Falling wages fuel social crisis in Australia

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Falling wages fuel social crisis in Australia

By
Mike Head

19 May 2017

Real wage levels are continuing to drop and are now falling at a record rate, according to data released this week by the Australian Bureau of Statistics. The figures provide a partial glimpse of the historic decline in living conditions being experienced by millions of working class people, especially the young and the lowest-paid.

For the year to March 31, overall wage levels rose by 1.9 percent, well below the official consumer price index (CPI), currently 2.1 percent, which itself underestimates the inflation rate for working class households. Even this average wage result, which includes highly-paid salary recipients, masks the extent of the income losses for poorly-paid, often casualised, employees.

The impact was the greatest for workers in the private sector—their average wages rose by just 0.4 percent in the March quarter for a yearly rise of only 1.7 percent. After including bonuses and commissions, which are not counted in the official figure, private sector wages fell by 0.1 percent in the first three months of the year and are only 1.3 per cent ahead of the same time last year.

For public sector workers, the year-on-year rise was 2.3 percent, barely above the CPI.

Wages have been officially falling compared to the cost of living for four years in Australia, partly driven by the collapse of the mining boom, but more fundamentally by the destruction of full-time jobs and the forcing of more and more workers into badly-paid, insecure part-time employment.

This wage-cutting drive, while feeding corporate profits, has been compounded by government social spending cuts and other austerity measures, and the complicity of the trade unions in enforcing pay cuts and the dismantling of…

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