Innovation or Exploitation? Simulating Net Hourly Incomes of UberX Drivers

Uber's rapid growth in point-to-point transportation services has become the most potent symbol of the growth of the so-called "gig economy": where people perform work on an irregular, on-demand basis, paid by the task, and without the stability or security of traditional paid employment. The expansion of this model has raised concerns regarding the erosion of labour standards and entitlements (including minimum wages, paid leave, and superannuation). This report simulates the net hourly incomes received by UberX drivers in six Australian cities, and finds that they almost certainly earn much less than would be required under relevant minimum wage standards.

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The Future of Work in Transportation

Workers in all parts of the economy are confronting twin threats from accelerating changes in technology and automation, and the ongoing shift toward more precarious and irregular forms of work -- including "gigs" on digital platforms.  The transportation sector is widely acknowledged to be one of the most susceptible to both of these trends.  The Centre for Future Work has published a major new research report on these trends, and how sector stakeholders can best prepare for the coming changes.

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Senate Inquiry on the Future of Work, and the Future of Workers

In October the Senate of Australia launched an important new inquiry into the Future of Work and the Future of Workers.  The terms of reference for the inquiry include:

  1. "The future earnings, job security, employment status and working patterns of Australians;
  2. The different impact of that change on Australians, particularly on regional Australians, depending on their demographic and geographic characteristics;
  3. The wider effects of that change on inequality, the economy, government and society;
  4. The adequacy of Australia’s laws, including industrial relations laws and regulations, policies and institutions to prepare Australians for that change;
  5. International efforts to address that change."

Given the close correspondence between this mandate, and the research focus of the Centre for Future Work, we were very glad to make a submission to this inquiry.

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Historic Decline in Strike Frequency Associated With Record Low Wage Growth

The Fair Work Commission’s ruling to pre-emptively block industrial action (including restrictions on overtime and a one-day work stoppage) by Sydney-area train workers has brought renewed attention to the legal and administrative barriers which limit collective action by Australian workers. 

The Sydney trains experience is a high-profile example of a much larger trend.  Across the national economy, work stoppages have become extremely rare – and the extraordinary discretionary ability of industrial authorities to restrict or prevent industrial action is an important reason why.

The Centre for Future Work has compiled a database of historical work stoppage data, going back to 1950, including the incidence of work stoppages and the numbers of work days lost as a result (both in absolute terms and relative to the size of the employed workforce).

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NSW Workers' Compensation System has Ample Resources to Maintain Benefits

The workers' compensation system in NSW has been dramatically scaled back and restructured since the current state government came to office in 2011.  Real benefit payouts have been cut by 30 percent, with the resulting "savings" passed on to employers in lower premiums (down 40 percent over the past decade).  Yet injured workers continue to bear the real cost of these changes, with benefit cuts (and further premium cuts) still occurring.  Over 4000 workers will have their monthly benefits cancelled entirely later this month.

The changes were all justified by a supposed fiscal "emergency" that existed in 2011, but that deficit was exaggerated and mostly the result of temporary factors connected to the Global Financial Crisis.  Now the system boats a large and growing accumulated surplus.  Annual financial reports released by the NSW workers insurance scheme last week confirm that the system has ample financial reserves with which to fund the maintenance and improvement of benefits for injured workers.

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Unpaid Overtime Diverts $130 billion Per Year

2017 marks the ninth annual Go Home On Time Day (GHOTD), an initiative of the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute aimed at highlighting the incidence of overwork among Australians, including excessive overtime (often unpaid). To investigate the prevalence of overwork and unpaid overtime, we commissioned a survey of over 1400 Australians on the incidence of overwork and Australian attitudes toward it. The results are surprising.

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The Unintended Consequences of Public Sector Wage Restraint

Budget-cutting political leaders regularly target the jobs and incomes of public sector workers as the first and most politically convenient target of their austerity measures. But their crusade to balance the books by downsizing headcounts, intensifying work, and freezing the pay of the workers who deliver essential public services can backfire. In this new report, Troy Henderson and Jim Stanford consider the unintended consequences of one prominent austerity measure: the cap on public sector wage increases that has been in place in New South Wales since 2011.

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Wage Suppression a Time Bomb in Superannuation System

The record-slow pace of wage growth in Australia’s economy is not just making it difficult for families to balance their budgets, it also threatens severe long-run damage to Australia’s superannuation retirement system.  That’s the finding of new research from the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute.

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New Research Symposium on Work in the "Gig Economy"

The informal work practices of the so-called “gig” economy are widening existing cracks in Australia’s system of labour regulations, and should be repaired through active measures to strengthen labour standards in digital businesses.  That is the conclusion of newly-published research from a special symposium on "Work in the Gig Economy," organised by the Centre for Future Work. 

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Manufacturing: A Moment of Opportunity

In conjunction with the National Manufacturing Summit, titled "From Opportunity to Action," at Parliament House in Canberra on June 21, 2017, the Centre for Future Work has released a new research paper on the opportunities to sustain and expand manufacturing jobs in Australia.

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