Job Losses Accelerating in Higher Education

Australia's universities were uniquely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and recession -- including the closure of borders to most international students, the implementation of new COVID-safe instruction practices, and effective exclusion from  Commonwealth support programs like JobKeeper.

Now, 18 months after the borders were first closed, things are getting worse for universities, not better. New research from the Centre for Future Work confirms that tertiary education has been hit by bigger job losses this year than any other non-agricultural sector in the economy.

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Fair Pay Agreements: How Workers in NZ Are Getting Their Share

Across the ditch, the Ardern government in New Zealand is undertaking an ambitious and multi-dimensional effort to address low wages, inequality, and poor job quality. NZ unions have just won the introduction of Fair Pay Agreements, planned for implementation in 2022. FPAs will allow working people to bargain collectively across sectors and start to correct the income and power imbalance between workers and employers.

The Centre for Future Work hosted a special webinar with Craig Renney, Economist & Director of Policy for the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions. In the recorded webinar, Craig explains key FPA policy details including design & coverage of the system, and how FPAs can lift wages and labour standards, stop the ‘race to the bottom’, and rebuild worker bargaining power in NZ. The webinar is the first in the Centre's exciting new webinar series exploring key labour market topics related to work, wages, and fairness. Hosted by our Senior Economist Alison Pennington.

 

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When the Show Cannot Go On: Rebooting Arts & Culture After COVID

Culture is an inescapable part of what it means to be human. We can no more imagine a life without the arts than we can imagine a life without language, custom, or ritual. Australia is home to the oldest continuing cultural traditions on the planet, and some of the world's most renowned actors, musicians and artists. But while we have a proud story to tell, the future of Australian culture looks increasingly uncertain.

New research from the Centre for Future Work, by Senior Economist Alison Pennington and Monash University’s Ben Eltham, reveals the ongoing, devastating impact of COVID-19 on Australia’s arts and entertainment sector and provides a series of recommendations to government that would reboot the creative sector after the crisis. 

Key findings:

  • More people work in broad cultural industries (over 350,000) than many other areas of the economy that are receiving greater policy supports, including aviation (40,500) and coal mining (48,900).
  • Despite years of significant funding pressures and policy neglect, the arts and entertainment sector contributed $17 billion in GDP to the Australian economy in 2018-19.
  • By international standards, Australia ranks low in its funding support for the arts and culture. The OECD average for government expenditure on the cultural sector is 1.2% of annual GDP. Australia contributes just 0.9%.
  • Due to their disproportionately insecure labour market conditions, arts and entertainment sector workers are experiencing significant ruptures in their employment arrangements due to COVID-19.
  • The federal government has not adequately responded to the scale and severity of the crisis in the arts & entertainment sector. Worse still, it has implemented increasingly hostile policies, including weakening local production quotas and increasing the cost of studying creative fields.
  • Unpredictable health restrictions due to vaccination program failures mean the viability of the arts & cultural sector will likely be hampered for years to come.
  • Australia needs a public-led reboot of the arts & cultural sector that lays the groundwork for a sustainable, vibrant future for the arts and culture, built through ambitious public investment and planning across many sectors of our cultural economy.
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The Broken Bargain: Australia's Growing Wages Crisis with Sally McManus

In this episode from The Australia Institute's webinar series, ACTU Secretary Sally McManus outlines the political and legal reasons why wage growth is so low in Australia.

Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, wage growth in Australia was anemic.

Historically, a working class with power to organise and bargain, and a broad commitment to the social wage ensured Australia’s wealth was shared. But the last 30 years have seen a dramatic shift of the share of Australia’s prosperity going to profit and away from working people. The shift in the distribution of GDP from the mid-1970s to today has transferred 10% of GDP directly from workers to corporate profits. That's more than $200 billion – or almost $20,000 per waged worker – per year.

Australians are facing a wages crisis, and Government actions and inactions are making this problem worse.

In conversation with Australia Institute Deputy Director Ebony Bennett, and Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford, Sally McManus outlines the reasons why wage growth is so poor, and the way back for working people to once again be at the heart of a strong economy.

Recorded live on 14 July 2021, as part of the Australia Institute's 2021 webinar series. A transcript of Sally McManus's speech is available at this location.


If You Thought Employers Were Exploiting Workers With Too Many Insecure Jobs Before The Pandemic, Wait Till You See The Figures Now

Australia paid a big price for the over reliance on insecure jobs prior to the pandemic. But as our economy recovers, insecure jobs account for about two out of every three new positions. In this commentary, originally published at New Matilda, Economist Dan Nahum explains why that’s a very bad thing – especially in front-line, human services roles. In the context of COVID-19, the effects of insecure work in these sectors, in particular, reverberate across the whole community with dangerous and tragic consequences.

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A Review of Lapsis

The increasing precarity of economic life for many people is being reflected in a growing output of film and TV, including the work of Ken Loach (‘Sorry We Missed You’, ‘I, Daniel Blake’), Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s 2019 documentary ‘American Factory’, Bong Joon Ho’s Oscar-winning ‘Parasite’ as well as his ‘Snowpiercer’ film and subsequent TV series, the interplanetary class divisions explored by the Syfy Channel’s ‘The Expanse’, and Chloé Zhao’s Oscar-winning ‘Nomadland’. The Centre for Future Work's first film review considers a new entry in this recent canon of art imitating life.

Writer-director Noah Hutton has shrewdly crafted a science-fiction world that closely resembles our own. The premise of the film is that quantum computing has revolutionised the world’s financial markets, further exploding the dominance of the financial industry. The shabby underbelly of this quantum computing revolution is the rise of ‘cabling’ — workers managed by an algorithm, via an app, dragging cables through the woods between one quantum computing node and another.

Read Economist Dan Nahum's review of Lapsis here.


Summary Report: Funding High-Quality Aged Care Services

The Centre for Future Work has prepared a 4-page summary of our recent detailed report on funding needed improvements in aged care services in Australia, in the wake of recommendations from the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety.

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Why is Job Quality Worsening?

Over time, insecure work has become more prevalent in the Australian economy. Key drivers of worsening job quality include: decades of economic policies which constructed unemployment “buffers”; insufficient paid work available for all who need it; reductions in the level of unemployment benefits to below-poverty levels, collapse in collective bargaining coverage, and failure to regulate insecure work.

In this update on job insecurity in Australia, Alison Pennington reviews the ongoing erosion of full-time, traditional "good" jobs, growth in COVID-era "gig" work, and outlines how business trends and labour market policies have facilitated both lower worker bargaining power and a dramatic rise in insecure work. 

For more on reducing the incidence and consequences of insecure work, see our recent submission to the Select Committee on Job Insecurity, by Dan Nahum. 


Industrial Policy-Making After COVID-19: Manufacturing, Innovation and Sustainability

As Treasurer during the 1980s, Paul Keating lamented that Australian governments had for decades been allowing the country's sophisticated industrial base to fall apart as unsophisticated raw materials came to dominate the nation's exports and as a result, its economy slipped into developing-world status. Keating's famous warning of Australia's looming 'banana republic' status spurred the Hawke and subsequent Keating Labor governments into action on economic restructuring, which included considering a range of industry policy intervention options to put Australia on a track to advanced, industrial status, as had been the aim of post-war nation-building that helped to institute an advanced manufacturing industrial base in Australia.

But since the 1990s, the 'default' economic and industry policy setting of government has ultimately been to favour resource extraction as our national strength. Even despite the growing threat of climate change and global economic crises that make a shift to 'green' industrial transformation a pathway pursued by many other nations, current Coalition government policy continues to reflect deliberate, calculated emphasis on the extraction and export of raw materials. Australia risks cementing its developing-world economic status if we do not consider important industry policy challenges.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to opportunities for Australia to not only rebuild, but reconstruct our economy in a way that capitalises on our national manufacturing potential and their ability to contribute to a sustainable recovery from the economic and social crisis that has culminated in lockdowns and recession. The future development of Australia's manufacturing industry must focus on the opportunities presented by renewable energy to drive innovation, industrial transformation and a green future shaped by a skilled manufacturing workforce.

Researchers from the Centre for Future Work, Mark Dean, Al Rainnie (Centre for Future Work Associate), Jim Stanford and Dan Nahum, have co-authored a new scholarly paper which will be published in the academic journal, the Economic and Labour Relations Review and is currently available as an online-first publication at their website.

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Video: Myth & Reality About Technology, Skills & Jobs

We are constantly told that the world of work is being turned upside down by 'technology': some faceless, anonymous, uncontrollable force that is somehow beyond human control. There's no point resisting this exogenous, omnipresent force. The best thing to do is get with the program... and learn how to program! Acquiring the right skills (usually assumed to be STEM or computer skills) is the best way to protect yourself in this brave new high-tech future.

But what if technology isn't all it's cracked up to be? And what if you invest in learning the current hot coding language, only to see it replaced by something totally different as soon as you graduate?

In this 30-minute video, Centre for Future Work Economist and Director Dr. Jim Stanford takes on several myths related to technology and jobs.

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