Public Service in Challenging Times: The Economic and Social Value of Public Sector Work in Queensland
In times of crisis, governments have a responsibility to their citizens to maintain and expand their role in the economy – for both economic and social reasons. This responsibility has never been clearer than during the current COVID-19 pandemic, and its associated economic downturn. Australians are counting on their governments to protect them from the pandemic, support them through the resulting recession, and play a leading role in rebuilding a stronger, healthy society in the aftermath of this unprecedented catastrophe.
Moreover, the economic benefits of providing those essential services spread throughout the state economy, supporting jobs and incomes including in the private sector.
In the context of the upcoming Queensland election, new research from the Centre for Future Work shows that in addition to some 331,000 direct jobs providing broader state-funded public services, 150,000 private sector positions depend on the economic stimulus provided by public sector work. In total, some 480,000 positions are supported, directly and indirectly, thanks to the provision of state-funded public services in Queensland. In particular, regional and remote Queensland depends on the public sector as a crucial source of decent, socially valuable jobs, performed by well-qualified people, earning (and spending) middle-class incomes in their regional communities.Read more
The failure of the Commonwealth to confirm that it will maintain funding for community service organisations could threaten up to 12,000 jobs in that sector, at a moment when those services are critical to Australia’s pandemic-damaged economy.
That’s the conclusion of new research on the economic importance of Commonwealth pay equity funding, conducted by the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute.Read more
Workers in most industries and occupations worry about the effects of accelerating technological change on their employment security and prospects. New digital technologies are being applied to an increasingly diverse and complex array of tasks and jobs – including artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies which can exercise judgment and decision-making powers. Some studies suggest that as many as half of all jobs may be highly vulnerable to automation and computerisation in coming decades. The NSW Legislative Council has established a Select Committee to examine the impact of technological and other change on the future of work in NSW. The Centre for Future Work has lodged a submission.
Concerns about technological unemployment are not new. Workers have long worried what will happen to their jobs when machines can do the work faster, cheaper, or better. But the historical record shows that technology has not produced mass unemployment or impoverishment – although dislocation and adjustment to technological change can be severe for some groups of workers, and some regions. The impacts of technology are always filtered through social and political processes; competing sectors of society naturally endeavour to protect and advance their own respective interests, as technology evolves. Will technology be used to enhance mass living standards and make work more efficient and pleasant? Or will it be used to enrich a small elite, while undermining the economic well-being and political rights of the majority? The answer depends on how technology is implemented, managed, and controlled, and whose interests prevail as the process unfolds.Read more
With millions facing unemployment and crisis-accelerated job transitions, public investment in the skills and earning capabilities of Australians will be critical to our post-pandemic recovery.
To mark National TAFE Day and the release of new research by the Centre for Future Work on the economic and social benefits of the TAFE system, The Australia Institute hosted a timely discussion on how the TAFE system can drive a COVID-era skills and jobs recovery with ACTU President Michele O'Neil, Correna Haythorpe, federal president of the Australian Education Union, and Alison Pennington, Senior Economist at the Centre for Future Work.Read more
Startling new research from the Centre for Future Work has shown that Australia’s economy is now regressing in its use of new technology, with negative implications for productivity, incomes, and job quality.
The new report, The Robots are NOT Coming, compiles 8 statistical indicators confirming that the pace of innovation and automation in Australia’s economy has slowed down dramatically in the last decade.Read more
The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in an era of unprecedented disruption and transition. Increased public investment in the skills and earning capabilities of Australians will be critical to our post-pandemic recovery.
New research from the Centre for Future Work An Investment in Productivity and Inclusion finds despite chronic underfunding and failed market-led VET policies, Australia’s historic investment in the TAFE system continues to generate an enormous and ongoing dividend to the Australian economy. The TAFE system supports $92.5 billion in annual economic benefits through the direct operation of TAFE institutes, higher incomes and productivity generated by the TAFE-credentialed workforce, and reduced social benefits costs.
“The Australian economy is reaping an enormous flow of economic benefits from a VET ‘house’ built by the TAFE system. But the ‘house’ that TAFE institutes built is crumbling. If Australia wants to secure the benefits of a superior, productive TAFE-trained workforce as we prepare for post-COVID reconstruction, the damage must be repaired quickly," said Alison Pennington, Senior Economist with the Centre for Future Work and author of the report.Read more
New research from the Centre for Future Work reveals that Australia ranks last among all OECD countries for manufacturing self-sufficiency. The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded Australians of the importance of being able to manufacture a full range of essential equipment and supplies; and the COVID recession has created a large economic void that a revitalised manufacturing sector could help to fill in coming years.
This new report, A Fair Share for Australian Manufacturing, describes the strategic importance of the manufacturing sector to Australia's future prosperity, and provides an inventory of policy tools that could help rebuild the sector to a size proportional to our domestic needs for manufactured products.Read more
Findings from a landmark inquiry commissioned by the Andrews Victorian government into the work conditions in the “on demand” (gig) economy have been released. The report’s findings are timely with COVID-era unemployment surging and an expanding pool of vulnerable workers relying on “gig” work to meet living costs.
This commentary published through Medium outlines the key findings of the On-Demand Inquiry.Read more
Women have suffered the worst labour market impacts since the shutdowns. Gender-unequal impacts have been due to women's greater exposure to customer-facing industries shut down first by public health orders, higher employment intensity in insecure and part-time positions, and an increased caring burden unmet by the state. But instead of providing countervailing support, the federal government is accelerating women’s work crisis.
In this commentary, originally published in the New Daily, Senior Economist at the Centre for Future Work Alison Pennington outlines how government's austerity agenda has intensified the unequal jobs fallout and threatens to "turn back the clock" for women's economic security.Read more
Training must play a vital role in reorienting the economy after the pandemic, supporting workers training for new jobs including millions of young people entering a depressed labour market without concrete pathways to work. But what kind of jobs will we be doing in 2040? And how prepared is Australia's skills system (and universities specifically) to play this important role now?
Our Senior Economist Alison Pennington was interviewed by UTS The Social Contract podcast on how COVID-19 is reshaping relations between universities, government and industry.
Alison explains how the pandemic economic crisis presents significant challenges to Australia's fragmented, underfunded and unplanned skills system wounded from decades of failed marketisation policies, and why sustained public investments in skills and jobs pathways will be essential to solving our economic and social challenges.
You can listen to the episode HERE. She is joined by Megan Lilly, head of Workforce Development at the Australian Industry Group.