As Australians debate the Fair Work Commission’ decision to reduce penalty rates for retail and hospitality workers, the Centre for Future Work has published new research on the prevalence of weekend work in other sectors of Australia’s economy – and the macroeconomic importance of extra income generated by weekend penalty pay.Read more
The Fair Work Commission has ruled that penalty rates for Sunday and public holiday work in the retail and hospitality sectors should be reduced, which would reduce hourly wages on those days by up to $10 per hour. Business lobbyists predict this will spark a hiring surge in stores and restaurants, as employers take advantage of lower wages to extend hours and ramp up operations. The economic logic of this claim is highly suspect, however -- especially in light of the fundamental factors which truly limit employment in these sectors (namely, the sluggish growth of personal incomes). 78 Australian economists have signed a public letter debunking these job-creation claims, arguing that the FWC's decision will lead to more inequality, not more employment.Read more
On April 1, Australia will surpass the Netherland's old record to mark the longest unbroken expansion of real GDP in modern history. While this result permits much chest-thumping on the part of some politicians, we should never assume that there is an automatic correlation between GDP growth and the well-being of people, society, and the environment.
In this guest commentary, Prof. Anis Chowdhury -- a new Associate of the Centre for Future Work, and a distinguished global economist -- provides some important perspective on this longest expansion in history.Read more
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.
* * * * *Read more
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