Australian governments could help to solve the problem of stagnating wages by better leveraging their own spending power in support of better wages and working conditions. That’s the conclusion of new research from the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute on the connection between government spending and procurement and working conditions across the economy.Read more
The Coalition government’s 2018 budget features a plan to cut personal income taxes for many Australians over the next several years. The government claims it wants to reward lower- and middle-income wage-earners with tax savings. However, the biggest personal tax reductions would not be experienced until 2022 and beyond (after at least two more federal elections). And the biggest savings go to those with incomes over $200,000 per year (the richest 3 percent of tax-filers).
Our Briefing Note on the 2018 Budget explores the relationships between wages and taxes, and shows that working to reverse the recent unprecedented wage stagnation is the key to achieving ongoing improvements in living standards - not pre-election tweaks in the tax code.Read more
Western Australia’s recent budget deficit is the result – not the cause – of deteriorating economic conditions. And contrary to calls for fiscal austerity and public sector downsizing, being made in response to the emergence of fiscal deficits in WA, the report showed that budget deficits played a useful role in stabilizing the economy during times of economic downturn, and will automatically recede as the economy recovers.
That is the message of a new report on WA's fiscal choices, by Dr. Cameron Murray and Troy Henderson, published by the Centre for Future Work.
“In reality there should be no alarm about the WA state deficit. Deficits are acceptable, and positive, during periods of weak economic growth.” says the Australia Institute’s Senior Economist, Dr. Cameron Murray.Read more
Workers compensation benefits in New South Wales were dramatically reduced in 2012 by a newly-elected state government, citing an alleged financial crisis in the system. Benefit payments (adjusted for inflation) declined 25 percent in just five years – and some cuts are still being imposed on injured workers and their families (including some losing benefits entirely). But even as injured workers suffered the consequences of these benefit cuts, the financial position of the workers compensation system suddenly transformed from “famine to feast”: the supposedly dire deficit which justified the cutbacks disappeared entirely within one year, and by mid-2013 the fund was already back in surplus. The system’s total surplus now exceeds $4 billion.
This report reveals the artificial nature of the supposed crisis which justified the 2012 cuts, and highlights the continuing positive financial trends that are generating ever larger surpluses. It proposes a five-year timetable for restoring benefits to injured workers in NSW, without increasing average premium levels or incurring funding deficits.Read more
A new proposal for a portable training system for disability support workers under the NDIS would help to ensure the program achieves its goal of delivering high-quality, individualised services to people with disabilities. The proposal is developed in a new report from the Centre for Future Work.Read more
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.Read more
U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent trade policies (including tariffs on steel and aluminium that could affect Australian exports) have raised fears of a worldwide slide into protectionism and trade conflict. Trump’s approach has been widely and legitimately criticised. But his argument that many U.S. workers have been hurt by the operation of current free trade agreements is legitimate; conventional economic claims that free trade benefits everyone who participates in it, have been discredited by the reality of large trade imbalances, deindustrialization, and displacement.
Can progressives respond to the real harm being done by current trade rules, without endorsing Trump-like actions – which will almost certainly hurt U.S. workers more than they will help? Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford has proposed several key principles to guide a progressive vision of international trade: one that would capture the potential benefits of greater trade in goods and services, while managing the downsides (instead of denying that there are any downsides).Read more
The first National Manufacturing Summit was held at Australian Parliament House, Canberra, in June 2017, organised by the Centre for Future Work and the Australia Institute. The event was attended by over 100 delegates from the full range of stakeholders concerned with the future of Australia’s manufacturing sector: including businesses, industry peak bodies, trade unions, government departments, academic institutions and vocational training providers, and other civic organisations.
This report, prepared by Dr. Tom Barnes from Australian Catholic University, summarises the key findings of the day, including areas of strong consensus among the stakeholders represented, as well as priorities for further policy research. Download Dr. Barnes' complete report here: From Consensus to Action.Read more
Uber's rapid growth in point-to-point transportation services has become the most potent symbol of the growth of the so-called "gig economy": where people perform work on an irregular, on-demand basis, paid by the task, and without the stability or security of traditional paid employment. The expansion of this model has raised concerns regarding the erosion of labour standards and entitlements (including minimum wages, paid leave, and superannuation). This report simulates the net hourly incomes received by UberX drivers in six Australian cities, and finds that they almost certainly earn much less than would be required under relevant minimum wage standards.Read more
Workers in all parts of the economy are confronting twin threats from accelerating changes in technology and automation, and the ongoing shift toward more precarious and irregular forms of work -- including "gigs" on digital platforms. The transportation sector is widely acknowledged to be one of the most susceptible to both of these trends. The Centre for Future Work has published a major new research report on these trends, and how sector stakeholders can best prepare for the coming changes.Read more