Culture is an inescapable part of what it means to be human. We can no more imagine a life without the arts than we can imagine a life without language, custom, or ritual. Australia is home to the oldest continuing cultural traditions on the planet, and some of the world's most renowned actors, musicians and artists. But while we have a proud story to tell, the future of Australian culture looks increasingly uncertain.
New research from the Centre for Future Work, by Senior Economist Alison Pennington and Monash University’s Ben Eltham, reveals the ongoing, devastating impact of COVID-19 on Australia’s arts and entertainment sector and provides a series of recommendations to government that would reboot the creative sector after the crisis.
- More people work in broad cultural industries (over 350,000) than many other areas of the economy that are receiving greater policy supports, including aviation (40,500) and coal mining (48,900).
- Despite years of significant funding pressures and policy neglect, the arts and entertainment sector contributed $17 billion in GDP to the Australian economy in 2018-19.
- By international standards, Australia ranks low in its funding support for the arts and culture. The OECD average for government expenditure on the cultural sector is 1.2% of annual GDP. Australia contributes just 0.9%.
- Due to their disproportionately insecure labour market conditions, arts and entertainment sector workers are experiencing significant ruptures in their employment arrangements due to COVID-19.
- The federal government has not adequately responded to the scale and severity of the crisis in the arts & entertainment sector. Worse still, it has implemented increasingly hostile policies, including weakening local production quotas and increasing the cost of studying creative fields.
- Unpredictable health restrictions due to vaccination program failures mean the viability of the arts & cultural sector will likely be hampered for years to come.
- Australia needs a public-led reboot of the arts & cultural sector that lays the groundwork for a sustainable, vibrant future for the arts and culture, built through ambitious public investment and planning across many sectors of our cultural economy.
The increasing precarity of economic life for many people is being reflected in a growing output of film and TV, including the work of Ken Loach (‘Sorry We Missed You’, ‘I, Daniel Blake’), Steven Bognar and Julia Reichert’s 2019 documentary ‘American Factory’, Bong Joon Ho’s Oscar-winning ‘Parasite’ as well as his ‘Snowpiercer’ film and subsequent TV series, the interplanetary class divisions explored by the Syfy Channel’s ‘The Expanse’, and Chloé Zhao’s Oscar-winning ‘Nomadland’. The Centre for Future Work's first film review considers a new entry in this recent canon of art imitating life.
Writer-director Noah Hutton has shrewdly crafted a science-fiction world that closely resembles our own. The premise of the film is that quantum computing has revolutionised the world’s financial markets, further exploding the dominance of the financial industry. The shabby underbelly of this quantum computing revolution is the rise of ‘cabling’ — workers managed by an algorithm, via an app, dragging cables through the woods between one quantum computing node and another.
Read Economist Dan Nahum's review of Lapsis here.
As Treasurer during the 1980s, Paul Keating lamented that Australian governments had for decades been allowing the country's sophisticated industrial base to fall apart as unsophisticated raw materials came to dominate the nation's exports and as a result, its economy slipped into developing-world status. Keating's famous warning of Australia's looming 'banana republic' status spurred the Hawke and subsequent Keating Labor governments into action on economic restructuring, which included considering a range of industry policy intervention options to put Australia on a track to advanced, industrial status, as had been the aim of post-war nation-building that helped to institute an advanced manufacturing industrial base in Australia.
But since the 1990s, the 'default' economic and industry policy setting of government has ultimately been to favour resource extraction as our national strength. Even despite the growing threat of climate change and global economic crises that make a shift to 'green' industrial transformation a pathway pursued by many other nations, current Coalition government policy continues to reflect deliberate, calculated emphasis on the extraction and export of raw materials. Australia risks cementing its developing-world economic status if we do not consider important industry policy challenges.
The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn attention to opportunities for Australia to not only rebuild, but reconstruct our economy in a way that capitalises on our national manufacturing potential and their ability to contribute to a sustainable recovery from the economic and social crisis that has culminated in lockdowns and recession. The future development of Australia's manufacturing industry must focus on the opportunities presented by renewable energy to drive innovation, industrial transformation and a green future shaped by a skilled manufacturing workforce.
Researchers from the Centre for Future Work, Mark Dean, Al Rainnie (Centre for Future Work Associate), Jim Stanford and Dan Nahum, have co-authored a new scholarly paper which will be published in the academic journal, the Economic and Labour Relations Review and is currently available as an online-first publication at their website.Read more
Australian society is experiencing an epidemic of mental illness that imposes enormous costs on individuals with poor mental health, their families, and the broader economy. There is no doubt that the stress, isolation and disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has made this crisis even worse.
Unsafe workplaces contribute significantly to the incidence of mental illness and injury. Workplace factors which contribute to mental health problems include unreasonable job demands, exposure to violence and trauma, long or irregular working hours, an absence of worker voice and control, and bullying and harassment.
New research from the Centre for Future Work suggests that by requiring stronger monitoring and prevention measures in Australian workplaces, a significant share of mental illness and injury could be avoided. In addition to reducing the toll of mental illness for workers and their families, these measures would also generate substantial economic and fiscal benefits.Read more
The Commonwealth government has tabled its budget for the 2021-22 financial year. The government is counting on a vigorous and sustained burst of consumer spending by Australian households to drive the post-COVID recovery. Yet the budget itself concedes that the main sources of income to finance expanded consumer spending (namely, wages and income supports) will remain weak or even contract. As shown in the Centre for Future Work's analysis of the budget, these two dimensions of the budget are fundamentally incompatible.Read more
Implementing the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Aged Care Quality and Safety will require additional Commonwealth funding of at least $10 billion per year, and there are several revenue tools which the government could use to raise those funds.
That is the conclusion of a new report on funding high-quality aged care released today by the Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute.
The Senate Select Committee on Job Security was appointed 10 December 2020, to inquire into and report on the impact of insecure or precarious employment on the economy, wages, social cohesion and workplace rights and conditions. This includes the extent of insecure and precarious employment in Australia, the impacts of COVID-19 with respect to job precarity and insecurity, the digitally-mediated ‘gig’ economy, and other matters. The Centre for Future Work has made a submission to the Select Committee.
Economist and Director Dr Jim Stanford and Economist Dan Nahum presented evidence to the Senate Committee hearing in Melbourne on 20 April 2021. The transcript of their testimony is available here.Read more
New research by the Centre for Future Work released for International Women’s Day (8 March 2021), shows Australia’s recovery from the pandemic recession widened the gender pay gap, as women’s jobs returned on a more part-time and casualised basis than for men.
The report by Senior Economist Alison Pennington shows the influx of women’s lower-earning jobs from May widened the gender pay gap between May and November 2020, and warns that the gap could deteriorate even further in the wake of policies proposed by the Government for 2021: including the further expansion of casual work and reduced pay for part-time workers, tabled in the omnibus industrial relations bill; public sector pay caps for both federal and state employees; and a high-cost, inaccessible childcare system.Read more
The federal government’s omnibus Industrial Relations bill proposes sweeping changes to labour laws which will generally enhance the power of employers to hire workers on a just-in-time basis, and will put further downward pressure on Australian wages (already growing at a record-low rate). One outcome of the bill will be an acceleration of enterprise agreements (EAs) written unilaterally by employers, without negotiation with any union. These non-union EAs will be favoured for several reasons if the omnibus bill is passed: EAs will be exempted from the current Better Off Overall Test, employer-designed EAs will be subject to less scrutiny at the Fair Work Commission, and employers will have less stringent tests to ensure their proposed EAs are genuinely approved by affected workers. All of these changes will lead to a significant increase in employer-designed EAs that reduce compensation and conditions, rather than improving them – signalling a return to the WorkChoices pattern of EA-making.
In a new report, Centre for Future Work Senior Economist Alison Pennington assesses the major ways in which the IR bill will accelerate non-union EA-making, and considers three specific ways this in turn will undermine wage growth in Australia compared with existing collective bargaining laws.Read more