In October last year, Minister for Employment Michaelia Cash issued a media release about the China Free Trade Agreement.
“The landmark China-Australia Free Trade Agreement will unlock immense benefits for Australians for many years to come,” Minister Cash said.
“As well as adding billions to the economy and drive higher living standards for all Australians, this deal will ensure thousands of jobs are created across all States and Territories.”
“It greatly enhances our competitive position in key areas such as agriculture, resources and energy, manufacturing exports, services and investment – these are industries that already generate many jobs but importantly they are sectors where we will see extraordinary opportunities for future jobs growth.”
Sounds good, until you read a report issued by the Minister’s Department of Employment last month titled the Employment Outlook to November 2020 which states that, for the five years to November 2020, employment in manufacturing is projected to decline by 45,700 (or 5.3 per cent), mining by 31,900 (or 14.1 per cent), and agriculture by 9,400 (or 3.1 per cent).
The largest fall across all sectors is projected for Motor Vehicle and Motor Vehicle Part Manufacturing (down by 27,500 or 58.3 per cent), following the announced plant closures by major car manufacturers. A number of other sectors in Manufacturing are also projected to decline such as Clothing and Footwear Manufacturing (5,600 or 34.6 per cent), Other Fabricated Metal Product Manufacturing (4,900 or 7.7 per cent) and Furniture Manufacturing (4,100 or 11.6 per cent).
The report also shows that, despite advertising campaigns by billionaires and compliant politicians suggesting otherwise, mining contributed only 11,300 to employment growth over the last five years and the future is not rosy.
Employment is projected to decline for a number of mining-related sectors. The largest decline is projected for Coal Mining (8,800 or 20.5 per cent), reflecting weak global demand. Employment is also projected to decline in Metal Ore Mining (7,900 or 11.9 per cent), Exploration (6,700 or 18.0 per cent), Heavy and Civil Engineering Construction (4,800 or 6.5 per cent) and Other Mining Support Services (3,000 or 15.4 per cent).
As Barnaby Joyce talks about how well he has done with record prices, Sheep, Beef Cattle and Grain Farming is projected to record one of the largest falls over the period (14,000 or 16.3 per cent).
Over the past few decades the Australian economy has continued to shift away from lower skilled jobs towards a higher skilled, service based economy and this trend is projected to continue over the five years to November 2020, with the strongest employment growth, in percentage terms, projected for those with Diploma or higher qualifications.
The employment level of Labourers is projected to fall by 14,600 (or 1.3 per cent) in the five years to November 2020. Overall, the majority of the occupations projected to decline fall within the lowest skill levels, where seven of the bottom 10 occupations have a skill level commensurate with a Certificate III or lower (for example Product Assemblers and Bookkeepers). The remaining three of the 10 bottom occupations have a skill level commensurate with Certificate IV or Certificate III with at least two years on-the-job training (Secretaries, Structural Steel and Welding Trades Workers and Metal Fitters and Machinists).
What is the government’s plan for jobs for these people?
Australia’s largest employing industry sector – Cafés, Restaurants and Takeaway Food Services, also supported by domestic tourism and further increases in international arrivals, is projected to make the largest contribution to growth over the five years to November 2020 (up by 84,300 or 14.9 per cent).
The largest projected occupation increase is for Sales Assistants (General) (up by 65,800 or 11.9 per cent), the bulk of whom are employed in Retail Trade. Healthcare workers and carers are strongly represented with employment projected to increase by 51,400 (or 20.0 per cent) for Registered Nurses, 43,000 (or 30.6 per cent) for Aged and Disabled Carers, and 39,000 (or 26.1 per cent) for Child Carers.
It should be noted that this government wants to cut penalty rates, have already blocked wage increases for aged and child care workers, and have slashed hospital funding, all of which will impact on our biggest projected growth occupations.
Structural changes in the labour market favour service industries which tend to be concentrated in eastern capitals. Employment in metropolitan areas is projected to increase by 9.5 per cent over the next five years, compared with 5.8 per cent projected for regional Australia.
At the more detailed regional (SA4) level, employment growth is projected to be strongest (in percentage terms) in Sydney – North Sydney and Hornsby (up by 35,200 or 15.1 per cent) and Sydney – Eastern Suburbs (23,600 or 14.4 per cent), while the largest projected increases in employment (in thousands) are for Melbourne – Inner (48,400 or 13.9 per cent) and Gold Coast (35,700 or 11.4 per cent). By contrast, employment is projected to fall by 300 (or 0.7 per cent) in South Australia – Outback and very weak growth is projected for Queensland – Outback (100 or 0.2 per cent) and Western Australia – Wheat Belt (600 or 0.9 per cent).
The free trade agreements were supposed to create jobs. Lord knows, they tell us that often enough, but the facts show otherwise. It is apparent that the FTAs will exacerbate low-skilled and regional unemployment, hitting those who are least resilient and most likely to sink into poverty. It’s all very well to talk about breaking the cycle of welfare dependency but this government is actively destroying jobs and industries as they entrench the interests of major corporations at the expense of ordinary citizens.
And Malcolm’s coup has done nothing to turn things around despite his “jobs, jobs, jobs” rhetoric.
Over the first six months of 2016, the pace of employment growth has slowed considerably, with the level of employment rising by just 0.4 per cent. The decade average growth is 1.8% per annum (this period includes the GFC).
In monthly terms, the latest ABS Labour Force Survey showed a trend employment increase between July and August 2016 of 0.08 per cent, which remains below the monthly average over the past 20 years of 0.15 per cent. The rate of growth in employment has remained below this average for the past eight months. The trend underemployment rate increased to a series high of 8.6 per cent in August 2016.
Ian Verrender sounds a warning on the Drum pointing to the Productivity Commission’s findings that free trade agreements – especially bilateral deals – do very little in improving trade. In fact, they can be downright damaging. The Australia-US Free Trade Agreement, signed a decade ago, now costs about $US53 billion in lost trade per annum.
As Turnbull and Bishop lecture the Americans about the TPP, it should be understood that it has very little to do with free trade creating jobs – moreso extending monopoly powers of American corporations, while maintaining tariffs and quotas for US farmers, and entrenching power and governance among the wealthy.