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.Read more
U.S. President Donald Trump’s recent trade policies (including tariffs on steel and aluminium that could affect Australian exports) have raised fears of a worldwide slide into protectionism and trade conflict. Trump’s approach has been widely and legitimately criticised. But his argument that many U.S. workers have been hurt by the operation of current free trade agreements is legitimate; conventional economic claims that free trade benefits everyone who participates in it, have been discredited by the reality of large trade imbalances, deindustrialization, and displacement.
Can progressives respond to the real harm being done by current trade rules, without endorsing Trump-like actions – which will almost certainly hurt U.S. workers more than they will help? Centre for Future Work Director Jim Stanford has proposed several key principles to guide a progressive vision of international trade: one that would capture the potential benefits of greater trade in goods and services, while managing the downsides (instead of denying that there are any downsides).Read more
In the wake of the Trump Administration's success in pushing a major company tax cut through the U.S. Congress, the Australian Treasurer has stepped up his calls for reduced company taxes here. He claims Australia will bypass the growth-inducing benefits of these tax cuts, but Dr. Anis Chowdhury, Associate of the Centre for Future Work, has compiled the economic evidence. The U.S. experience shows no statistical evidence of any "trickle-down" growth dividend from company tax cuts:Read more
Measured by official employment statistics, Australia's labour market has improved in recent months: full-time employment has grown, and the official unemployment rate has fallen. But dig a little deeper, and the continuing structural weakness of the job market is more apparent. In particular, labour incomes remain unusually stagnant. In this commentary, Centre for Future Work Associate Dr. Anis Chowdhry reflects on the factors explaining slow wage growth -- and what's required to get wages growing.Read more
Our Director Jim Stanford was requested to testify before the Senate's Education and Employment References Committee on August 24, 2017 regarding the Fair Work Commission's decision to cut penalty rates for work on Sundays and public holidays in four major sectors of the economy: retail, hospitality, pharmacy, and fast food.Read more
Progressives everywhere are grappling with developing policy proposals to improve the quantity and quality of work in our economy, as part of their broader vision for building more successful and inclusive societies. To this end, the Fabians Society in NSW recently published an interesting booklet of policy proposals, to inject into debate within the Labor Party and other fora. One chapter written by Sarah Kaine (Associate Professor at UTS and a member of the Centre for Future Work's Advisory Committee) and Jim Stanford (Economist and Director of the Centre) deals head-on with the challenges facing work, and what can be done to make it better; it is reprinted below.Read more
Paradoxically, underemployment and number of hours actually worked are both on the rise in Australia.
Dr. Anis Chowdhury, Associate of the Centre for Future Work, explains how these seemingly contradictory trends can coexist:Read more