June 2020

Austerity Threatens Women’s Access to Paid Work

by Alison Pennington in The New Daily

Women have suffered the worst labour market impacts since the shutdowns. Gender-unequal impacts have been due to women’s greater exposure to customer-facing industries shut down first by public health orders, higher employment intensity in insecure and part-time positions, and an increased caring burden unmet by the state. But instead of providing countervailing support, the federal government is accelerating women’s work crisis.

Unleashing a National Reconstruction Plan Fit for Our Era

by Alison Pennington in Newcastle Herald

Our nation is confronting the most significant economic challenge in nearly a century. Australia’s own experience of long-term, sustained public investment during post-war reconstruction shows direct tools of government planning and investment will be essential to our recovery today. Yet Scott Morrison continues to pretend his hands are tied: “if there’s no business, there’s no jobs, there’s no income, there’s nothing.”

May 2020

Australia Needs Universal Paid Sick Leave To Get Through the Pandemic

by Alison Pennington

Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy recently issued a directive that going to work with the ‘sniffles’ is ‘off the agenda for every Australian in the foreseeable future.’ But with millions of workers without access to paid sick leave, government plans to lift restrictions on economic activity could risk dangerous and costly outbreaks. 

April 2020

March 2020

Responding to the Economic Emergency

by Jim Stanford in New Matilda

The scale and scope of the economic downturn caused by COVID-19 will be unprecedented in our lifetimes. Mainstream economists have belatedly realised the pandemic will cause an economic downturn, but they are not yet appreciating the size of that downturn, nor the unconventional responses that will be required. Simply calling for government “stimulus” is sadly inadequate, given the complete shut-down of work and production that is occurring in many sectors of the economy. The task is no longer supporting markets with incremental “pump-priming.” What’s needed is a war-like effort, led by government, to mobilise every possible resource to protect Australians’ health and livelihoods. Money is not an object – and this epic effort should not be held back by normal acquiescence to private-sector priorities and decisions.

Financialisation and the Productivity Slowdown

by Anis Chowdhury

There has been much discussion in recent months about the apparent slowdown in Australian productivity growth. Rather than dredging up the usual wish-list of the business community (more deregulation, more privatisation, and more deunionisation), it’s time to look at the deeper, structural factors behind stagnant productivity. In this commentary, Dr. Anis Chowdhury, Associate of the Centre for Future Work, looks to the perverse role of our overdeveloped financial sector in slowing down productivity-enhancing investment and innovation.

February 2020

September 2019

Paid Parental Leave for Fathers Advances Parental Equality

by Alison Pennington in Medium

Rising pressure on individuals and families to meet their caring needs is the “human face” of decline in workplace protections and bargaining power that has gathered pace since 2013. Meanwhile, the need for fathers and male spouses to take on more caring and household labour is routinely discussed in the public domain. But how have Australia’s work/care policies worked to support a redistribution of caring and household labour to males and fathers?

August 2019

Stuck-in-the-Mud’ Workers Not to Blame for Wage Stagnation

by Jim Stanford

The Commonwealth Treasury raised eyebrows recently with a new research report that seemed to pin the blame for record-weak wage increases on workers’ reluctance to quit their jobs in search of better-paying alternatives. The report was presented to the recent conference of the Economic Society of Australia, and elicited gleeful headlines in conservative newspapers blaming “stubborn” workers for their own poor wage results.

May 2019

Where To Now for Union Campaign? Workplace Express

The unexpected results of the 2019 Commonwealth election have sparked many commentaries regarding what happened, and why. This article, reprinted with permission from Workplace Express, considers the role of the major #ChangeTheRules campaign mobilised by Australian unions in the lead-up to the election – and ponders the movement’s next steps in the continuing debate over labour market policies and industrial relations. It cites both our Economist Alison Pennington, and our Director Jim Stanford, as well as our previous research on the erosion of collective bargaining in Australia.

April 2019

Jobs and a Living Wage

by Jim Stanford in Arena

Australians tend to bring a fair bit of swagger to international comparisons of economic performance. After all, Australia has experienced twenty-eight consecutive years of economic growth without a recession—a record for industrial countries. We are the ‘lucky country’, with one of the highest material living standards in the world, a wealth of natural resources, and a ‘no worries’ ability to withstand global economic shocks.

January 2019

December 2018

Industry-Wide Bargaining Good for Efficiency, as Well as Equity

by Anis Chowdhury

In this commentary, Centre for Future Work Associate Dr. Anis Chowdhury discusses the economic benefits of industry-wide collective bargaining. In addition to supporting wage growth, industry-wide wage agreements generate significant efficiency benefits, by pressuring lagging firms to improve their innovation and productivity performance. The experience of other countries (such as Germany and Singapore) suggests that

Are States Filling the Democratic Void?

by Alison Pennington in New Matilda

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

October 2018

“Permanent Casuals,” and Other Oxymorons

by Jim Stanford

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.

June 2018

Insecure work: The New Normal

by Jim Stanford

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.

April 2018

Wages Crisis Has Obvious Solutions

by Jim Stanford

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.

March 2018

The Difference Between Trade and ‘Free Trade’

by Jim Stanford in The Guardian

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

November 2017

Job Growth No Guarantee of Wage Growth

by Anis Chowdhury in The Sydney Morning Herald

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.

March 2017

February 2017

Employers’ pyrrhic penalty rates win reflects self-defeating economics

by Jim Stanford in The Sydney Morning Herald

The Fair Work Commission unveiled its long-awaited decision on penalty rates for Sunday and holiday work this week. Penalty rates for most retail and hospitality workers will be cut, by up to 50 percentage points of the base wage. Hardest hit will be retail employees: their wages on Sundays will fall by $10 an hour or more. For regular weekend workers, that could mean $6000 in lost annual income.

October 2016

August 2016

May 2016

Bracket Creep Is A Phoney Menace

by Jim Stanford in New Matilda

For someone who piously bemoans an “us versus them” mentality in political culture, Treasurer Scott Morrison certainly drove a deep wedge into the social fabric with one of the centrepieces of his budget. There are four thresholds in the personal income tax system; Morrison chose to increase one of them, supposedly to offset the insidious effects of “bracket creep.” The third threshold will be raised from $80,000 to $87,000.

6 Reasons to Be Skeptical of Debt-Phobia

by Jim Stanford

In the lead-up to tomorrow’s pre-election Commonwealth budget, much has been written about the need to quickly eliminate the government’s deficit, and reduce its accumulated debt.  The standard shibboleths are being liberally invoked: government must face hard truths and learn to live within its means; government must balance its budget (just like households do); debt-raters will punish us for our profligacy; and more.  Pumping up fear of government debt is always an essential step in preparing the public to accept cutbacks in essential public services.   And with Australians heading to the polls, the tough-love imagery serves another function: instilling fear that a change in government, at such a fragile time, would threaten the “stability” of Australia’s economy.

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