Economy Heads Into Election on a Weak Note

The ABS has released what is likely the last quarterly GDP report before a Commonwealth election expected in May. Coalition leaders were hoping a strong report would underline their standard talking points about being the best “economic managers.”  But they were badly disappointed.

The headline number was bad: Just a 0.18% increase in GDP for the December quarter, barely above zero. But the details, if anything, were worse.

Our Director Jim Stanford parses the numbers in this briefing note.

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Submission to Victoria Inquiry into On-Demand Work

What's a 'gig' job, anyway? There's lots of media hype about how people won't have jobs in the future (they're so old-fashioned). Instead they'll work a never-ending series of gigs. Will they love the supposed 'freedom' and 'flexibility'? Or will they yearn for the good old days when a job provided regular hours ... and a regular paycheque?

The government of Victoria is holding an important inquiry into the conditions and challenges of working in the 'on-demand' economy: a polite euphemism for gigs. The Centre for Future Work has made a submission.

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What's a Million, Anyway?

In the lead-up to the 2013 federal election, then-Opposition Leader Tony Abbott made a high-profile pledge that a Coalition government, if elected, would create 1 million new jobs over the next five years. Abbott was elected (although later ousted by his own party), and total employment in Australia did indeed grow by over 1 million positions between 2013 and 2018.  Current Prime Minister Scott Morrison hopes that this success can resuscitate his party's flagging fortunes: he has pledged, if elected, to create even more jobs (1.25 million) over the next five years.

But a new report from the Centre for Future Work takes a closer look at the government's claims, and finds that Australia's job-creation record since 2013 has actually been unimpressive.

Australia's working age population is over 20 million, and growing rapidly.  The labour market must create well over 1 million new jobs every five years, just to keep up with population growth.  Moreover, it was only due to a surge in part-time jobs (most of them casual, low-wage positions) that Mr. Abbott's million-job target was met.  If full-time work had retained its previous share of all work, the number of new jobs would have fallen well below the 1 million benchmark.

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Job Creation Record Contradicts Tax-Cut Ideology

by Jim Stanford

The Australian Bureau of Statistics released its detailed biennial survey of employment arrangements this week (Catalogue 6306.0, "Employee Earnings and Hours"). Once every two years, it takes a deeper dive into various aspects of work life.

Buried deep in the dozens of statistical tables was a very surprising breakdown of employment by size of workplace.  It turns out, surprisingly, that Australia's biggest workplaces (both private firms and public-sector agencies) have been the leaders of job-creation over the last two years.

This runs against the common refrain that small business is the "engine of growth."  In fact, workplaces with less than 50 employees actually shed employees (14,000 in total) since 2016.  Curiously, it was only smaller businesses that received the much-vaunted reduction in company tax (from 30 to 27.5 per cent), also beginning in 2016.

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The REAL Diary of an Uber Driver

ABC recently announced plans for a new 6-part television drama called “Diary of an Uber Driver.”  The Centre for Future Work's Director Jim Stanford wonders if this drama will truly constitute insightful drama - or whether it will serve to whitewash the labour practices of a controversial, exploitive industry.

A version of this commentary originally appeared on the 10 Daily website.

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Australia's Upside-Down Labour Market

Workers produce more, but get paid less.  Business invests less in real capital, but their profits grow.  Technology advances at breakneck pace, but so many jobs are degraded and menial (not to mention horribly paid).  What gives?  Australia's labour market truly seems "upside down."

In this article reprinted from Western Teacher magazine (published by the State School Teachers' Union of WA), our Director Jim Stanford tries to explain these contradictory trends.

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Rebuilding Vocational Training in Australia

Australia's manufacturing sector has been experiencing an important and welcome rebound during the last two years. The turnaround has been documented and analysed in previous Centre for Future Work research (including studies published in 2017 and 2018 as part of the National Manufacturing Summit, co-sponsored by the Centre).

Ironically, the manufacturing recovery could be short-circuited by looming shortages of appropriately skilled workers.  This seems unbelievable -- given so much downsizing in manufacturing employment that occurred between 2001 and 2015.  But a combination of structural change within the sector, the ageing of the current workforce, and the failure of Australia's vocational education system (crippled by a bizarre experiment in publicly-subsidized private delivery) means that recovering manufacturers may be unable to find the skilled workers they need.

A recent feature article in Australian Welding magazine highlighted the Centre for Future Work's research into the problems of the current VET system, the implications for manufacturing, and 12 key reforms urgently needed to repair the situation.

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New Video: Australia Needs a Pay Rise!

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Jim Stanford, Director of the Centre for Future Work, was recently featured in a new video produced in collaboration with United Voice and the Flip production company.

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The Year Past, and the Year to Come

Workforce (a labour relations bulletin published by Thomson-Reuters) recently surveyed major IR figures in Australia on what they saw as the big issues in 2018, and what they expect as the major talking points for 2019. Jim Stanford, economist and Centre for Future Work director, was one of those surveyed, and here are his remarks. You may also view the interview in pdf format here.

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Industry-Wide Bargaining Good for Efficiency, as Well as Equity

In this commentary, Centre for Future Work Associate Dr. Anis Chowdhury discusses the economic benefits of industry-wide collective bargaining. In addition to supporting wage growth, industry-wide wage agreements generate significant efficiency benefits, by pressuring lagging firms to improve their innovation and productivity performance. The experience of other countries (such as Germany and Singapore) suggests that this system promotes greater efficiency, as well as equity -- although other wealth-sharing policies are also needed.

Dr. Chowdhury's full comment is posted below.

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