A Women’s Agenda for COVID-Era Reconstruction

Women have been uniquely and disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession: losing more jobs and hours, shouldering a higher unpaid caring work burden, and undertaking essential and frontlines jobs. Without targeted action to rebuild women's jobs and ease caring demands, decades of collective advances toward decent paid work could be eroded.

Alison Pennington, Senior Economist with the Centre for Future Work assisted The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) preparing the timely report Leaving Women Behind: The Real Cost of the COVID Recovery. The report documents the gendered impacts of the crisis and the federal government's COVID-era policies, and outlines a public investment strategy to undo the damage of the crisis, and ensure women play an equal role in an inclusive economic recovery.

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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.

This commentary is a longer version of an assessment of the new legislation prepared by Jim Stanford (originally published in The Conversation).

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Climate Change Producing Dangerous Heat Stress in Workplaces

New research has confirmed that climate change is contributing to the growing problem of heat stress in a wide range of Australian workplaces.

A report released today by the Centre for Future Work provides first-hand accounts of dangerous levels of heat stress experienced in a range of occupations – including construction, outdoor maintenance work, and food delivery riders.

The report, by a team of authors based at the Climate Justice Research Centre at UTS in Sydney, interviewed workers and trade union officials in several industries, and confirmed that working in excess heat is becoming a more common occupational health and safety risk. The report documents the negative effects of excess heat on physical health, mental alertness, and stress. It also compiled an inventory of union initiatives and workplace best practices for reducing and manage the risks of heat stress.

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Work and Life in a Pandemic: An Update on Hours of Work and Unpaid Overtime Under COVID-19

2020 marks the twelfth annual Go Home on Time Day, an initiative of the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute that shines a spotlight on overwork among Australians, including excessive overtime that is often unpaid.

It has been an extraordinary and difficult year, to say the least. Many workers are doing at least some of their work from home, and the standard scenario of ‘staying late at the office’ around which we have often shaped our Go Home On Time Day analysis in the past applies to fewer workers than usual. But that is not to say that workers aren’t doing work for free—in fact, the estimated incidence of ‘time theft’, or unpaid overtime, has gone up compared with 2019 (see our results here). And in many cases people’s responsibilities in their home lives have increased in response to the health and social crisis, accentuating the double burden faced by workers—and especially by women workers.

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Sustainable Energy Part of Solution for Portland Smelter

A new report from the Centre for Future Work highlights the continuing economic importance of Alcan's aluminium smelter in Portland, VIC, and discusses the potential of new renewable energy technologies to underpin the facility's rejuvenation and long-term viability.

The report updates previous research by the Centre on the far-reaching impacts of the facility for employment, incomes, exports, and tax revenues. It also identifies the growing capability of renewable power sources to support heavy industrial activities like smelting.

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The Choices We Make: The Economic Future of Tasmania

New research by the Australia Institute’s Centre for Future Work analyses the economic effects of COVID-19 on Tasmania, and suggests how Tasmania can ‘build back better’ out of the COVID-19 crisis, making key recommendations to help Tasmania avoid the mistakes made at the Federal level. Ahead of Tasmania’s State Budget, set to be delivered on 12 November 2020, in this new report the Centre for Future Work has explored what the shape of Tasmania’s economy could look like, and how it can recover and reconstruct after this pandemic.

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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.

In this commentary, which originally appeared in The AgeCentre for Future Work Senior Economist Alison Pennington discusses what the pandemic reveals about Australia's high levels of insecure work, new work-from-home risks, and how rebuilding more secure labour markets will be critical to creating more good jobs in our post-COVID recovery. 

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Feature Interviews: Worker Voice in a Changing World of Work

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.

Video recordings of the interviews are available here:

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Budget's Illusory Hope for Business-Led Recovery

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.

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Public Service in Challenging Times: The Economic and Social Value of Public Sector Work in Queensland

In times of crisis, governments have a responsibility to their citizens to maintain and expand their role in the economy – for both economic and social reasons. This responsibility has never been clearer than during the current COVID-19 pandemic, and its associated economic downturn. Australians are counting on their governments to protect them from the pandemic, support them through the resulting recession, and play a leading role in rebuilding a stronger, healthy society in the aftermath of this unprecedented catastrophe.

Moreover, the economic benefits of providing those essential services spread throughout the state economy, supporting jobs and incomes including in the private sector.

In the context of the upcoming Queensland election, new research from the Centre for Future Work shows that in addition to some 331,000 direct jobs providing broader state-funded public services, 150,000 private sector positions depend on the economic stimulus provided by public sector work. In total, some 480,000 positions are supported, directly and indirectly, thanks to the provision of state-funded public services in Queensland. In particular, regional and remote Queensland depends on the public sector as a crucial source of decent, socially valuable jobs, performed by well-qualified people, earning (and spending) middle-class incomes in their regional communities.

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