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. 


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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Rage & Optimism as an Activist Economist

Crikey is reclaiming the "angry woman" trope in a new column about what women achieve through rage, passion and determination. In this inspiring and poetic feature with our Senior Economist Alison Pennington, Alison explains how rage about how the economy works (or doesn't work) powers her forceful work as an activist economist.

We are pleased to share the article by Amber Schultz, with kind permission from Crikey media. 

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Expansion of Employer Power to Use Casual Work Hurts Women Most

As women lead mobilisations against workplace gendered violence, the federal government passed legislation expanding employer power to use insecure, casual labour in its IR bill - laws that will disproportionately impact the pay and security of women's jobs.

In this commentary, Senior Economist Alison Pennington explains how new casuals measures and the government's wider economic policies - including in industrial relations, childcare, welfare, and fiscal spending - significantly undermine the economic security of women, entrench pay inequality, and ultimately, increase their vulnerability to gendered violence. 

This commentary was originally published in Michael West Media

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Migrant Workers Abandoned in the COVID Recovery

COVID continues to sweep Europe and the US, while Australia celebrates near-elimination of community transmission. But Australia’s public health success has not come without significant economic and social hardship for large sections of our community – especially migrant workers. Thousands of migrant workers were pulled off the job to stop the spread of COVID-19, and excluded from key government income support programs including JobSeeker and JobKeeper. Temporary migrant workers are still left without access to Medicare. 

In this short, accessible commentary, Senior Economist Alison Pennington outlines how the pandemic, the resulting recession and government COVID-era policies have increased risks to migrant workers’ financial security, and health and safety. Building more secure, inclusive labour markets can reduce risks that future major events don’t hit the most vulnerable hardest.

This commentary was prepared for presentation to the Migrant Workers Centre Conference, November 2020. 

 

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IR Bill Will Cut Wages & Accelerate Precarity

The Morrison government has proposed sweeping changes to labour laws that will expand unilateral employer power to cut wages and freely deploy casual labour. Together, the Coalition's proposed changes will accelerate the incidence of insecure work, undermine genuine collective bargaining, and suppress wages growth. Impacts will be felt across the entire workforce - casual and permanent workers alike. 

In this extended commentary, Senior Economist Alison Pennington explains the main components of the IR Omnibus Bill, assesses their impacts on workers' wages and labour protections, and offers some strategic analysis on how labour advocates can work towards addressing insecure work. 

This commentary was originally published in Jacobin. A shorter edited version was published in Michael West Media & John Menadue's Pearls and Irritations. 

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Profile: Combining Economics and Social Justice

The Centre for Future Work's Director Dr. Jim Stanford was recently profiled in a feature article published in In The Black, the journal of CPA Australia (the professional body for certified accountants in Australia). The profile, by journalist Johanna Leggatt, discusses the history of the Centre for Future Work, and Stanford's philosophy of using popular economic knowledge to strengthen movements for social change and workers' rights.

We are pleased to reprint, with kind permission from In the Black, this profile, titled 'The People's Economist'. Many thanks to the journal and to Ms. Leggatt for the generous article!


A Women’s Agenda for COVID-Era Reconstruction

Women have been uniquely and disproportionately impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession: losing more jobs and hours, shouldering a higher unpaid caring work burden, and undertaking essential and frontlines jobs. Without targeted action to rebuild women's jobs and ease caring demands, decades of collective advances toward decent paid work could be eroded.

Alison Pennington, Senior Economist with the Centre for Future Work assisted The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) preparing the timely report Leaving Women Behind: The Real Cost of the COVID Recovery. The report documents the gendered impacts of the crisis and the federal government's COVID-era policies, and outlines a public investment strategy to undo the damage of the crisis, and ensure women play an equal role in an inclusive economic recovery.

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Porter IR Bill a Wish List for Business

Industrial Relations Minister Christian Porter tabled an omnibus bill on 9 December containing multiple amendments to Australia's labour laws, including the Fair Work Act. In theory, the bill is the outcome of a series of IR reform discussions the government launched during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time it heralded a new spirt of cooperation between business, unions, and the government -- but that spirit didn't last long. The bill accepts numerous business demands that will further liberalise casual work, undermine genuine collective bargaining, and generally suppress wages even more than they already are.

This commentary is a longer version of an assessment of the new legislation prepared by Jim Stanford (originally published in The Conversation).

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The Pandemic is Our Clarion Call to Rebuild Good Jobs

Victorians emerging from lockdowns now confront Australia's harsh COVID-era work reality marked by more insecure jobs, mass unemployment, and long-term work at the kitchen table.

In this commentary, which originally appeared in The AgeCentre for Future Work Senior Economist Alison Pennington discusses what the pandemic reveals about Australia's high levels of insecure work, new work-from-home risks, and how rebuilding more secure labour markets will be critical to creating more good jobs in our post-COVID recovery. 

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