Over time, insecure work has become more prevalent in the Australian economy. Key drivers of worsening job quality include: decades of economic policies which constructed unemployment “buffers”; insufficient paid work available for all who need it; reductions in the level of unemployment benefits to below-poverty levels, collapse in collective bargaining coverage, and failure to regulate insecure work.
In this update on job insecurity in Australia, Alison Pennington reviews the ongoing erosion of full-time, traditional "good" jobs, growth in COVID-era "gig" work, and outlines how business trends and labour market policies have facilitated both lower worker bargaining power and a dramatic rise in insecure work.
For more on reducing the incidence and consequences of insecure work, see our recent submission to the Select Committee on Job Insecurity, by Dan Nahum.
As Treasurer during the 1980s, Paul Keating lamented that Australian governments had for decades been allowing the country's sophisticated industrial base to fall apart as unsophisticated raw materials came to dominate the nation's exports and as a result, its economy slipped into developing-world status. Keating's famous warning of Australia's looming 'banana republic' status spurred the Hawke and subsequent Keating Labor governments into action on economic restructuring, which included considering a range of industry policy intervention options to put Australia on a track to advanced, industrial status, as had been the aim of post-war nation-building that helped to institute an advanced manufacturing industrial base in Australia.
But since the 1990s, the 'default' economic and industry policy setting of government has ultimately been to favour resource extraction as our national strength. Even despite the growing threat of climate change and global economic crises that make a shift to 'green' industrial transformation a pathway pursued by many other nations, current Coalition government policy continues to reflect deliberate, calculated emphasis on the extraction and export of raw materials. Australia risks cementing its developing-world economic status if we do not consider important industry policy challenges.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to opportunities for Australia to not only rebuild, but reconstruct our economy in a way that capitalises on our national manufacturing potential and their ability to contribute to a sustainable recovery from the economic and social crisis that has culminated in lockdowns and recession. The future development of Australia's manufacturing industry must focus on the opportunities presented by renewable energy to drive innovation, industrial transformation and a green future shaped by a skilled manufacturing workforce.
Researchers from the Centre for Future Work, Mark Dean, Al Rainnie (Centre for Future Work Associate), Jim Stanford and Dan Nahum, have co-authored a new scholarly paper which will be published in the academic journal, the Economic and Labour Relations Review and is currently available as an online-first publication at their website.Read more
We are constantly told that the world of work is being turned upside down by 'technology': some faceless, anonymous, uncontrollable force that is somehow beyond human control. There's no point resisting this exogenous, omnipresent force. The best thing to do is get with the program... and learn how to program! Acquiring the right skills (usually assumed to be STEM or computer skills) is the best way to protect yourself in this brave new high-tech future.
But what if technology isn't all it's cracked up to be? And what if you invest in learning the current hot coding language, only to see it replaced by something totally different as soon as you graduate?
In this 30-minute video, Centre for Future Work Economist and Director Dr. Jim Stanford takes on several myths related to technology and jobs.Read more
Australian society is experiencing an epidemic of mental illness that imposes enormous costs on individuals with poor mental health, their families, and the broader economy. There is no doubt that the stress, isolation and disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has made this crisis even worse.
Unsafe workplaces contribute significantly to the incidence of mental illness and injury. Workplace factors which contribute to mental health problems include unreasonable job demands, exposure to violence and trauma, long or irregular working hours, an absence of worker voice and control, and bullying and harassment.
New research from the Centre for Future Work suggests that by requiring stronger monitoring and prevention measures in Australian workplaces, a significant share of mental illness and injury could be avoided. In addition to reducing the toll of mental illness for workers and their families, these measures would also generate substantial economic and fiscal benefits.Read more
The Commonwealth government has tabled its budget for the 2021-22 financial year. The government is counting on a vigorous and sustained burst of consumer spending by Australian households to drive the post-COVID recovery. Yet the budget itself concedes that the main sources of income to finance expanded consumer spending (namely, wages and income supports) will remain weak or even contract. As shown in the Centre for Future Work's analysis of the budget, these two dimensions of the budget are fundamentally incompatible.Read more
Implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will require additional Commonwealth funding of at least $10 billion per year, and there are several revenue tools which the government could use to raise those funds.
That is the conclusion of a new report on funding high-quality aged care released today by the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute.
Crikey is reclaiming the "angry woman" trope in a new column about what women achieve through rage, passion and determination. In this inspiring and poetic feature with our Senior Economist Alison Pennington, Alison explains how rage about how the economy works (or doesn't work) powers her forceful work as an activist economist.
We are pleased to share the article by Amber Schultz, with kind permission from Crikey media.Read more
The Senate Select Committee on Job Security was appointed 10 December 2020, to inquire into and report on the impact of insecure or precarious employment on the economy, wages, social cohesion and workplace rights and conditions. This includes the extent of insecure and precarious employment in Australia, the impacts of COVID-19 with respect to job precarity and insecurity, the digitally-mediated ‘gig’ economy, and other matters. The Centre for Future Work has made a submission to the Select Committee.
Economist and Director Dr Jim Stanford and Economist Dan Nahum presented evidence to the Senate Committee hearing in Melbourne on 20 April 2021. The transcript of their testimony is available here.Read more
As women lead mobilisations against workplace gendered violence, the federal government passed legislation expanding employer power to use insecure, casual labour in its IR bill - laws that will disproportionately impact the pay and security of women's jobs.
In this commentary, Senior Economist Alison Pennington explains how new casuals measures and the government's wider economic policies - including in industrial relations, childcare, welfare, and fiscal spending - significantly undermine the economic security of women, entrench pay inequality, and ultimately, increase their vulnerability to gendered violence.
This commentary was originally published in Michael West Media.Read more
New research by the Centre for Future Work released for International Women’s Day (8 March 2021), shows Australia’s recovery from the pandemic recession widened the gender pay gap, as women’s jobs returned on a more part-time and casualised basis than for men.
The report by Senior Economist Alison Pennington shows the influx of women’s lower-earning jobs from May widened the gender pay gap between May and November 2020, and warns that the gap could deteriorate even further in the wake of policies proposed by the Government for 2021: including the further expansion of casual work and reduced pay for part-time workers, tabled in the omnibus industrial relations bill; public sector pay caps for both federal and state employees; and a high-cost, inaccessible childcare system.Read more