Underemployment and low wage growth still a concern

OpinionRecent labour force figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that underemployment remains a serious concern and employment growth is slowing. This is in addition to the stagnation of wages which has occurred under Turnbull and his Liberals.

While federal Labor welcomes the decrease in the unemployment rate to 5.4 per cent, we note that there are now 714,600 unemployed Australians, with 19,900 more people lining the unemployment queue than when the Abbott-Turnbull Government was first elected.

We also note that full time jobs decreased by 20,600 and part time jobs increased by 32,600, and there are 1.1 million Australians wanting more work but not being able to find it.

When coupled with the number of unemployed, it means there are more than 1.8 million Australians who are under-utilised in the labour force.

The quarterly data shows the labour underutilisation rate remains too high at 13.9 per cent. The underemployment rate has now increased to 8.5 per cent.

While Turnbull may try to boast about jobs figures, the truth is the facts are more complicated. The increase in employment over the last five years is comparable to that seen under the former Labor government between 2007 and 2013, notwithstanding that during that time Australia went through the worst global financial crisis this generation has seen. Labor achievements – such as the NDIS and significant infrastructure investments – continue to be key drivers of increased employment in the economy.

Under Malcolm Turnbull and his Liberals, Australians are suffering with insecure work, stagnant wages and skyrocketing cost of living pressures.

Even the governor of the Reserve Bank, Philip Lowe, has spoken of weak wages growth, commenting that “beyond these purely economic effects, the slow wages growth is diminishing our sense of shared prosperity”.

Turnbull and his Liberals have failed to acknowledge these challenges, let alone come up with any policy initiatives to deal with them. Instead, they support cuts to wages through slashing penalty rates, argue against increasing the minimum wage, and focus all their energy on advocating for an $80 billion tax cut to the big end of town.

Brendan O’Connor MP
Shadow Minister for Employment & Workplace Relations

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