Putting mining job losses into perspective

miningIt is commonplace in Australian policy debates for groups who think they will be adversely affected by proposed policies to provide estimates of the undesirable consequences of change. A popular and fashionable form relates to predictions of job losses for the groups affected, usually accompanied by counter-claims made by the government of the day or other groups in favour of the policy.

A highly public example of this is the claim by the Minerals Council of Australia (MCA) that the then-planned emissions trading scheme, or Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, would result in 23,510 fewer jobs in Australian mining than would otherwise be the case. The MCA repeated this claim as recently as last month in a submission to the Federal Government.

Job losses will always be an emotive issue, especially for the individuals involved. But while 23,510 might seem like a lot of jobs, is it really?

Professor Bruce Chapman from the Crawford School of Economics and Government at the Australian National University examined the claims by the Minerals Council of Australia and found them to be misleading, pointing to the very large movements into and out of the labour market and into and out of mining on an annual basis. The projected job losses, particularly when viewed over a 10 year period, are in a statistical sense close to invisible.

Every working hour of every working day around 1550 people will find a new job and around 1530 people will lose an old job. It’s also the case that most who lose a job in mining go on to find other employment. Bruce Chapman explained his findings to the ABC ‘PM’ program.

Also on the jobs front, Treasurer Wayne Swan has announced that new Treasury modelling showed 1.6 million jobs would be created by 2020 with or without a carbon tax.

There have been many furphies thrown into the carbon price debate by vested interests trying to confuse and scare the public. But just like the negligible impact of a carbon price on sectors such as coal, steel and aluminium compared to fluctuations in the Australian dollar, which was revealed in The Australia Institute’s The industries that cried wolf paper, claims about job losses in the mining industry can now be added to a growing list of exaggerated concerns which have been discredited.

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