Government and business leaders have proposed a range of possible “transition” mechanisms to ease the economic hardship, and defuse political anger, following the Fair Work Commission’s decision to cut penalty rates for work on Sundays and public holidays in the retail and hospitality industries. This briefing note critically reviews several of these proposals.Read more
Today is International Women's Day, a time to reflect on the continued inequality faced by women -- including in the world of work. Traditional measures of the "gender pay gap" indicate that women earn around 17 percent less than men, in ordinary pay in equivalent full-time positions. But the situation is worse than that, because of women's disproportionate concentration in part-time work. Including part-time workers, women now earn exactly one-third less than men.
The Fair Work Commission's announcement of coming reductions in penalty rates for Sunday and holiday work (of up to 50 percentage points of base wage) in the retail and hospitality sectors will clearly (if implemented) exacerbate the gender inequality in earnings.Read more
As Australia and other countries shift their economies toward lower-carbon forms of energy and production, problems of displacement and transition for workers in carbon-intensive industries must be addressed as a top priority. The coal-fired electricity generation industry is on the front lines of this challenge.
Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford was recently invited to give testimony to a Senate of Australia reference committee studying the future transition of the coal-fired electricity sector.Read more
The Fair Work Commission's decision to cut wages for Sunday and holiday work in the retail and hospitality industries will exacerbate the stagnation of wage incomes in Australia, and undermine the standard of living of hundreds of thousands of workers who are already among the most underpaid and precarious in the whole economy.
Here is a full-length commentary on the decision by the Centre's Director, Jim Stanford, that appeared February 25 in The Age, The Sydney Morning Herald, and the Canberra Times.
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Economic insecurity is one of the greatest factors inhibiting victims of domestic violence from escaping violent situations at home. To address that problem unions and employers have developed paid domestic violence leave provisions which allow victims to attend legal proceedings, medical appointments, or other events or activities related to the violence they have experienced, without risk of lost income or employment. Proposals have now been made to extend that provision to more Australian workers, by including a paid domestic violence leave provision in the Modern Awards (presently being reviewed by the Fair Work Commission), and/or by including it as a universal entitlement under the National Employment Standards.
This report considers the likely impact of such an extension on the payroll costs of employers, and finds it to be so small it would be difficult to measure: we estimate that incremental payments to workers taking the leave would amount to one-fiftieth of one percent (0.02%) of current payrolls.Read more
The unit price of aluminium is more than 50 times greater than the unit price of bauxite. Yet Australia is growing its presence at the lower-value end of this industry – while perversely shrinking its presence in an industry whose output sells for 50 times as much. In recent years, Australia's downstream capabilities in aluminium manufacturing (including alumina refining, smelting, and secondary fabrication and manufacturing) have been substantially deindustrialised, even as exports of raw or barely-processed resources grow. Australia is shipping billions of dollars in value-added, and many thousands of jobs, to other countries. This would get worse, if further manufacturing facilities -- such as the smelter in Portland -- are permanently closed.Read more
Remember when Prime Minister Turnbull and Immigration Minister Dutton blamed unionized construction workers for the high cost of housing in Australia? The idea that workers (not property speculators or bankers) are to blame for the property bubble is pretty far-fetched -- in fact, it sparked a viral storm on social media, using the #blameunions hashtag.
We've looked in detail at the empirical data regarding the relationship (or lack thereof) between unions, construction wages, and housing prices. The results are surprising...Read more
The Centre for Future Work is proud to host this year's Go Home on Time Day. It's the eighth annual edition of this event, which draws light-hearted attention to a serious issue: the economic, social, and health consequences of excess working hours.
This year's Go Home on Time Day is Wednesday, November 23. Visit our special Go Home on Time Day website for more information, to download posters and other materials, and use our online calculator to estimate the value of YOUR unpaid overtime.Read more
Last weekend's edition of The Saturday Paper featured an in-depth analysis by journalist Mike Seccombe, dissecting the Coalition government's attempts to scapegoat welfare programs for Australia's labour market and fiscal problems. The article included several statistics from the Centre for Future Work, as well as from our colleague Richard Denniss (Chief Economist at the Australia Institute). With decent paid work increasingly hard to find, it's no wonder the government targets income-support payments for working-age Australians: there are both political reasons (shifting blame) and a perverse economic logic (reinforcing the compulsion on desperate workers to accept any job, no matter how insecure or badly-paid) behind the government's strategy. Here is a link to the full article.
Economic elites around the world are rightly alarmed by the rise of right-wing populism, many streams of which (like the Brexit movement and Donald Trump) have directly challenged previous policies of free trade and capital mobility. Here in Australia, the One Nation party exemplifies some similar isolationist and xenophobic tendencies.
However, the main response of these elites to the challenge has been to simply double down on their standard argument that globalization as currently practiced is universally and self-evidently beneficial. Apart from temporary "transition difficulties" (that could easily be addressed with assistance for training and relocation), everyone is a winner. To counter the rise of populism, they urge governments to step up their efforts to "educate" concerned citizens about the virtues of free trade. Commonwealth Treasurer Scott Morrison made a strong statement in this vein recently to a business audience in Sydney.
Unfortunately, the real world economy doesn't actually work like the theoretical models predict, and denying that anyone is permanently hurt by globalization both flies in the face of empirical evidence, and will be ineffective in countering populist arguments. Instead, politicians should acknowledge that globalization is producing both loses and winners, and implement policies to reduce the costs and share the benefits. Here is Director Jim Stanford's commentary on Mr. Morrison's speech, published in the Huffington Post.