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Australia’s insecure work crisis: fixing it for the future

The Analysis & Policy Observatory carries a link (21.5.18) to an Australian Council of Trade Unions report on the growing problem of insecure work in Australia’s employment landscsape. The report argues that Australia is a ‘global pacesetter’ in the creation of various forms of insecure employment, leaving only 60% of the workforce in standard, secure work.

‘Australia is rapidly changing and is now bearing an even greater resemblance to some of the worst aspects of American society. In both countries workers have been waiting many years for a decent pay rise, income inequality is at record levels, working hours are long or unpredictable and penalty rates are being cut or do not exist. For many workers stress related illnesses due to intense work pressures are common and large sections of the workforce live in fear of being sacked without notice or redundancy pay because employment security provisions have been eroded.

‘We have seen the consequences of these trends in America. These are the working conditions that lead to a broad range of health and social problems and that allow extremists and some politicians to divide populations. These are the conditions that if allowed to spread and fester can tear apart the fabric of decent society. They can eventually threaten democratic institutions.

‘Fortunately, Australia has not yet reached that point. But when the Government seeks to deny that the spread of non-standard insecure work is a problem we will not be able to address it. It is time to draw a line in the sand. We must not allow our country to go any further down this treacherous path.’

Raising the bar

The Analysis & Policy Observatory carries a link (22.5.18) to a Centre for Future Work report about this same problem of work insecurity. The report argues that weak labour market conditions could be improved significantly through pro-active efforts by government to link public spending in all forms to improved job quality and compensation.

‘For at least five years now, Australia’s labour market has demonstrated signs of a structural shift that has undermined traditional patterns of wage determination, and eroded the quality and security of work. The economic and social consequences of this sea change in the world of work are severe and far-reaching: flat real wages (the worst labour income growth since the Great Depression), a severing of the traditional relationship between wage and productivity growth, a steady expansion of insecure work in various forms, growing inequality in income distribution (both between factors and across households), and a precipitous decline in collective representation and enterprise bargaining (especially in the private sector).

‘Governments tell Australians to simply be patient, and let “market forces” do their work; wages will pick up and economic benefits will soon “trickle down.” But there is no reason to expect these concerning labour market challenges to resolve themselves. Instead, the whole history of Australia’s economy reminds us that pro-active policy efforts are always necessary to broadly distribute the fruits of economic growth to workers and their families.’

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