Infographic: The Shrinking Labour Share of GDP and Average Wages

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.

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Four Views on Basic Income, Job Guarantees, and the Future of Work

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.

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Exploring the Decline in the Labour Share of GDP

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.

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Possibly Surprising Insights on the Future of Work

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.


Centre for Future Work at #ACTUCongress18

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!

 


Penalty Rate Cuts: Where's the Jobs Boom??

On 1 July 2018, workers in several retail and hospitality industries will experience a second reduction in the penalty rates they receive for working on Sundays and public holidays.  The reductions were ordered by the Fair Work Commission, and follow an initial reduction imposed on 1 July 2017.

Employer representatives argued that by reducing labour costs for work on Sundays and holidays, lower penalty rates would spur a big expansion in employment, via both new hiring and longer hours for existing workers.  One lobbyist predicted 40,000 new jobs.  Another said improved employment was "a certainty."

But a new report from the Centre for Future Work has examined employment and working hours in the retail and hospitality industries in the year since the first penalty rate reduction.  Far from spurring a jobs boom in the two sectors, they have actually significantly underperformed the rest of the economy on all of the indicators considered.

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Advanced Skills for Advanced Manufacturing

Australia's manufacturing industry is at a crossroads.  After years of decline, the sector has finally found a more stable economic footing, and many indicators point to an expansion in domestic  manufacturing in the coming years.  Manufacturing added almost 50,000 new jobs in the last year - making it one of the most important sources of new work in the whole economy.

However, one key factor that could hold back that continuing recovery is the inability of Australia’s present vocational education and training system, damaged by years of underfunding and failed policy experimentation, to meet the needs of manufacturing for highly-skilled workers.  The skills challenge facing manufacturing is all the more acute because of the transformation of the sector toward more specialised and disaggregated advanced manufacturing  processes.  This naturally implies greater demand for highly-trained workers, in all its occupations: production workers, licensed trades, technology specialists, and managers.

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Insecure work: The New Normal

Most Australians know in their guts that it's pretty hard to find a traditional permanent job these days.  And now the statistics confirm it: less than half of employed Australians have one of those "standard" jobs.  And more than half experience one or more dimensions of insecurity: including part-time, irregular, casual, contractor, and marginally self-employed jobs.

In this commentary article published originally by Ten Daily, Our Director Dr. Jim Stanford summarises the findings of the Centre's recent report on "The Dimensions of Insecure Work."

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The Dimensions of Insecure Work

Less than half of employed Australians now hold a “standard” job: that is, a permanent full-time paid job with leave entitlements.  That’s the startling finding of a new report on the growing insecurity of work published by the Centre for Future Work.

The report, The Dimensions of Insecure Work: A Factbook, reviews eleven statistical indicators of the growth in employment insecurity over the last five years: including part-time work, short hours, underemployment, casual jobs, marginal self-employment, and jobs paid minimum wages under modern awards.

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The Importance of Public Services in Regional NSW

Jobs providing essential public services – like health care, education, safety, parks, and more – are a pillar of strength in Australia's labour market.  Public sector jobs are generally good jobs, with decent pay and more security than is typical of many private sector positions.  The strategic importance of public sector work is all the more visible in regional communities.  Job-creation in private businesses hasn't been adequate to meet the needs of most regional communities, as private activity is increasingly concentrated in the major cities.  So good jobs in schools, hospitals, and public administration are essential to the well-being of regional towns.  Public service workplaces in smaller communities also function as economic "anchors": keeping the local economy well grounded, and supporting many spin-off jobs in the private sector (in consumer goods and services, transportation, construction, and more).

Unfortunately, the positive economic potential of public sector work in regional communities has been undermined in recent years by misguided policies of fiscal austerity, which have placed more emphasis on cutting government spending than on supporting regional communities.  A new report from the Centre for Future Work documents the erosion of public sector work in regional communities in NSW, relative to overall labour market growth.  From 2011 to 2016 alone, this relative shrinkage was equivalent to the loss of 6000 public sector jobs in regional communities in the state.  Of the 20 communities which experienced the greatest loss of public sector jobs in NSW in that period, 18 were located in regional NSW.

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