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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
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.Read more
Australia’s enterprise bargaining system is crumbling rapidly in private sector workplaces, according to dramatic findings from the Centre for Future Work.
The report shows that the number of current enterprise agreements in private Australian businesses has collapsed by 46% since the end of 2013. The number of private sector workers covered by enterprise agreements has plunged 34% in the same time. In 2017, just 12% of employed private sector workers were covered by an enterprise agreement – down from 19% in 2013.
If current trends in renewals, new agreements, and terminations continue, less than 1800 agreements would survive to 2030, at which point just 2% of private sector workers would be covered by a collective agreement.Read more
The recent Victorian election results showed Australian voters want governments to play a pro-active role delivering public services, infrastructure, improved labour standards, and sustainability. They showed that in a time of deep cynicism with federal politics, States (and Territories) can play an important role filling the democratic void left by dysfunction and policy paralysis at the Commonwealth level.
This commentary from Alison Pennington, economist at the Centre for Future Work, explores what the energetic campaign in Victoria revealed about our unique system of dual governance and the potential for pro-active and progressive policy making. This commentary was originally published in New Matilda.
For the third consecutive quarter, the share of Australian GDP paid out in wages, salaries and superannuation contributions to workers has shrunk. Data for the September quarter of 2018, released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics on Wednesday, shows that labour compensation accounted for just 46.85% of total economic output – one of the lowest on record.Read more
New data on private-sector business conditions confirm that wage increases paid in the private sector of Australia’s economy continue to plumb record lows.
The ABS’s quarterly Business Indicators report, released yesterday, indicates total wages and salaries paid out by private businesses grew 4.3 percent in the September quarter, compared to year-earlier levels. This only slightly exceeded the increase in total private sector employment during the same period. As a result, wages and salaries paid per employed worker grew very slowly – by just 0.43 percent over the year.Read more
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