Young Workers are "Shock Troops" of Precarious Labour Market

Dr. Jim Stanford, Director of the Centre for Future Work, appeared before the National Youth Commission on 31 October in Sydney to discuss the challenges facing young workers in Australia's labour market.

The National Youth Commission into Youth Employment and Transitions has been holding an inquiry in communities across Australia to document the situation of young workers, who are experiencing much lower rates of employment and income than other workers.

Stanford's submission argued that young workers are like the "shock troops" of the precarious labour market: the ones sent in first to confront an especially dangerous situation. The rise of precarious work in all its forms - part-time work, casual jobs, labour hire, temporary positions, marginal self-employment, and digitally mediated 'gigs' - now dominates youth employment patterns. And that situation will not automatically disappear as young workers get older and gain experience. Rather, evidence suggests that without policy measures to stabilise and improve jobs, this will be a permanent shift that gradually affects most workers. Already, less than half of employed Australians are working in a 'traditional' full-time permanent wages jobs with normal entitlements (like paid holidays, sick leave, and superannuation). For young workers, that ratio is less than one in five.

Stanford argued for targeted measures to stimulate more youth hiring into stable positions, an ambitious effort to rebuild vocational education in Australia and strengthen pipelines to post-education jobs, and a broader commitment to full-employment macroeconomic policy.

Please see the full Centre for Future Work submission.


Employer Proposals Would Take the "Bargaining" out of Collective Bargaining

Coalition leaders hardly mentioned industrial relations topics during the recent federal election campaign, but now that the party is back in power, an aggressive and wide-ranging agenda for changing Australia's labour laws has been quickly assembled—with the enthusiastic backing of business lobbyists.

In a new report, Centre for Future Work Senior Economist Alison Pennington has compiled the various proposals advanced by employers, and shows that together they would constitute a thorough reorientation of Australia's collective bargaining system. The end result would be a situation (very similar to the Work Choices regime of the late 2000s) whereby employers have unilateral power to determine terms and conditions, wages can be locked in for very long periods of time (contrary to employer's calls for greater "flexibility"), and the scope for true workplace negotiations is compressed.

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The Future of Work for Australian Graduates

The Centre for Future Work has released a major new report documenting the new challenges faced by Australian university graduates in finding jobs that are stable, rewarding, and uitilise their newly-developed skills. The report was prepared in conjunction with Graduate Careers Australia.

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Needless Wage Cap Will Undermine Victoria's Success

The Centre for Future Work has released new research estimating the negative impacts on wages and spending power of the Victoria government’s proposed 2% cap on wage increases for the state’s large public sector workforce.

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Five Contrarian Insights on the Future of Work

In this comprehensive but readable commentary, our Director Jim Stanford challenges five stereotypical claims that are often advanced in debates over the future of work:

  1. Work is not disappearing; it can't.
  2. Technology is not accelerating.
  3. "Gigs" aren't even new.
  4. Technology is often more about relationships than productivity.
  5. Skills are not a magic bullet.
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Job Opportunity: Research Economist

The Centre for Future Work invites applications for an economist to join our research team in labour market research and policy analysis. The position may be at a junior or senior level, and the successful candidate may work from our offices in either Sydney or Canberra.

Application details below:

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Testimony to Senate Committee on Fair Work Act Amendments

Despite its deafening silence on industrial relations issues during the recent election, the re-elected Coalition government is charging ahead with an aggressive plan to change Australia's labour laws. And business lobbyists are lining up to endorse its direction. First out of the gate is a plan to amend the Fair Work Act, in the cynically mis-named "Ensuring Integrity" bill, to introduce harsh new sanctions on unions and union officials.

Our Director Dr. Jim Stanford was recently invited to testify before the Senate Standing Committee on Education and Employment on the bill, and its likely economic and social consequences.

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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?

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Surprise: Newstart Doesn't Cause Unemployment!

Australia's Newstart benefit hasn't been increased in real terms in a generation, and pressure is growing on the Commonwealth government to address this inequity and raise the rate. Even RBA Governor Philip Lowe has indicated that better Newstart benefits would stimulate consumer spending and support the economy.

But the government continues to reject the idea, and instead has fostered lamentable and divisive rhetoric about "dole bludgers" and the supposed lack of "aspiration" among unemployed Australians. Old stereotypes about unemployed people choosing to subsist on poverty-level benefits, instead of looking for work, have been invoked.

In this guest commentary, Prof. Raja Junankar of UNSW University shows that keeping the Newstart Allowance constant in real terms at a poverty level does not help the unemployed find jobs more rapidly. Despite rock-bottom benefits that have declined notably relative to average wages, long-term unemployment has increased -- including among vulnerable groups of workers (like younger and older workers).

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'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.

In this commentary, which originally appeared in 10 Daily, Dr Jim Stanford argues that Treasury has mis-identified the true source of the problem. With so few decent job opportunities available, it's rational that many workers would choose to stick with their current jobs - despite stagnant wages and poor conditions.

Here is the full commentary:

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