Showing posts with label unemployment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label unemployment. Show all posts

Thursday, 18 January 2018

So what does Australia's public debt look like in January 2018?


As of 5 January 2018 Australian Government public debt stood at an est. $515.6 billion at face value. Six months earlier this debt had stood at est. $500.9 billion. So government debt continues to grow.

This early January 2018 public debt breaks down as:

$477,278m
$34,897m
$3,500m
Other Securities
$6m


Treasury Bonds are medium to long-term debt securities that carry an annual rate of interest fixed over the life of the security, payable semi-annually.
All Treasury Bonds are exempt from non-resident interest withholding tax (IWT).


These treasury bonds were first issued between January 2006 and September 2017, with interest repayments ranging from 1.75% to 5.75% per annum due throughout 2018 and, in all but two instances the years beyond up to 2047. It is likely that at least 50% of these bonds are held by foreign investors.

The Turnbull Government appears to be using reduced government spending by way of funding cuts to essential government services and ‘reformed’ welfare payments in order to manage a portion of this debt – the remainder possibly being serviced by further bond issuance.

Given the potential to retain a higher dollar amount of cash transfers for longer periods in government coffers if the Cashless Debit Card is universally introduced for welfare recipients under retirement age, then I rather suspect that future welfare recipients may be disproportionately servicing this debt if Turnbull & Co have their way.

And while considering that growing public debt, the sustained federal government assault on safety-net welfare since 2013 and the attack on penalty rates in 2017, readers miight like to consider this……

The Australian Parliament consists of 226 elected members sitting as MPs or senators.

Between them they are reported to own 524 properties and, in addition to their salaries and any additional remuneration for ministerial position or committee membership, they also receive generous parliamentary entitlements of which they freely avail themselves:



The Australian, 5 January 2018:

Australians have endured their longest period of falling living standards in more than a quarter of a century as growth in costs outstripped earnings for the fifth consecutive quarter, leaving households worse off than they were six years ago.

After allowing for inflation, taxes and interest costs, average household incomes dropped 1.6 per cent in the year to September, capping a sustained fall in ­living standards that has not been seen since the 1990-91 recession.

Economists say more than half the cost increases for households are being driven by electricity, rent, health, new housing and tobacco, while modest wage rises are being partially absorbed by workers being pushed into higher tax brackets……

After adjusting for living costs, interest and taxes, average earnings in the three months to September were 0.7 per cent lower than in the same period of 2011, which marked the peak of the ­resources boom.

Over the previous six years from 2005, households had seen an average improvement in their living standards of 17 per cent.

AMP chief economist Shane Oliver said the mid-year budget update delivered before Christmas provided only limited scope for tax cuts.

“To be anything more than ‘sandwich and milkshake’ tax cuts and still maintain a trajectory ­towards a budget surplus by 2020-21, they would have to be offset by spending savings elsewhere. That is where the politics kicks in and the government has had difficulty getting things through the Senate,” he said.

Dr Oliver said if the government was successful in getting the 0.5 per cent increase in the Medicare Levy through the Senate, it would offset the benefit of any tax cut. The Medicare Levy increase is scheduled to start on July 1 next year and increase personal taxes by $3.6 billion in its first year and $4.3bn in the second.

Although living standards stopped rising after 2011, the ­decline since the middle of 2016 is new and reflects both the fall in wage growth and an increase in tax payments.

The ABS Wage Price Index shows a 1.9 per cent rise last year, but this is measured before tax and records the average increase for each job. National accounts show that personal income tax collections are rising much faster than pre-tax wages, partly ­because more wage income is being pushed into higher tax brackets. They show a 4 per cent lift in taxes per capita over the year to September, absorbing 60 per cent of the increase in wage income per person, which rose only 1 per cent.

Much of the very strong ­employment growth in the past year has been in lower paying jobs in the services sector, which has reduced average incomes overall.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Australians with lower incomes are dying sooner from potentially preventable diseases than their wealthier counterparts


The Conversation, 28 November 2017:

Australians with lower incomes are dying sooner from potentially preventable diseases than their wealthier counterparts, according to our new report.

Australia’s Health Tracker by Socioeconomic Status, released today, tracks health risk factors, disease and premature death by socioeconomic status. It shows that over the past four years, 49,227 more people on lower incomes have died from chronic diseases – such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer – before the age of 75 than those on higher incomes.

A steady job or being engaged in the community is important to good health. Australia’s unemployment rate is low, but this hides low workforce participation, and a serious problem with underemployment. Casual workers are often not getting enough hours, and more and more Australians are employed on short-term contracts.

There’s a vicious feedback loop – if your health is struggling, it’s harder to build your wealth. If you’re unable to work as much as you want, you can’t build your wealth, so it’s much tougher to improve your health.

Our team tracked health risk factors, disease and premature death by socioeconomic status, which measures people’s access to material and social resources as well as their ability to participate in society. We’ve measured in quintiles – with one fifth of the population in each quintile.

We developed health targets and indicators based on the World Health Organisation’s 2025 targets to improve health around the globe.

The good news is that for many of the indicators, the most advantaged in the community have already reached the targets.

The bad news is that poor health is not just an issue affecting the most vulnerable in our community, it significantly affects the second-lowest quintile as well. Almost ten million Australians with low incomes have much greater risks of developing preventable chronic diseases, and of dying from these earlier than other Australians.


Read the rest of the article here.

Friday, 10 November 2017

Turnbull Government employment services program a mess


Meanwhile in Australian Minister for Employment and Liberal Senator for Western Australia  Michaelia Cash’s ministerial portfolio…..

The Australian, 31 October 2017:

The Coalition’s flagship $7.3 billion employment services program has been branded a “hopeless mess” with fewer than 40 per cent of unemployed clients finding long-term work, more than a third of job agencies performing so badly they should be disqualified and warnings that fraud may go undetected.

The Australian has uncovered evidence of job agencies inducing or harassing former clients for pay slips from their new employers to claim taxpayer ­bonuses worth thousands of dollars each.

Agencies are handed incentive payments four weeks after a ­client starts a job and again at three months and cumulatively can get up to $13,750 at six months if the client stays in the job.

Fewer than 40 per cent of ­clients remain employed after six months and almost half of the $1.7bn the department spends on the program each year goes on administration.

An analysis by The Australian of the five-year program ­reveals 569 employment services sites out of 1648 around the nation have failed a measure set by the ­Department of Employment that requires their business be reduced or taken away entirely, but only 12 companies have had their share reduced.

The problem is particularly ­severe in Western Australia, the home state of Employment Minister Michaelia Cash, where just 14 per cent of the 107 employment services sites met the grade for service standards. Only two sites were operating above the national average but the department has “deferred” any shake-up of the private companies “to give providers an opportunity to ­improve their performance”.

The bonuses under the re­designed “jobactive” program launched by the Coalition are big business and, in many cases, ­securing them is the only revenue keeping the organisations afloat.

The Australian understands there are active moves within the Labor Party to reconsider the ­entire employment services model, and while opposition ­employment services spokesman Ed Husic was tight-lipped on the issue in August, he admonished the system in a speech to service providers.

“We spend roughly $9bn on government jobs programs, the second largest area of procurement outside of defence,” he said.

“We have 730,000 people out of work … 40,000 employment services consultants and only 20 per cent of the people helped by the government’s jobs programs find work for more than 26 weeks.”

The Salvation Army lost more than $1 million a month in the first 18 months of the scheme launched in July 2015 because it was not qualifying for the bonus payments it needed to.

David Thompson, the chief executive of Jobs Australia, the peak organisation for non-profit providers, said the system was a “hopeless mess”, not “hugely ­effective” and had been run to the advantage of the largest companies.

“On average, the staff who work at these places have a high-school-level education and a caseload of 150 jobseekers,” he said. “That’s average. Some of them have 300 people they have to see in a week. They do not have a ­relationship with anyone. It’s cheap.”….

The department declined to release the names of the companies in the “low-impact breaches” because it said it was “concerned that publishing such information may cause commercial harm to the relevant providers”.

Of the 65 providers contracted to deliver employment support services on behalf of the federal government, the Department of Employment has classified more than 43 per cent of having a risk rating of “extreme or high”.

Of this number, more than half were rated extreme or high due to concerns about their ongoing financial viability, more than one-third due to overall service standards, 28 per cent were deemed compliance risks and ­almost 4 per cent were categorised as being at risk of fraud.

Monday, 25 September 2017

Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! cries Michaelia


This was Australian Minister for Employment and Senator for Western Australia, Michaelia Cash in September 2017:


Sounds great, doesn’t it? However, what Ms. Cash is confirming here is that 74,400 of the jobs she is claiming are in fact only part-time jobs and some would be for as little as half a day per week.


July 2016 – 11.963 million
August 2016 – 11.870 million
September 2016 – 11.910 million
October 2016 – 11.952 million
November 2016 – 12.017 million
December 2016 – 12.106 million
January 2017 – 11.844 million
February 2017 – 12.060 million
March 2017 – 12.079 million
April 2017 –  12.147 million
May 2017 – 12.214 million
June 2017 – 12.210 million
July 2017 – 12.213 million
August 2017 – 12.195 million
September 2017 – not known at this time

Comparing the month of August 2016 with the month of August 2017 then the number of additional persons in employment is estimated at 324,900 people of which est. 75,400 individuals were working part-time.

Perhaps the better figure is for a financial year. The number of additional persons in employment at the end of 1 July 2016-30 June 2017 financial year is estimated at 246,900 people of which est. 184,300 individuals were working part-time.

How many of those part-time jobs were Work For The Dole employment or were PaTH jobs is uncertain. Both these government programs are not known for leading to high levels of permanent employment.


There is also the statistical difficulty that any growth in the number of people employed doesn’t necessarily mean an equal number of new jobs was created during the same period. Some job vacancies were created when workers permanently left the workforce, changed positions within a business or changed employer.

Something Ms. Cash would know full well.

So while the Minister can point to an improvement in employment levels, these levels are not as robust as she would have us believe.

Looking at the numbers since August 2013 Tony Abbott’s promised two million new jobs created within a decade is never likely to eventuate.

While on the NSW North Coast the unemployment rate ranges from 5.4% in Richmond-Tweed to 8% in Coffs Harbour-Grafton in July 2017. The Coffs Harbour-Grafton Labour Force Region unemployment rate continuing as the highest rate in New South Wales.

Saturday, 23 September 2017

Saturday, 16 September 2017

Quotes of the Week


“We’re a middle-of-the-road country with ambitions for change caught in a political culture that’s come to see its mission as preventing the future.” [Columnist David Marr writing in The Guardian, 21 August 2017]

“In addition to the obvious social benefits of having a highly skilled population, maximising training and educational attainment should be an uncontroversial policy aim. Yet the government imposes cuts to trades training, is underfunding school education, ramping up university fees and forcing those who get a degree to pay for it more quickly.” [Research Fellow at Per Capita Stephen Koukoulas writing about unemployment in Australia in The Guardian, 11 September 2017]

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

So you think it's OK to keep voting for your local Liberal or Nationals MP ?


So you think it’s OK to keep voting for your local Liberal or Nationals MP and return them to the federal parliament next year?

That all people on Centrelink income support need to do is pull up their socks and get on with it because many of those Coalition MPs have told their electorates that ‘the best welfare is a job’?

Perhaps it is time to pause and think about the possible relationship between states with low employment opportunities as well as high unemployment levels and states with high working-age suicide rates – and then consider the effect of those punitive welfare policies that first the Abbott and then the Turnbull governments have created or expanded.

Starting with this policy debacle......

ABC News, 15 July 2017:

Fines imposed on welfare recipients in a controversial work-for-the-dole scheme have soared to 300,000 in under two years, prompting renewed claims of poverty and hunger in Aboriginal communities.

Jobless people in remote Australia must work up to three times longer than other unemployed people to receive benefits.

The overwhelming majority of participants in the Community Development Programme (CDP) are Aboriginal.

The latest figures reveal about 54,000 financial penalties were slapped on participants in January, February and March alone for missing activities or being late.

"It's extraordinary," Australian National University researcher Lisa Fowkes said.

"Those 35,000 people have incurred more penalties than all of the 750,000 other Australians in the social security system.

"There is something really seriously wrong with the program, and that's showing up in these figures."

Unemployed people under the CDP must work 25 hours a week to receive welfare payments.


NSW - est. 4 job seekers for every job vacancy
Victoria - est.7 job seekers for every job vacancy
Queensland - est. 8 job seekers for every job vacancy
South Australia – est. 16 job seekers for every job vacancy
Western Australia – est. 10 job seekers for every job vacancy
Tasmania – est. 14 job seekers for every job vacancy
Northern Territory – est. 4 job seekers for every job vacancy
Australian Capital Territory – est. 3 job seekers for every job vacancy

The Australian Bureau of Statistics recorded a total of 2,540 people of workforce age took their own lives in 2015.

The all ages state suicide rates in that year were:

NSW 10.6
Vic     10.8
Qld     15.7
SA      13.4
WA     15.0
Tas     16.3
NT      21.0
ACT    11.6

In 2016 the Australian Youth Development Index reported the state 15-29 year-old suicide rates for 2015 were:

NSW 10.3
Vic     9.7
Qld    12.4
SA     11.6
Tas    13.4
NT     11.2
ACT   9.7

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Causes of Death, Australia, 2015: 

Intentional Self-Harm In Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander People
This section focuses on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander suicide deaths for which the usual residence of the deceased was in New South Wales, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia or the Northern Territory. .....

In 2015, 152 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons died as a result of suicide. The standardised death rate for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons was 25.5 deaths per 100,000 persons, compared to 12.5 deaths per 100,000 for non-Indigenous persons. Suicide deaths also accounted for a greater proportion of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander deaths (5.2%) compared with deaths of non-Indigenous Australians (1.8%). 

In the five years from 2011 to 2015, intentional self-harm was the leading cause of death for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons between 15 and 34 years of age, and was the second leading cause for those 35-44 years of age. The median age at death for suicide in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons over this period was 28.4 years, compared with 45.1 years in the non-Indigenous population. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander females had a lower median age at death than males (26.9 years for females compared with 29.0 years for males). 

Australia's population pyramid is not so balanced that it can afford to lose its teenagers and young adults to an early death from despair.

So why are we tolerating a federal govenment which does its best to grind down some of the most vulnerable amongst them - those who cannot easily find paid employment.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Yet another Liberal-Nationals publicly funded program ripe for rorting by the private sector


Remember the pile on to hoover money from the Research and Development (R&D) Tax Incentive program administered by the Tax Office and the Department of Industry, Innovation and Science or the debacle which is the Vocational Education and Training program?

Well now the Turnbull Government has decided this is great idea. What could possibly go wrong?

HuffPost, 3 April 2017:

CANBERRA – A voluntary internship program, designed to get young people eventually into work, has just been kicked off by the Turnbull Government despite widespread concern about its efficacy and potential for youth exploitation.

Under the Youth Jobs PaTH Program, an unemployed or disadvantage young person under 25 years will be paid an extra $200 a fortnight "incentive" on top of the usual income support payments to complete an internship of between four to 12 weeks….

Businesses partaking in the program will receive an upfront bonus of $1,000 for taking on an intern and get an additional $6,500 if the internship turns into a job.

The Guardian, 3 April 2017:

The Turnbull government launched its Prepare, Train and Hire (PaTH) internship program on Monday despite the legislation for its full implementation being stuck in the Senate.

Implementing the internships without legislation could cost workers up to $42 a fortnight, because the $200 a fortnight they receive for taking on work placements will count as income that reduces their other social security payments.

HuffPost, 3 July 2017:

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull trumpeted a breakthrough for his government's controversial PaTH internship program on Monday, as he unveiled a plan for 10,000 retail interns, but the businesses onboard with the plan have come under fire over previous penalties for mistreating and underpaying workers.

The PaTH plan -- Prepare, Trial, Hire -- was announced in the 2016 budget, designed as a way to get young unemployed people into job training and work experience programs, with a view to getting them off welfare and into paid employment. The job skills training is compulsory, but participating in an internship is voluntary, and completing up to 25 hours a week gives "interns" an extra $200 on top of their existing welfare payments. Businesses that take on interns would also receive thousands in financial incentives.

Unions and workers groups slammed the idea, claiming it would lead to "churn" culture where businesses would stop employing casual or part-time employees who the business itself has to pay, and instead sign up to receive a revolving door of interns who the business not only does not pay, but actually gets paid to take on.

On Monday, Turnbull joined employment minister Michaelia Cash to announce the Australian Retailers Association would "partner" with the government to offer up to 10,000 internships through the PaTH program. News Corp reported that retailers including Battery World, Coffee Club, Bright Eyes and Bakers Delight will participate in the program, but opponents have seized on the recent history of some of those businesses.

"The employers that have signed up to the Youth Path program don't have a good track record treating their workers with respect," said Labor's shadow employment minister Brendan O'Connor and shadow minister for employment services Ed Husic.

"Bakers Delight apprentices, and assistants were reimbursed almost $40,000 after the Fair Work Ombudsman found they were being underpaid. A former Coffee Club franchisee in Brisbane was fined more than $180,000 in penalties for contraventions including an unlawful cash back payment."

The Coffee Club decision was announced on the government's own Fair Work Ombudsman website just two weeks ago.

"The Turnbull Government can't explain how the Youth PaTh program won't displace jobs that could go to full-paid employees. The Government has not outlined how its agreement with retailers will stop subsidised workers from being used by some retailers to avoid paying penalty rates -- by engaging subsidised, so-called 'interns' in penalty shifts that would normally be staffed by employees," Husic and O'Connor said.

SBS News, 4 July 2017:

On Monday, Minister Cash sought to assure potential interns that they would have a decent chance of getting a job at the end of their placement…..

Australian Council of Trade Unions president Ged Kearney said the program offered no path to qualification, employment or workforce protection.

"This is a government-sanctioned program that actually borders on slavery," she told reporters in Melbourne.

"If this does create new jobs, then pay the kids for the jobs. Pay them a wage. They're going to be productive. They're going to be contributing to the bottom line of these businesses."

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Sick and tired of the silvertail Turnbull Government and its mouthpiece Alan Tudge demonising the unemployed in a tight jobs market?


This was 9 News on 13 June 2017, at the obvious urging of Human Services Minister Alan Tudge, indulging in a round of naming and shaming in "Australia's ten worst dole bludging towns and suburbs revealed":

TOP TEN LIST

1. Caboolture, Queensland -
11.4% unemployment March 2017
2. Blacktown, New South Wales -  
east 5.9%, south 6.5% & north 7.3% unemployment March 2017
3. Mildura, Victoria -
7.5% unemployment March 2017
4. Frankston, Victoria - 8.9%, north 11.5% & south 2.7% unemployment March 2017
5. Deception Bay, Queensland -  8.8% unemployment March 2017
6. Werribee, Victoria -
12.2% & south 8.5% unemployment March 2017

7. St Albans, Victoria -  north 16.3% & south 16.3%
8. Dubbo, New South Wales -  south 3.0%, east 3.5% & west 4.8% unemployment March 2017
9. Auburn, New South Wales -
9.5% unemployment March 2017

10. Dandenong, Victoria - 18.5% & north 10.8%

The red annotations are official unemployment rates for these named and shamed locations in the March Quarter 2017, as released by the Australian Dept. of Employment.

If 9 News had resisted the easy path of merely repeating the minister’s dog whistle, it might have given some thought to what these unemployment rates might represent at the coal face.


Is it any wonder then that those with low or no skills receiving unemployment benefits become discouraged over time with repeated rejection and begin to allegedly “miss job interviews and don’t turn up to work-for-the-dole appointments”.

If you want to complain to Human Services Minister Alan Tudge about his cynical dog whistling 'phone (02) 6277.7200 Canberra Office (03) 9887.3890 Electorate Office or email online here.

Thursday, 1 June 2017

How much longer is the Turnbull Government going to keep playing these silly, divisive blame games?


This was the Minister for Human Services and Liberal MP for Ashton, Hon. Alan Edward Tudge, speaking to $300-a-head luncheon guests on 26 May 2017 as they dined on slow-braised osso bucco and blueberry fruit tart washed down with wine courtesy of their host, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA) and Multinational sponsor Serco:
“welfare has become a destination, not a safety net”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, four weeks earlier, in April 2017, 728,500 people were unemployed and looking for work across the nation.
Of these 508,200 were looking for full-time work and 220,300 were looking for part-time work.
Half of all these people will be off unemployment benefits in 4 months or less and only 18.33% of the total number had been unemployed for 12 months or more.
That’s not a bad achievement in a marketplace where the ratio of unemployed people to job vacancies stands at roughly four to one.
Somehow this doesn’t look as though Australians think of living on Centrelink unemployment benefits as a desirable destination rather than as a short-term, below the poverty line safety net.
Which begs the question – just how stupid does Alan Tudge think voters are that he continually spouts such nonsense and expects to be believed.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

A Fair Day's Wages For A Fair Day's Work*: has an employment epoch finally come to an inglorious end?


Looking at the Australian employment market in 2016 and 2017 one has to ask if this country has entered the Era of Exploitation………

ABC News, 1 March 2017:

the Australian economy is currently growing at around 2 per cent per annum. That's about fast enough to keep the unemployment rate steady, but it's not fast enough to create lots of new jobs. To create jobs, it needs to grow at least 2.5 to 3 per cent per annum.

The economy isn't growing fast enough for a whole bunch of reasons, but the big picture is that we haven't been able to transition as smoothly as we would have liked from the mining boom, to an economy being driven by a number of different sectors.

The sectors of the economy that have enjoyed increased activity are healthcare, hospitality, and tourism. These sectors tend to be biased towards hiring part-time workers.

Nine2Three Employment Solutions in Sydney's Sutherland Shire specialises in placing candidates into part-time roles. Managing director, Kathryn MacMillan, say business is booming. Right now, she's placing job seekers into part-time roles including mining, tourism, retail, clerical and accounts-type roles, sales roles and business development.

Ms MacMillan explained to me that she's placing lots of mums re-entering the workforce, and people after just a few days of work a week. Part-time work can also be convenient for students, and for those returning to the workforce after an illness or injury.

You can't ignore, however, the hundreds of thousands of Australians over the past 12 months that have either lost their job, or would dearly like to work more (to help pay the mortgage, utility bills etc.).

We know, for instance, the economy shed 53,000 full-time positions in September last year. Another 44,800 full-time jobs disappeared in January.

It's really quite straight forward. The Australian economy is transitioning, and many workers are getting left behind.

Remember the kids' game, musical chairs? Everyone has a seat to start with. That was the mining boom. The music started playing during the financial crisis, and now that it's stopped, we've noticed quite a few chairs have been taken away. We're now seeing two or three people trying to squeeze onto the same chair in many cases!

Darren Coppin is the chief executive of Esher House. His company spits out all sorts of interest research. He told me recently that this big economic transition has also ignited a bit of a social change.

He explained to me that 30 years ago the man did most of the paid-for work (40 hours a week). Since then millions of women have entered the workforce. During the 1980s and 1990s both men and women were working more, and earning more (excluding the recession).

Recently, however, the economy's been unable to sustain those jobs.

Now, women tend to be working 25 hours a week, while men also work 25 hours a week (in trend terms). So, overall, the household is working more, but because both jobs may not be strictly full-time, the actual combined take-home pay at the end of the day is less.

So yes, you guessed it, overall we're working more, for less pay.

Record low wages growth is also rubbing salt into the wound.

Anecdotally I've met quite a lot of people who are doing their best to make the best of a bad situation.

Many couples with children, for instance, have decided to work nine-day fortnights. That means mum or dad takes one day off each week. That day's devoted to running errands, and, of course, child care... and cooking.

I spoke to a single mum last month who told me she felt quite isolated. She said she spends all of her waking hours working and looking after her child, with no time left over for friends, because the bills keep piling up (child care and rent being the ones that hurt).

While many Australians are working out how to get by, too many are really struggling.

I spoke to a few people last week who told me the decision by the Fair Work Commission to scrap Sunday penalty rate had been a kick in guts.

Mandy Carr, for example, a retail worker on Queensland's Gold Coast, had decided to return to work (post maternity leave) on the Sunday shift so her and her husband could get ahead financially.

She says the decision will cost her $100 each and every week.

There are too many Australians though that are angry... really angry.

They're upset because they'd desperately like to make a go of life. They want a home, and enough money on the side to give their kids opportunities in life. But they're being held back by a job that doesn't offer them enough in terms of hours and/or pay, and the cost of living keeps rising.

There's also the emotional toll that workers face with heightened job insecurity, combined with ever-increasing debt repayments.

The Reserve Bank governor told a Parliamentary Committee last week that the situation households face (having to cut back on spending because of rising costs and low wages) is "sobering".

The recognition of the problem is heartening. At this very moment though, recognising the problem is all we seem to be doing.

Low wages growth is at record breaking level and underemployment is endemic in Australia in this second decade of the 21st Century.

By December 2016 seasonally adjusted wages growth was 1.9 per cent December Quarter 2015 to December Quarter 2016, with growth in the private sector being lower still at 1.8 per cent.

Trend percentages are even more dismal.

In December 2016 the Cost Price Index (CPI) showed rises in the cost of food, non-alcoholic beverages, alcohol, tobacco, clothing, footwear, housing, furnishings, household equipment & services, recreation & culture, education, insurance and financial services – with CPI rises ranging from 1.8 per cent to 5.9 per cent December Quarter 2015 to December Quarter 2016.

According the Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force Statistics in  December 2016 there were seasonally adjusted an:

est. 739,600 people who were unemployed and looking for full-time work – an est. 18,100 more individuals than in December 2015;

est. 3,814,200 people who were working part-time but would prefer to be working full-time – an est. 126,600 more individuals than in December 2015; and

est. 212,500 unemployed people who were exclusively looking for part-time work in December 2016 – an fall of est. 1,100 individuals since December 2015.

In November 2016 there were seasonally adjusted an est. 1,099,400 underemployed individuals - usually working less than 35 hours per week for a wage which does not meet economic needs. That represents an underemployment rate of 8.6 per cent.

In January 2017 there were around 129,800 more people working part-time than there were a year ago and around 40,100 fewer people working full-time and, despite an alleged small growth in full-time jobs in December 2016, the trend unemployment rate still stood at 5.7 per cent for the ninth consecutive month.


Affecting the take home pay of more than 700,000 workers, with those who regularly work Sunday shifts being left between $29 and over $80 worse off every week.

Many of these workers are already employed in industry sectors and regions which often allow only limited opportunity for changing employers.

According to the Internet Vacancy Index (based on a count of online job advertisements newly lodged on three main job boards SEEK, CareerOne and Australian JobSearch) in January 2017 job vacancies decreased in the Northern Territory, south west Western Australia, western Victoria and regional New South Wales - with the NSW North Coast showing a twelve month decline of -2.6 per cent and three month moving average of 1,700 job on offer to suitable applicants.



The effect of statistics such as this on individuals, families and communities are amplified across rural and regional Australia where the job market is usually tighter than in metropolitan areas and, I suspect that many of us living in the NSW Northern Rivers region have friends or family members struggling with poverty-level incomes due to unemployment or underemployment.

* The saying A Fair Day's Wages For A Fair Day's Work appears to have entered the public arena in or about 1839.

Friday, 24 February 2017

Will cuts to Sunday penalty rates become a textbook example of unintended consequences?


ABC News, 23 February 2017:

Let's start by calling a spade a spade. Sunday penalty rates have been cut by the Fair Work Commission. Not "equalised" or "brought in line" with Saturday rates. Cut.

Business, big and small, has been seeking this cut for years, saying Sunday penalties are a legacy of a bygone era where families went to church — one that's costing them a tidy sum.

They also argue it's a legacy that's been costing jobs, with many employers choosing not to open on Sundays, or to maintain just a skeleton staff (although ask yourself, just how many retailers, restaurants, cafes and bars are actually shut on Sunday?).

But the cuts to Sunday penalty rates could become a textbook example of unintended consequences, where a move supposed to increase employment instead hurts the economy and increases business failures and job losses.

Why? Because the hundreds of thousands of retail and hospitality workers affected by this decision are also customers.

What do you think happens when you cut someone's pay packet by as much as 25 per cent for their Sunday shifts?

(For a typical permanent retail worker on the award who always works Sunday shifts this will cut their annual pay by about $3,500).

They either have to work more, or they have to cut their spending to match their new, lower wage.

Given that unemployment is stubbornly high at 5.7 per cent, and underemployment is near record levels, it seems unlikely they'll actually be able to get more work to make up the lost pay — and, remember, these staff already work Sundays, so it's not like they'll benefit from any increase in jobs on that day.

According to the Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) an est. 850,300 people were employed in the accommodation and food industry sector in November 2016 as their main job and another est. 1.25 million people have their main job in the retail sector [ABS 6291.0.55.003 - Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, Nov 2016].

An est. 54.7 percent of female employees in the accommodation/food industry work part-time and an est. 45.3 per cent males do likewise. While in retail an est. 54.6 per cent of females and 45.3 per cent of males work part-time.

In accommodation/food businesses part time employees work for an average of 16.1 hours while in the retail trade part-time employees work for an average of 16.7 hours.

Underemployment appears to be highest in the food and hospitality sector, third highest in the retail sector and females highest in both sectors. [Workplace Gender Equality Agency, Gender composition of the workforce: by industry, April 2016]

Females with only one job were more likely to work on weekends - 73% compared to 68% for males.

These statistics tend to confirm that “hundreds of thousands” of single person and family households will be hit by cuts to Sunday penalty rates as set out in the Fair Work Commission’s 4 yearly review of modern awards – Penalty Rates Decision covering Hospitality, Fast Food, Retail and Pharmacy Awards and, I have no doubt that their loss of income will affect local economies to a significant degree.


Award Sunday Penalty Rate

Hospitality Award full-time and part-time employees: (no change for casuals) 175 per cent -> 150 per cent

Fast Food Award (Level 1 employees only)
Full-time and part-time employees: 150 per cent ->125 per cent
Casual employees: 175 per cent ->150 per cent

Retail Award Full-time and part-time employees: 200 per cent ->150 per cent
Casual employees: 200 per cent ->175 per cent

Pharmacy Award
(7.00 am – 9.00 pm only)
Full-time and part-time employees: 200 per cent ->150 per cent
Casual employees: 200 per cent ->175 per cent

Local and regional economies on the NSW North Coast - where often low levels of employment opportunity combined with the fact that few hospitality/food outlets in tourism-orientated towns and none of the big retail stores currently close on a Sunday anyway - suggest that this wages cut will be nothing more than a straight forward cost saving for local businesses, with no or very little additional full-time, part-time or casual employment eventuating.

That a backlash to the Fair Work Commission decision appears inevitable is indicated by this online poll active on the day the decision was published: