The Robots are NOT Coming...

Startling new research from the Centre for Future Work has shown that Australia’s economy is now regressing in its use of new technology, with negative implications for productivity, incomes, and job quality.

The new report, The Robots are NOT Coming, compiles 8 statistical indicators confirming that the pace of innovation and automation in Australia’s economy has slowed down dramatically in the last decade.

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Rebuilding TAFE System Critical to Economic Recovery

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in an era of unprecedented disruption and transition. Increased public investment in the skills and earning capabilities of Australians will be critical to our post-pandemic recovery.

New research from the Centre for Future Work An Investment in Productivity and Inclusion finds despite chronic underfunding and failed market-led VET policies, Australia’s historic investment in the TAFE system continues to generate an enormous and ongoing dividend to the Australian economy. The TAFE system supports $92.5 billion in annual economic benefits through the direct operation of TAFE institutes, higher incomes and productivity generated by the TAFE-credentialed workforce, and reduced social benefits costs.

“The Australian economy is reaping an enormous flow of economic benefits from a VET ‘house’ built by the TAFE system. But the ‘house’ that TAFE institutes built is crumbling. If Australia wants to secure the benefits of a superior, productive TAFE-trained workforce as we prepare for post-COVID reconstruction, the damage must be repaired quickly," said Alison Pennington, Senior Economist with the Centre for Future Work and author of the report. 

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A Fair Share for Australian Manfacturing

New research from the Centre for Future Work reveals that Australia ranks last among all OECD countries for manufacturing self-sufficiency. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded Australians of the importance of being able to manufacture a full range of essential equipment and supplies; and the COVID recession has created a large economic void that a revitalised manufacturing sector could help to fill in coming years.

This new report, A Fair Share for Australian Manufacturing, describes the strategic importance of the manufacturing sector to Australia's future prosperity, and provides an inventory of policy tools that could help rebuild the sector to a size proportional to our domestic needs for manufactured products.

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Victorian Inquiry Offers Novel Routes to Regulating Gig Work

Findings from a landmark inquiry commissioned by the Andrews Victorian government into the work conditions in the “on demand” (gig) economy have been released. The report’s findings are timely with COVID-era unemployment surging and an expanding pool of vulnerable workers relying on “gig” work to meet living costs. 

This commentary published through Medium outlines the key findings of the On-Demand Inquiry.

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Austerity Threatens Women's Access to Paid Work

Women have suffered the worst labour market impacts since the shutdowns. Gender-unequal impacts have been due to women's greater exposure to customer-facing industries shut down first by public health orders, higher employment intensity in insecure and part-time positions, and an increased caring burden unmet by the state. But instead of providing countervailing support, the federal government is accelerating women’s work crisis.

In this commentary, originally published in the New Daily, Senior Economist at the Centre for Future Work Alison Pennington outlines how government's austerity agenda has intensified the unequal jobs fallout and threatens to "turn back the clock" for women's economic security.

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Repairing Universities & Skills Key to Meeting COVID-Era Challenges

Training must play a vital role in reorienting the economy after the pandemic, supporting workers training for new jobs including millions of young people entering a depressed labour market without concrete pathways to work. But what kind of jobs will we be doing in 2040? And how prepared is Australia's skills system (and universities specifically) to play this important role now? 

Our Senior Economist Alison Pennington was interviewed by UTS The Social Contract podcast on how COVID-19 is reshaping relations between universities, government and industry. 

Alison explains how the pandemic economic crisis presents significant challenges to Australia's fragmented, underfunded and unplanned skills system wounded from decades of failed marketisation policies, and why sustained public investments in skills and jobs pathways will be essential to solving our economic and social challenges. 

You can listen to the episode HERE. She is joined by Megan Lilly, head of Workforce Development at the Australian Industry Group. 


Unleashing a National Reconstruction Plan Fit for Our Era

Our nation is confronting the most significant economic challenge in nearly a century. Australia's own experience of long-term, sustained public investment during post-war reconstruction shows direct tools of government planning and investment will be essential to our recovery today. Yet Scott Morrison continues to pretend his hands are tied: "if there's no business, there's no jobs, there's no income, there's nothing."

In this commentary originally published in the Newcastle HeraldCentre for Future Work Senior Economist Alison Pennington explains why Australia needs a public spending program proportionate to the nature, speed and depth of this crisis, and outlines some priorities for a public-led post-COVID-19 reconstruction plan.

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Australia Needs Universal Paid Sick Leave To Get Through the Pandemic

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy recently issued a directive that going to work with the ‘sniffles’ is ‘off the agenda for every Australian in the foreseeable future.’ But with millions of workers without access to paid sick leave, government plans to lift restrictions on economic activity could risk dangerous and costly outbreaks. 

In this commentary, which originally appeared in 10 Daily, Centre for Future Work Senior Economist Alison Pennington discusses the consequences of low paid sick leave coverage for worker safety and public health efforts during the pandemic, and reviews the merits of a universal paid sick leave scheme to address both COVID-19 and precarious work.

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Renewable Energy Could Power Australian Manufacturing Renaissance

With disruptions in international supply chains for essential products (like medical equipment and supplies) disrupted in the current COVID pandemic, Australians have a new appreciation for the importance of retaining a flexible, high-quality, domestic manufacturing capacity. And the ongoing transformation of Australia's energy industry, with rapid expansion of renewable energy sources, would add momentum to the renaissance of Australian manufacturing.

That is the conclusion of a new study written by Dan Nahum, Economist at the Centre for Future Work.

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Log of Extraordinary IR Measures During COVID-19 Shutdowns

COVID-19 containment measures have suspended large sections of the economy. Governments have committed over $220 billion in income supports to workers and firms. The $130 billion JobKeeper wage subsidy scheme is the most extensive “shock absorber” (with worrying exclusions of many casual and migrant workers). With the scheme now in place, assessment of the government’s COVID-19 measures is now shifting to implementation. This includes effects on the laws and regulations governing wages and how businesses and employees (and their unions) interact to determine the terms and conditions of employment.

Despite enduring a heightened anti-union agenda, unions (headed up by ACTU) liaised early with government to secure the JobKeeper wage subsidy to prevent mass layoffs. Unions have negotiated with industry to adapt Awards and enterprise agreements (EAs) to new business conditions. The Coalition government has proceeded with significant changes to the Fair Work Act that could hamper efforts to drive an inclusive economic and labour market recovery. What's more, the Morrison government has indicated it will continue its pre-COVID agenda to further weaken representation rights and minimum labour laws.

To inform assessment of the impacts of COVID-19 on jobs, wages, and workplace protections, we have summarised major developments within the industrial relations system since March 2020. The log traces revisions to Awards, enterprise agreement-making rules, new instruments formed between unions and industry, major decisions by the Fair Work Commission, and ongoing lobbying efforts by business to weaken minimum labour laws. Links to relevant research from Centre for Future Work released during the crisis, or prior to, are provided. All log entries are reported in the industrial relations publication Workplace Express. Links to other media outlets are provided where relevant. 

If there are any major IR developments that we have not reported here please get in touch at futurework@tai.org.au.

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