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Senator Cash, Treasurer Morrison, Prime Minister Turnbull

In recent decades Australia has been the envy of the world on jobs and growth. Those days are now long gone. Alan Austin reports.

AUSTRALIA has always maintained high levels of employment and economic growth relative to other countries. Until now.

Through the global financial crisis (GFC, 2008 to 2013), Australia had the best economic growth of all 35 countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). That’s the club of developed mixed capitalist economies comparable to Australia’s.

Now, with the global trade and profits boom accelerating, Australia’s annual growth in gross domestic product (GDP) is just 1.8%. That ranks a miserable 25th out of those 35 economies. That’s well down in the bottom half — below even Spain, Turkey, Portugal, Estonia and Poland, which now average 4.2%.  

But it is on jobs that Malcolm Turnbull has betrayed his citizens most damningly. Australia’s OECD ranking on the jobless rate is down from near top place through the Labor years to 16th now — an all-time low.

Employment Minister Michaelia Cash bragged in mid-September that the monthly jobs figures for August demonstrated:

“ ... the underlying strength in the labour market and highlight [ed] the success of the Turnbull Government’s comprehensive economic plan.”

They did no such thing — unless sneaky statistical deceptions are believed.

Since then, however, the Bureau of Statistics has released its quarterly jobs report with additional data to the regular monthly updates. This proves that what is actually happening is the opposite of what Government ministers claim. [File 6291.0.55.003, 'Labour Force, Australia, Detailed, Quarterly, August 2017'. (Table numbers and column identifiers will be supplied in the comments section on request.)]

People unemployed

In August, 727,450 people were unemployed. This is the tenth consecutive month the total has been at or above 712,000. The last time that happened before the Coalition was elected in 2013 was in the dismal Howard years back in 1997.

Jobless women

This jumped above 346,000 in August, making 14 months above 340,000 out of the 23 months Scott Morrison and Michaelia Cash have been failing as Treasurer and Employment Minister.

The highest this reached during the Labor years was 319,300, during the worst global economic downturn in 80 years. The highest even under the failed Howard/Costello regime was 335,000.

The first Coalition woman to manage the jobs portfolio, Michaelia Cash, has comprehensively dudded the sisterhood.

Explosion in the public service

At the 2010 election, the Coalition pledged to shrink "through natural attrition", the Commonwealth public sector payroll by 12,000. 

In April 2013, Tony Abbott reiterated that promise:

“We will trim the public service and we will stop throwing good money after bad on the NBN.”

Ah, what a kidder! Just in the August quarter, public servants increased by 95,300. In the last three years, since August 2014, the expansion has been 294,400. As a share of the workforce that is up from 12.5% to 14.2%.

What are they all doing? They are not at the Taxation Office catching tax cheats. They are not assisting customers at Centrelink. And they are certainly not stopping the NBN "throwing good money after bad".

This rise masks the reality that the mainstream economy is failing to generate jobs and growth. There is no “underlying strength” whatsoever in the Coalition’s economy.

Workers on one-hour weekly

Employees working just one hour a week still get counted in the numbers – and the percentages – of Australians employed. Last week’s data shows those working one to nine hours per week now number a staggering 704,800 — up more than 63,200 just over the last two quarters.

That represents 5.8% of all workers with jobs. If these were deleted from the job numbers by a redefinition of “employed”, the jobless rate would jump from 5.6% to 11%!

Casualisation of the workforce

The number of workers with only part-time or casual jobs has ballooned recently, in the absence of policies to provide stable careers for those who need them.

The percentage of part-time or casual workers remained steady through the last five Labor years, averaging 29.6%. For the final year, the mean was 29.9%. Through the Coalition period, this has risen significantly to average 31.1% over the four years and 31.8% over the last full year.

The difference – just 1.87% – sounds pretty small. But that is 228,000 extra Australians who do not have the secure, full-time work needed to establish a career, take out a home loan and support a family.

Employees’ hours worked in all jobs

This rarely fell below an average of 30 hours per week throughout the Howard, Rudd and Gillard periods. It averaged 33.6 hours for the last two years of the Howard administration. It then held up remarkably well through the Rudd/Gillard period of global depression, averaging a historically healthy 33.3 hours for the last two years.

It has collapsed during the Abbott/Turnbull years to an all-time low. The latest, for the August quarter, was 32.7 hours, which was also the average over the last two disastrous years.

Underemployment

The number of workers who need to work more hours breached one million in August 2014. It has remained above one million workers for the entire period since, now 13 quarters. It is now at 1,091,000. That’s up from 8.08% of employed persons when the Coalition took office to 8.95% now.

Two economies

This latest jobs data bolsters the conclusions drawn from all other indicators of the wellbeing of the majority of Australians — wages, pensions, cost of living, disposable income, household debt, housing approvals, taxes, charges and others.

These all show Australians are progressively getting poorer.

Meanwhile, under Coalition policies, the very rich minority and the big foreign corporations are grasping more and more of the nation’s vast wealth and expanding income.

Such is Australia’s doom.

You can follow Alan Austin on Twitter @AlanAustin001.

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