The Wages Crisis in Australia:
What it is and what to do about it
Edited by Andrew Stewart, Jim Stanford, and Tess Hardy (University of Adelaide Press)
Australian wage growth has decelerated in recent years to the slowest sustained pace since the 1930s. Nominal wages have grown very slowly since 2012; average real wages (after adjusting for inflation) have not grown at all. The resulting slowdown in personal incomes has contributed to weak consumer spending, more precarious household finances, and even larger government deficits.
The wage slowdown has elicited concern from economists and political leaders across the spectrum. Even Dr. Philip Lowe, Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, has called it a "crisis," and suggested that faster wage growth would be beneficial for the economy.
This new collection of 20 essays by leading labour market experts and commentators in Australia explores the causes, consequences, and potential solutions to this problem. The book is published by University of Adelaide Press. The book was launched in Melbourne on 29 November, with remarks from Natalie James, former Commonwealth Fair Work Ombudsman and Chair of the Victorian Inquiry Into the On-Demand Workforce.
Through the links below you may access excerpts from the book, links to participating authors, and supplementary material (including commentary, other readings, and videos). Our hope is that this collection will spark a needed debate in Australia about how to get wages back on track.Read more
Wednesday 21 November is Australia's official "Go Home On Time Day," sponsored by the Centre for Future Work and the Australia Institute. This represents the 10th year of our initiative, to provide light-hearted encouragement to Australian workers to actually leave their jobs when they are supposed to. Instead of working late once again - and allowing your employer to "steal" even more of your time, without even paying for it - why not leave the job promptly. Spend a full evening with your family or friends, visit the gym, see a movie - do anything other than work.
Please visit our special Go Home On Time Day website for more information, tips on how to get away from work on time, and free posters and shareables. There's also an online calculator where you can estimate the value of the time theft you experience, through unpaid overtime in all its forms.Read more
The Royal Commission into the financial services industry has heard tens of thousands of incidents of financial misconduct. The problem is clearly not just a “few bad apples”; the problem is clearly rooted in the core structure and practice of this industry.
However, when it comes to fixing this mess, the Commission’s recent interim report provided no clear answers. Consumer education, self-regulation by banks, and even stronger enforcement efforts by government regulators all have their drawbacks. But there’s another solution that Commissioner Kenneth Hayne has so far overlooked: sector-wide collective bargaining to establish uniform, ethical pay practices across the financial industry.Read more
A special 6-part series of short articles from WA Transport Magazine:
Researchers have identified the transportation industry as one of the sectors likely to be most affected by the coming implementation of new technologies: such as self-driving vehicles, artificial intelligence, and automated logistics systems. How will transportation workers fare as these technologies are rolled out, and what measures can be taken - by employers, governments, unions, educational institutions, and other stakeholders - to ease the transitions?Read more
Recent legal decisions are starting to challenge the right of employers to deploy workers in "casual" positions on an essentially permanent basis. For example, the Federal Court recently ruled that a labour-hire mine driver who worked regular shifts for years was still entitled to annual leave, even though he was supposedly hired as a "casual." This decision has alarmed business lobbyists who reject any limit on their ability to deploy casual labour, while avoiding traditional entitlements (like sick pay, annual leave, severance rights, and more). For them, a "casual worker" is anyone who they deem to be casual; but that open door obviously violates the intent of Australia's rules regarding casual loading.
Here is a commentary from Jim Stanford, Director of the Centre for Future Work, discussing the implications of these decisions for the mis-use of casual work. The commentary was originally published on the Ten Daily website.
The Centre for Future Work recently published a symposium of research investigating the long-term decline in the share of Australian GDP paid to workers (including wages, salaries, and superannuation contributions). The four articles, published in a special issue of the Journal of Australian Political Economy, documented the erosion of workers' share of national income, its causes, and consequences.
This infographic summarises the bottom-line impact on average wage incomes for Australian workers.Read more
The unprecedented insecurity of work in Australia's economy - with the labour market buffeted by technology, globalisation, and new digital business models - has sparked big thinking about policies for addressing this insecurity and enhancing the incomes and well-being of working people. Two ideas which have generated much discussion and debate are proposals for a basic income (through which all adults would receive an unconditional minimum level of income whether they were employed or not) and a job guarantee (whereby government would ensure that every willing worker could be employed in some job, such as public works or public services, thus eliminating involuntary unemployment).
Progressives have campaigned for generations for stronger income security programs and for a commitment to full employment by government. So these ideas have a long pedigree. However, there is great discussion over both the implementation and cost of these proposals, and their broader (and perhaps unintended) economic and political consequences.
To shed some additional, constructive perspective on these proposals, we are pleased to present four short commentaries on basic income, job guarantees, and the future of work by four leading Australian experts on the economics and politics of work.Read more
The share of total economic output in Australia that is paid to workers (in the form of wages, salaries, and superannuation contributions) has been declining for decades. Workers produce more real output with each hour of labour (thanks to ongoing efficiency improvements and productivity growth), but growth in real wages has been much slower - and recently, real wages haven't been growing at all. The result is that labour's slice of the economic pie has been getting smaller. In fact, a recent Centre for Future Work report showed that in early 2017 the labour share of GDP hit its lowest level since the Australian Bureau of Statistics began collecting quarterly GDP data.
To explore the causes and consequences of this decline in workers' share of national income, the Centre for Future Work convened a special panel of experts at the Society for Heterodox Economists conference at UNSW in Sydney last December. The papers presented at that panel have been peer-reviewed and just published in the Journal of Australian Political Economy. We are very pleased to co-publish the 4 papers here.Read more
Trade unionists are gathering this week at the ACTU's triennial Congress in Brisbane. Jim Stanford, Director of the Centre for Future Work, participated in a panel on the Future of Work (an apt title!) at the Congress.
Here is his presentation: 5 Possibly Surprising Insights on the Future of Work.
More detail on the issues raised in his presentation is provided in the Centre's recent submission to the Senate Inquiry on the Future of Work and the Future of Workers.
Trade unionists from across Australia are gathering in Brisbane this week for the 2018 Congress of the Australian Council of Trade Unions. And the Centre for Future Work will be there!
Come and check out our information booth in the exhibitors' area: meet our staff, learn more about our work, and sign up for updates.
Our Director Jim Stanford will be presenting as part of a session on The Future of Work (good title!), Tuesday July 17 at 2:15 pm in conference room P1.
And we will be distributing copies of this brochure with links to some of our most recent research.
We are glad that our research can support the campaign to #ChangeTheRules!