Falling wages point to economic and social reality in Australia


Falling wages point to economic and social reality in Australia

Mike Head

14 March 2018

Over the past two months, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has seized upon statistics showing increases in the number of jobs in Australia, claiming that his government’s “jobs and growth” election slogan of 2016 has become the “big outcome” of 2017–18.

Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) labour market estimates showed that the number of people employed grew by 403,000 in the year to December, increasing the total workforce by about 3.3 percent to about 12.4 million. Turnbull said the result marked the longest run of consecutive monthly job increases since 1978.

Turnbull is desperate to claim some achievements by his increasingly unpopular and unstable Liberal-National Coalition government, while having barely survived the 2016 election. He is seeking to convince the corporate elite that it can still politically deliver an agenda of huge cuts to company taxes and social spending.

In reality, far from “jobs and growth,” the ABS data points to a very different picture—increasing casualisation, a systemic lowering of wage levels and recessionary conditions across entire industries, accompanied by deepening social inequality.

Despite the jobs increase, the ABS unemployment estimate has remained at 5.5 percent. More than 720,000 workers are classified by the ABS as actively seeking jobs. Other surveys put the figure at almost twice that level.

Nearly 70 percent of the employment increase during 2017 was in jobs described by the ABS as “full-time,” seemingly halting a trend of workers being pushed into part-time work. But the “full-time” statistic includes casual workers and contractors, who now make up about 40 percent of the workforce.

Since the 1990s, growing…

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