By Denis Bright
The 2021-22 Budget will offer positive trendlines on the extent of economic recovery even after the removal of JobKeeper support on 28 March 2021. Only time will tell if the recovery is sustainable. Return to that traditional rhetoric about the horrors of debt and deficit will inevitably follow the re-election of the federal LNP for a fourth consecutive term.
The mainstream media has currently written off the likelihood of an early spring election in 2021. Scott Morrison’s media advisers will be scanning the polls for the emergence of any winnable scenarios before the early signs of economic recovery are more thoroughly tested.
Trends in employment data will of course be mobilized to assist in the re-election of a federal LNP Government that is not derailed by too many senate cross bench members. The numerous cross-bench senators from 2016 will be up for re-election in the next half-senate election. That election in 2016 secured a loss of three senators to the LNP and a temporary rise in support for One Nation (+4) and the Xenophon team (+2).
Employment data from March 2021 can be used to offer the halo possible economic recovery.
The current shallowness of this better employment data from March 2021 can be qualified by a more detailed analysis.
|Feb-21||Mar-21||Monthly change||Monthly change (%)||Yearly change||Yearly change (%)|
|Unemployment rate||5.8%||5.6%||-0.2 pts||na||0.4 pts||na|
|Underemployment rate||8.5%||7.9%||-0.6 pts||na||-0.9 pts||na|
|Participation rate||66.1%||66.3%||0.2 pts||na||0.4 pts||na|
|Monthly hours worked in all jobs||1,762 million||1,800 million||38 million||2.2%||22 million||1.2%|
Graph from abs.gov.au
A Closer Look at the Employment Trendlines
The global unemployment rate of 5.6 per cent nationally always grossly underestimates the real extent of the unemployment problems. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) defines a person who is unemployed as one who, during a specified reference period, is not employed for one hour or more, is actively seeking work, and is currently available for work. It excludes people on training programmes authorized by employment agencies and periods of temporary illness faced by job-seekers like other members of the wider community.
Despite the upbeat interpretation of the March unemployment data by Minister Stuart Robert, full-time employment fell by 20,800 during March 2021. The increase in employment was due to the increase in part-time jobs to a record high of 4.2 million Australians. This represents 13.5 per cent of all employment and of course includes both preferred and involuntary part-time employment. Involuntary underemployment is increased in Queensland, Tasmania and the Northern Territory and was stationary in SA which has the worst unemployment rate of 6.3 per cent plus an underemployment rate of 8.6 per cent.
Our leaders should be quizzed more critically through the mainstream media on the extent of involuntary part-time employment.
Employer organizations have funded this 24/7 site to assist businesses to navigate the quite weak controls of the Fair Work Commission over workers’ rights in neoliberal workplaces:
More details were requested about Employsure but without success. Its office location is Level 1 at 180 Ann Street in Brisbane’s CBD. I will check out next week and offer a comment as a postscript to this article.
A range of corporate businesses and the Federal Department of Home Affairs are also there to check out the details of prospective recruits for vacant positions. Firms like the Barrington Group with its overseas corporate links are always prepared to assist Australian employers:
Background checking is essentially a security screen for job candidates, especially for applicants seeking a position that requires high security or a position of trust. These employees will often go on to be trusted with sensitive company information and company assets, including financial assets. Failing to check their background thoroughly could result in major issues down the road – both in terms of financial and reputational damage.
Conducting personnel checking in an Australian business also relays the message that your organisation values honesty and integrity – laying the expectation for these values to present themselves at every level of your business.
The Department of Home Affairs has a well-established Employment Suitability Clearance (ESC) which invites your perusal if you are seeking that highly paid dream job.
Barringtons boasts of its associations with the federal government in Australia to assist with the clearance of applicants for sensitive jobs.
On the other side of town, major service providers have a preference for low wage part-time casual employment in key service industries such as security, traffic control and road maintenance. It extends to sub-contracting for the delivery of essential services.
Progressive Australians would be well aware of the extent of injustice in these casual workplaces. Without high rates of trade union membership, casuals work without sick leave, holiday pay and at home sites are offered a thirty-minute lunch break without pay. Casual workers have to endure these work sites for years without any improvement in conditions.
Federal funding for the states and territories is so tight that our state governments are still on the receiving end of traditional anti-debt and deficit policies from Canberra.
Queensland received no financial assistance for its cross-river rail project with construction work in the early stages on new inner-city underground rail stations at a cost of over $6 billion over several years.
Last year’s federal budget figures showed that the prospects for improvements in funding for the states and territories from specific purpose grants are not increasing fast enough to meet reasonable delivery costs.
Queensland hospitals are under real strain from an increasing popularity of access to free hospitals for hospitalization and out-patient services as patients are out of pocket at most private clinics which cannot survive permanently on current levels of Medicare remuneration for totally bulk-billed services.
GST entitlements to the states and territories will add a temporary positive hue to public finances. These additional allocations to GST will add an additional $70-75 billion to allocations to the states and territories for 2021-22. The likely positive trends in GST allocations are linked to the benefits of additional iron ore sales to China.
In previous federal budgets prior to the arrival of COVID, the federal LNP was keen to erode its revenue base with overly generous taxation concessions and tax avoidance protocols to its corporate and private household support bases. This year Treasurer Frydenberg promises to be more even handed with less talk of debt and deficit.
Let’s see what happens next week when the federal budget is delivered for 2021-22. Regardless of the next election date, it is likely to be the last budget before the national elections. Expect a soft-sell approach from a plan to gain re-election without the distraction of too many cross-bench senators.
Denis Bright is a member of the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA). Denis is committed to citizen’s journalism from a critical structuralist perspective. Comments from insiders with a specialist knowledge of the topics covered are particularly welcome.
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