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The Coalition denies its dismal failure on jobs

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Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons

Quietly but destructively, Australia’s jobs situation is worsening. Alan Austin examines the latest data.

THE NUMBER of Australians now looking for work climbed to 713,000 in July, the highest in 14 months. More than one million people are underemployed. Tens of thousands of people over the retirement age have been forced back to work.

Why these facts are so appalling is that the last six years – including the last 14 months – have seen the strongest global surge in investment, growth, jobs and profits since World War Two. The vast majority of developed countries have seen the numbers of jobless people plummet and the rate of unemployment tumble. Australia is one of the very few laggards whose jobless rate has barely budged over the last six years of extraordinary economic expansion.

This is illustrated in the silver chart below, which shows jobless rates in July 2013 for the 36 wealthy, developed member countries of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The average was 9.04%. Australia was well below that, at 5.62% and ranked eighth among that group.

Over the six-year period since July 2013, all well-managed economies have seen their jobless rates dive as the global boom has encouraged investment, infrastructure development, retail trade and the flow-on from retail to wholesalers, importers, manufacturers, primary producers, transport, service providers and beyond.

Portugal’s jobless fell from 16.4% to 6.3%, Ireland’s tumbled from 13.7% to 4.6% and Poland’s fell from 13.1% to 5.2%. The average for all 36 economies – as shown in the green chart below – has fallen from 9.04% to just 5.81%.

Clearly, Australia has not benefitted from the global boom. Its jobless rate has declined only marginally from 5.62% to 5.23%. Its ranking has collapsed from a creditable eighth to a miserable 20th in the OECD.

237,000 jobs missing

Since 2013, the reversal of the policies which generated the world’s best-performed economy through the global financial crisis has kept the jobless jammed above 5%. There is no excuse for Australia to have missed out on the surge in jobs happening nearly everywhere else.

If Australia still ranked eighth in the OECD, the jobless rate would be between the Netherlands’ 3.4% and Norway’s 3.6%. In this scenario, the jobless rate would now be about 3.5% instead of 5.23%. That means the number unemployed would be down to about 476,000, instead of the current 713,000. That’s another 237,000 people in productive paid work.

Underemployment

The detailed monthly data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) just released shows workers who need to work more hours exceeded one million for the first time in July 2014. That followed the first of six failed Coalition budgets. It has not fallen below seven figures since. It hit a record 1,161,000 in May this year. It is only marginally below that now, at 1,143,300.

Older Australians forced back to work

The number of workers above the retirement age still having to work jumped alarmingly over the financial year which ended in June. It rose from 542,400 at the start of the year to 610,000 — an all-time high. That’s a hefty rise of 12.6%. It was worse for women, up 14.2% than for men, up 11.6%.

The percentage of Australia’s population aged above 65 now working increased over the financial year from 13.9% to a disturbing 15.1%.

Long term unemployed

Last month’s ABS data shows 163,700 Australians have been looking for work for more than one year. It has been above 150,000 for 65 of the last 67 monthly surveys. The highest this reached during the Rudd/Gillard years was 133,100 — even during the worst global recession in 80 years.

Number of weeks looking for work

Through Labor’s last year, this averaged 36.5 weeks. Over the last 12 months, this has averaged 48.3 weeks — nearly 12 weeks longer.

Public service jobs

The strongest growth sector has actually been government jobs, despite multiple Coalition promises before the 2013 election “to trim the public service.”

The relevant ABS file (which just started in 2014) shows government jobs steady at around 1.5 million from 2014 until mid-2016. That was between 12.3 and 12.9% of the workforce.

By early 2017 this had crept above 1.7 million and 13%. By mid-2017, it was above 14%, peaking in late 2018 above 1.9 million at 15.05%.

This underscores the reality that Australia has not participated in the global boom in corporate investment, jobs, wages and profits.

Continuing Coalition denials

The Morrison Government and the mainstream media do not want Australians to hear the truth about jobs in Australia.

In his speech to the Business Council of Australia last week, Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said:

More than 1.4 million new jobs have been created since we came to office and our employment growth today is more than three times the rate we inherited. Over $300 billion of tax cuts set out in the last two budgets have passed the Parliament enabling Australians to earn more and keep more of what they earn.

Yes, there are more jobs. But nowhere as many as there should be. And no, the changes to the tax regime have not made the jobs situation better but actually worse.

Such is Australia’s doom.

You can follow Alan Austin on Twitter @AlanAustin001.

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