions and Wages in Australia.


Tax Cuts Invisible in Slowing Economy

The latest economic statistics have confirmed that Australia's economy is barely limping along - with quarterly GDP growth of just 0.4%. One of the weakest spots in the report was consumer spending, which recorded its weakest performance since December 2008 (amidst the worst days of the Global Financial Crisis). This was despite the supposed benefit of recent Commonwealth government tax cuts in boosting disposable income and stimulating more spending.

Analysis from Dr. Jim Stanford shows that the tax cut is in fact completely invisible in the macroeconomic data.

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Reports from the Front Lines of the NDIS

The national roll-out of the NDIS holds the prospect of a significant enhancement in both the resources allocated to disability services in Australia, and the autonomy and flexibility of service delivery for people with disability. But it also constitutes an enormous logistical and organisational challenge. And the market-based service delivery model built into the NDIS is exacerbating those challenges, by unleashing a widespread fragmentation and casualisation of work in disability services.

In this new report, researchers document the experience of front-line disability service workers under the NDIS based on first-hand qualitative interviews.

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Go Home on Time Day: Wednesday 20 November, 2019

Wednesday 20 November is the 11th annual "Go Home on Time Day," sponsored by the Centre for Future Work and the Australia Institute.

It's a light-hearted effort, once per year, to remind Australians of the value of leisure time – and to push back against the increasingly common expectation that workers should put in extra hours for their employers, without pay.

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