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Australia`s unemployment crisis looks to be long-term

By Christian Marx

Australia now has its worst unemployment figures since 1942. Contrary to the
official (read bogus) government figures of 6%, our real unemployment rate is 11% and rising. Compounding this, a staggering 19% of the workforce is either unemployed or underemployed. (Roy Morgan, 2016).

How did Australia get to this ridiculous situation? Below are the reasons:

1. Globalisation: The modern day workforce and state protection have been systematically eroded by the increasing lowering of import tariffs. This means that while third world countries are paying their workers peanuts, many multinational companies have no qualms in sending all manufacturing overseas. This is wonderful for their bottom line. Gone are the days when tariffs protected local jobs (by putting high taxes on manufactured imports). These protective measures have been systematically watered down by both sides of government.

2. Corporate Control of Government: Pre 1980, national governments had greater power than multinational and large local corporations. This meant that capitalism was regulated and the needs of society were not compromised by unchecked greed. The judicial system, the government apparatus, and strong unions ensured that corporations were largely regulated and monopolies were kept in check. The government was largely protected from corporate hegemony.

Unfortunately, the past 35 years has seen a persistent weakening of government jurisprudence and independence from predatory corporations. Both sides of politics have encouraged this. Politicians are now bribed via dinners, VIP seats at functions, and of course the promised high paying job with said companies, post politics.

3. A Corrupted Media: Media is now controlled by fewer organizations than ever before. The US has just 6 companies controlling the entire media system in 2016. 40 years ago there were more than 50 individual owners of US media. Australia does not fare much better, with a staggering 65% of our news services controlled by one individual! These companies are extremely conservative and push the far-right neoliberal agenda. This ideology consists of selling and privatizing state run assets, attacking unions, weakening social services, and attacking wages and workplace health and safety while enriching the very wealthy at the expense of the majority. Added to this, they push divisive rhetoric deliberately in order to weaken and cause division and distraction.

4. Weakening of Unions: Since the late 1970s, unions have been systematically weakened. This has happened in a number of ways. Firstly, the rank and file never seem to run unions or have any legitimate power. Instead, corporate apparatchiks, such as Bill Shorten are placed in positions of power. Secondly, many of the current union leaders today are groomed by corporate interests and serve as merely corporate mouthpieces for big business. True they may offer a few crumbs for the workers, but generally they will not offer any radical changes to the system.

5. Casualization of Jobs: With the weakening of unions has come the push for increased part-time work and massive casualization. This is a boon for big business, as in the case of casual work, they do not have to pay annual leave, super or sick pay entitlements. Part-time work also means that employers can avoid paying workers paid lunch breaks (since a four-hour shift does not require a break). This is great for business because if they want an 8 hour shift, they just put two part-timers on. This negates the need to give one hour lunch breaks, which they would be required to do if they had one person working an 8 hour shift.

6. Technology: This is sadly going to make more and more jobs redundant. Some researchers estimate that as much as 40% of the American workforce will be automated by 2030! Not just low skilled jobs either. There are now already programs in place for automated computer run solicitors. A case is put into the computer, and the algorithms work out the best case scenario for legal issues, from the millions of cases in the computer’s hard drive. Even some surgeries are now being done by computer operated robots.

The future of a nation with even two thirds of its workers employed is increasingly unlikely. Many are now advocating a universal income stream, which is being trialed in some Scandinavian countries.

Karl Marx predicted the demise of capitalism over 150 years ago with his prophetic words and writings. How can an economy continue to function when many cannot afford to buy the goods and services produced?

Radical change is going to be necessary if we as a nation – and indeed as a planet – are going to reverse inequality. The above points all need to be tackled to varying degrees … but above all the failure of neoliberal economics must be acknowledged and government/media autonomy and independence must be restored, free from corporate corruption.



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  1. Miriam English

    Part time jobs and growth in unemployment. [sigh]

    The town near me has only one growth industry: unemployment companies who siphon off money from the government by pretending to help the unemployed get nonexistent jobs.

  2. John Kelly

    Excellent article, Christian. Re unemployment, the closure of the Ford Broadmeadows and Geelong plants today is a timely warning that things will get worse before they get better….if at all. All Empires fail eventually. The proponents of Capitalism in its present form have driven it into a dead end street. They just don’t know it yet.

  3. Glenn K

    at least the LNP are in power to wear the heat of the shut-down of the domestic auto industry over the next 24 months. Though I’m sure Labor will be blamed.

    what continues to amaze me is how many affected voters agree with the new “employment flexibility”. like a frog in a heating pot of water…..

  4. nexusxyz

    This is only the beginning. Australia will be gutted of meaningful jobs which will have serious flow on effects. The really scary thing is no one is addressing any of these issues. There is no plan and no future strategic national vision.

  5. etnorb

    Agree, entirely with ALL the statements put forward by Christian. This lying, obscenely over-paid & totally incompetent so-called “Federal Government” should abolish ALL these money-grabbing so-called “labor market/job finding/employment” agencies (sic), & “reinstate” the CES! At least then ALL Australians would have equal opportunities to try & find employment. The current “system” (I use the phrase loosely), is NOT going to find too many jobs for anyone. Certainly, not too many full-time positions! All the so-called “job agencies” seem to want to do is to sign-up more unemployed to their books, so that that the effing government can subsidise them even more! As for the requirement for ALL persons going onto the dole to have to wait for ANY period before being able to claim any payment, is just ludicrous & possibly illegal as well! So much for the stupid “jobson growths” Talkbull constantly referred to during the last election campaign.

  6. Kaye Lee

    India and the Philippines are rubbing their hands in glee as the government privatises more and more services whicvh eventually end up in call centres in Asia.

    Great article Christian – one small point, casuals do get paid super provided they earn over $450 a month (at least they are supposed to).

  7. paulmbright

    Great article. There are some real challenges ahead. Digital disruption to the workforce in the future is going to be a big issue if we don’t start pre-planning now. We haven’t done enough in this space – waiting with our head in the sands will not end well.

    We need some real Think Tanks to start planning for this.

  8. Paul

    Great article. There are some real challenges ahead. Digital disruption to the workforce in the future is going to be a big issue if we don’t start pre-planning now. We haven’t done enough in this space – waiting with our head in the sands will not end well.

    We need some real Think Tanks to start planning for this.

  9. WayneM

    Very well written. All of the things cited are the key reasons that workers in Australia have progressively been thrown on the scrap heap. Unfortunately, now that the captains of industry have achieved the level of power and influence they currently enjoy (witness the farcical banking “inquiry” and the mining industry virtually drafting the mining tax legislation), I can’t see any easy way to transition power back to workers.

    The sad truth is that the unholy alliance between big business, the media and governments leaves workers out in the cold.

    And I am not sure that there is enough difference between the vile neo-liberal LNP and Labor. After all, Keating and Hawke are responsible for at least some of the present erosion of worker rights and it was Keating, was it not, who started to dismantle the TAFE system (a job well and truly finished by Howard) and insisted that Australia had to be a more “open” economy. Howard and Work Choices finished the job in a sense, but the genie is well and truly out of the bottle.

    It is said that Tony Blair in the UK was a bigger Tory than Margaret Thatcher and in many ways, Hawke and Keating were the original proponents of the neo-liberal agenda in this country, so I don’t have a lot of hope that even under a change of government, we would see a dramatic reversal of worker fortunes. Moreover, once manufacturing is gone, I can’t see how it can be resuscitated.

    Worse is that I think one of the legacies of neo-liberalism is a society wide greed and personal selfishness that promotes the individual above the greater good. As long as I can buy an SUV; a bigger house than I need and spend money I don’t have on things I don’t need, I can delude myself into believing I am more important than anyone else, so I am not interested in “my taxes” being used to support bludgers and malingerers and to keep manufacturing alive. I deserve to keep all of my money to spend on myself!

  10. Gangey1959

    Well written, and superbly timed article Christian.
    ”jobs and growth” Yeah right.
    @nexusxyz .We have to sort out marriage equality first. Then what to do about the boat people. Then maybe the banks. (And corporate tax) Then there is education funding, who’s to blame for SA’s storms, AUS not winning enough gold medals, coal seam gas, who won Bathurst in a volvo/ mercedes etc etc.
    Once we have all that sorted we’ll get to the stuff like jobs for the common people, and welfare, and you know, important everyday things.
    Some time in the next lifetime.

  11. Glenn K

    I get really tired of the “who started what” – and your comments skate dangerously close to blaming Labor to excuse the LNP. Nevertheless…. what Hawke and Keating may have done was in a different time with different parameters and different objectives. I moved to Australia just prior to the Accords and I was deeply impressed with the government bringing business, labour, and the government all to the table to hammer out a mutually agreeable deal. If only we could have that today……
    But the point I really wanted to make is that went on in the past is interesting from a historical perspective and nothing more. The government of the day needs to take action on the parameters and conditions that exist today and they need to set guidelines to direct what will happen in the future (which can always change and be tweaked by the government of the day). Therefore, no more bullshit about the past and who did what. The LNP have the keys to the house and can control when the lights go on or off. The direction we are taking now is as they intend it to be. I’m tired of this blame game of who came before. Gillard didn’t do it, she got on with the job. Turnbull is setting the direction he wants it to go.
    You comments around “not sure there is enough difference” is just like that fake tradie ad during the election. Saying the party not in power is as bad as the party in power helps the LNP to stay in power. Stuff it – I don’t care if Labor are possibly as bad – I KNOW the LNP are that bad. So they need to be hammered without the apologetic commentary about Labor being in the same boat.
    I certainly agree with your last paragraph. I think the reason why we’re not protesting in the streets like the 60’s and 70’s is that too many voters are just consumers with too many nice shiny things and are being lulled into a false sense of wealth.

    But please, we need to drop the habit of painting Labor and LNP with the same brush as being similar. More realistically (and more recent), if we are going to compare the Rudd/Gillard years with the Abbott/Turnbull years…..there is a world of difference.

  12. brickbob

    One of the first things these neo con bastards did after their win in 2013 was to scuttle the auto makers based on their ideological hatred of unions,they deny it ofcourse along with the gutless syncophantic presstitute media scum.
    The auto makers could have being adapted to produce other things if the car sector really looked like being a no goer,they couldhave produced driverless cars for a start which is where it is heading,a lot of very smart people had some great ideas which the neo cons rejected on twisted ideological grounds,this Govt is insane and the country is going down the gurgler.

  13. Phil

    “the failure of neoliberal economics must be acknowledged and government/media autonomy and independence must be restored, free from corporate corruption”

    I doubt any reading this article would disagree with that statement. But how might it be implemented?

    Those benefitting from the system also control the system through money and bribery – they are not interested in change – for them neoliberalism has been a resounding success – their austerity works against us, while their corruption works for them and it will continue to do so.

    As we search in vain for peaceful solutions, they will continue to amass power, wealth, and dismantle our democracy and pillage society.

    But, since they cannot self-regulate, and because the only common element to their cause is rampant greed, they will over-shoot, and then what?

    History shows us what happens when the majority is pushed past tolerance – that time is approaching fast.

  14. Jaquix

    Glen K – exactly so! Drives me nuts all this “both the same” talk. Especislly when the media do it – instead of laying blame where it rightly belongs. The Libs have had 3 years now and what have they achieved? Just back pedalling and mucking around, wasting time fixing their own incompetencies, or poorly thought out pre-electon policies. Julia Gillard had Rudd sniping behind the scenes, a hung parliament and Abbott’s vicious Ditch the Witch stuff, yet in 6 years she got some big things through, including Gonski for education, NDIS revolution for the disabled, and the National Broadband Network using fibre. The Libs will never come close.

  15. Glenno

    Joe Hockey and Tony Abbott back in 2013 goaded the car-manufacturers into leaving and guess what, that’s what is happening. All because their sterile ideology that it’s not the place of government to “bail out” or assist companies. The result now is catastrophic, with thousands of workers losing their jobs. The cost will be monumental compared to the $50 million I think Holden was seeking. How is it possible that a continent like Australia, a long way from everywhere doesn’t manufacture its own cars?

    It’s absolutely disgraceful and Hockey is rewarded with a plum job in the US?! How Tony Abbott was ever elected to be PM is a total mystery and will be looked back on with great shame and embarrassment. The fact that Turnbull, a supposed small L Liberal with progressive views, has taken over and done absolutely nothing but continue the extreme conservative and neoliberal agenda is a tragedy. What a period of shame this in Australia’s history.


    I have to agree with most of your comments. Not until there is a rush of business collapses, bank foreclosures will the LNP realise something is wrong. They are still on the crest of a delusional wave. The first of the car industry closures happened today with the snowballing affect on secondary businesses on the brink. Then there is SA to follow. The LNP are too busy navel gazing and concerned about there own jobs to understand the deep problem that I believe will be apparent within 12 -18 mths. Many from Ford will receive substantial payouts but most will not be either prudent enough to manage this golden egg well and/or will be conned into unwise financial investments by unscrupulous brokers (possibly from a bank) and/or decide to open their own business for which they will be bankrupt within 2 years. Living in a provincial town, a seachange area, how often in the past 22 years have I seen disaster after disaster. The insolence and arrangance of major coys. offshoring manufacturing will do them no good in the end. I, along with many have simply stopped shopping for clothes and unnecessary junk. We all have too much, there is no quality in goods today, clothes are labelled in sizes for multiple countries, clothing listed as linen when really just dressed cotton and when washed falls to pieces and goods are not cheap, rather prices are inflated and any sale price is the real price so unless one waits for sales they are paying far too much for nothing than total crap. While my inbox is choked everyday from various retailers I delete all without reading. The next to go is my Qantas cash card. The next thing that will be investigated. Any complaints are dealt with by some twat plum in the mouth Pom or a poor English speaking poorly paid Filipino. It took 10 days for my money to be returned to my account and only after 4 complaints and a threat to complain to the authorities. Interesting how banks take it out of your account straight away. Sadly I cannot see a good outcome. if people are poorly paid, have only enough for essentials, the circulating money trail stops.

  17. Barb

    There’s a movement in the US, called the ‘YouEconomy’ which is changing how people work. Today, the 9-5 company man is out, the entrepreneur is in. One-third of U.S. adults have earned income as part of the YouEconomy in the past 12 months. (Success Magazine survey conducted online by Harris Poll, May 2016) Digital technologies have levelled the playing field making it possible for people to start a side venture, explore a new career, or create their own business with minimal risk. Canada and Australia are a lot alike in their political concerns. I live in Canada and have been a part of the YouEconomy to supplement our income…pension money isn’t what it once was. Opportunities to make money in the YouEconomy are endless, from freelance gigs to direct selling and sharing services, you can make a little or a lot, without giving up your day job. Five standout businesses that offer serious income potential are UBER, TaskRabbit, Upwork, Etsy and Nerium International. ‘Direct selling is one of the most attractive and promising options in the YouEconomy.’ (Success Magazine) Airbnb is another business that is taking charge. Projections are that by the year 2020, 70% of the households in the U.S. will be a part of the YouEconomy. It may be same in Canada and Australia too.

  18. Harquebus

    The pursuit of infinite growth on our finite planet was always going to end badly. The ideology behind this endeavor is madness and its advocates are just plain crazy.
    Worse is yet to come and will include hunger.

  19. Trish Corry

    Glenn K – I just read you 8.44 comment. I am having a drink tonight and with every glass of wine I pour I will be raising a glass to you! I a may even learn how to do sculpture and make a statue in your honour. Thank you.

  20. Klaus Petrat

    Another very good article about the true state of the nation. I can’t help it but I get the distinct feeling that

    1) under the LNP the ABS statistics have been miss-reported at best, falsified at worst. I can’t rely on any numbers they dish out, be it first home ownership, unemployment, homeless people etc.
    2) Many Australians continue to support (49% according to recent polling) the LNP despite the havoc they wreck with Australian society
    3) They are vastly overpaid, under performing and Australia as well as the MSM is watching
    4) The AFP is seeming to do the governments bidding as was pointed out this week by AIM. And no MSM outrage.

    What is going on here? Why is nobody on the streets? Why is Malcolm ripping off the system without any scrutiny? The budgy 9 seems to make more news then the AFP being an extended executive arm of the government.

    In other countries, that is called fascism.

    They are allowed to maintain concentration camps. That happened before. Just as in Nazi Germany, no Australian (or a few) goes to the streets on this.

    Why is this all happening in Australia without anyone going to the streets.

    The superannuation/pension/travel expenses needs to be stripped from politicians, at least to an acceptable standard, in conformance with performance.

    I don’t have any answers but to support Getup, AIM etc. and share as many articles on Facebook as I can.

    This rort by the real leaners in the country, the government has to be stopped. I call it actually as it is, the Government is not for the people, it commits high treason on a daily basis.

    I am furious. The ALP/Greens need to organise demonstrations with specific topics.

  21. John

    Glenn K

    I don’t think we are allowed to protest in the streets like we did back in the 60’s and 70’s. The LNP have stifled freedom of speech (except from the Murdoch media) and any organised protest would be considered a unionised event.

  22. Christian Marx

    Thanks for all the feedback guys. It is heartening to know I am not alone in my concern for the future.
    Unfortunately an article like this will never get published in a mainstream publication. I doubt even Fairfax would publish it.
    It goes to close to the bone and exposes our corrupt capitalist system. The gatekeepers would never allow the masses
    to learn the truth.

  23. Niall McLaren

    For Christian: I totally agree with the notion that this country is being gutted (see but what is the pay-off for those who are organising it? I understand the subsidy to motor vehicle industry is of the order $300million but it supports 200,000 jobs. If those subsidies are stopped, the dole bill will be very much larger than $300million. Somebody must be making a packet out of this otherwise, by the so-called laws of the market, it wouldn’t happen. Follow the money trail? I’d be interested in your thoughts.

  24. king1394

    Why don’t we go on the streets? Maybe because we can’t afford to be unavailable for the occasional 3-hour shift that forms our employment.

  25. Christian Marx

    Hi Niall, sorry for the late reply. The trade off is extracting more and more profit for the top 1-2%. Offshoring of jobs is an ideal way to make huge profits on slave Labour in third world countries. The same with privatization of essential services. The private companies massively raise their fees, and gut the quality of service. In the case of the job agencies they also suck taxpayer money as a subsidy. It is pure parasitism.

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