Are States Filling the Democratic Void?

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.

  

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Workers’ Share of Economic Pie Shrinks Again

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.

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"Permanent Casuals," and Other Oxymorons

Recent legal decisions are starting to challenge the right of employers to deploy workers in "casual" positions on an essentially permanent basis. For example, the Federal Court recently ruled that a labour-hire mine driver who worked regular shifts for years was still entitled to annual leave, even though he was supposedly hired as a "casual." This decision has alarmed business lobbyists who reject any limit on their ability to deploy casual labour, while avoiding traditional entitlements (like sick pay, annual leave, severance rights, and more). For them, a "casual worker" is anyone who they deem to be casual; but that open door obviously violates the intent of Australia's rules regarding casual loading.

Here is a commentary from Jim Stanford, Director of the Centre for Future Work, discussing the implications of these decisions for the mis-use of casual work.  The commentary was originally published on the Ten Daily website.

 

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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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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!

 


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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A Comprehensive and Realistic Strategy for More and Better Jobs

The Australian Council of Trade Unions has released a major policy paper outlining an ambitious, multi-faceted program to address the chronic shortage of work, and the steady erosion of job quality, in Australia.  The full paper, Jobs You Can Count On, is available on the ACTU's website.  It contains specific proposals to stimulate much stronger job-creation, reduce unemployment and underemployment, improve job quality (including through repairs to Australia's industrial relations system), and ensure that all communities (including traditionally marginalised populations like indigenous peoples, women, youth, and people with disability) have full access to the decent work opportunities that the plan would generate.

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Wage Increases Beat Tax Cuts Any Day

The Coalition government’s 2018 budget features a plan to cut personal income taxes for many Australians over the next several years. The government claims it wants to reward lower- and middle-income wage-earners with tax savings.  However, the biggest personal tax reductions would not be experienced until 2022 and beyond (after at least two more federal elections).  And the biggest savings go to those with incomes over $200,000 per year (the richest 3 percent of tax-filers).

Our Briefing Note on the 2018 Budget explores the relationships between wages and taxes, and shows that working to reverse the recent unprecedented wage stagnation is the key to achieving ongoing improvements in living standards - not pre-election tweaks in the tax code.

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Wages Crisis Has Obvious Solutions

Mainstream economists and conservative political leaders profess “surprise” at the historically slow pace of wage growth in Australia’s labour market. They claim that wages will start growing faster soon, in response to the normal “laws of supply and demand.”  This view ignores the importance of institutional and regulatory factors in determining wages and income distribution.  In fact, given the systematic efforts in recent decades to weaken wage-setting institutions (including minimum wages, the awards system, and collective bargaining), it is no surprise at all that wages have slowed to a crawl.  And the solutions to the problem are equally obvious: rebuild the power of those institutions, to support workers in winning a better share of the economic pie they produce.

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