The Fair Work Commission has ruled that penalty rates for Sunday and public holiday work in the retail and hospitality sectors should be reduced, which would reduce hourly wages on those days by up to $10 per hour. Business lobbyists predict this will spark a hiring surge in stores and restaurants, as employers take advantage of lower wages to extend hours and ramp up operations. The economic logic of this claim is highly suspect, however – especially in light of the fundamental factors which truly limit employment in these sectors (namely, the sluggish growth of personal incomes). 78 Australian economists have signed a public letter debunking these job-creation claims, arguing that the FWC’s decision will lead to more inequality, not more employment.
A 3-person drafting committee wrote the letter and circulated it among the economics community. The committee included Stephen Koukoulas (Managing Director of Market Economics), John Quiggin (Dept. of Economics, University of Queensland), and our own Jim Stanford (Economist and Director of the Centre for Future Work). See the full letter, and list of signatories, below.