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Tag Archives: Work

Skip the work and save part and go straight to invest, you’ll be better off

Today Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox is giving a speech in which he will assert that broadening the base of the GST and raising the rate must play a “central role in a [tax] reform package”.

Mr Willox, whilst saying tax reform should not be about “individual self-interest”, advocates the company tax rate be cut to “no more than 25 per cent” in the next couple of years, a reduction in the overall number of taxes, a reduction in personal income taxes that “reduce the incentive to work” and broadening the land tax base to reduce duties on residential properties.

If that’s not individual self-interest I don’t know what is. Mr Willox is paid a lot of money to represent the interests of big business and any pretence otherwise is laughable.

“Tax reform cannot simply be about taking the burden off the rich and placing it on others. But neither should it be about shifting all responsibilities for paying tax to the wealthy,” he will say.

The absolute chutzpah of these people, in the face of the mountain of evidence of tax avoidance by the wealthy and by companies, is astonishing.

Whilst it is true that the top 10% of Australian earners pay about 50% of the total income tax take, they also take home an astonishing 30% of all income with about a quarter of it coming from sources other than wages, salaries and pensions.  The share taken by the top groups has been climbing since the early 80s.

As for reducing company tax, almost a third of Australia’s largest companies are paying less than 10¢ in the dollar in corporate tax as is.  It is also worth noting that the corporate tax rate in the US is 35% as compared to our 30%.

Between 2004 and 2013 some $80 billion was lost through ‘legal’ corporate tax avoidance through the use of subsidiaries in tax havens and so-called “thin capitalisation”, where local entities are saddled with huge debts to reduce tax liabilities in Australia. An overseas arm of the company borrows money at very low interest rates and then lends it to the Australian arm of the company at exorbitant rates.

Almost 60 per cent of the ASX 200 declare subsidiaries in tax havens.

Data suggests that if all ASX 200 companies paid the full 30 per cent rate of company tax, the budget would gain around $8.4 billion more revenue a year.

Turnbull’s three word slogan, “work save invest”, is poor advice. As our taxation system stands, you are far better off to skip the work part, forget saving – just borrow the money, then invest it and sit back.  Your ‘hard work’ and willingness to ‘take a risk’ will be rewarded.  And if things go bad, declare yourself bankrupt so your creditors wear the loss and start fresh with some new risk funded by other people’s savings.


Rebranding Wage Slavery: An Intentional Imbalance

The title of the article, belonging to the Herald Sun, is “Time to Embrace Life’s Imbalance”.

It sits squirrelled away in the bottom corner of page 26 of today’s business section, a measly couple of hundred words. Easy to overlook.

In it, we are compelled by “business consultant” Judy Reynolds to forfeit a good work-life balance and instead adopt an attitude of “intentional imbalance”.

There’s two words we don’t often hear thrown together. I wonder where else we’d like to implement an “intentional imbalance” in our lives?

The article mentions a study by the Australia Institute, which found that the balance between work and life had worsened for nearly five million workers in the past five years. Five million, in five years. That’s nearly the entire population of Victoria. Imagine, as you’re walking around today, that every person you encounter is part of that group, and then marvel at the size of even the small percentage of that five million you’ve witnessed in a single day. In human terms, we’re not talking about a minority.

Although the piece has been penned in the language of choice, there is nonetheless the sneaking recognition that for those five million people whose work-life balance has worsened, the likely scenario was not one of a comfortable selection between option A or option B, with pros and cons to consider on each side, but rather grim acceptance or financial ruin.

Does the author of the article believe that people will voluntarily choose to increase their own suffering and enjoy it simply by changing the way they talk about it? Who among us stands to benefit from longer work hours and increased job insecurity. the two phenomena listed as “main culprits” for the causation of poor work-life balance?

It seems that the blurring of the lines between our work life and our private existence is a source of some discomfort to many employees. Many companies and workplaces now encourage some form of technological linkage with their hierarchy, whether it’s by smartphone, email or through an intranet/employee website. While many upwardly mobile workers use technology after hours to further their careers, this use of communications technologies after hours has also been correlated with an increased reporting of work-life conflict, and it’s really any wonder. Leaving behind the stresses of the workplace when the clock ticks over to finishing hour is I’m sure a feature of the terrain in the vast majority of employee’s minds.

We like to have clear cut boundaries between when we must be “on” in terms of our responsibilities, persona and outward behaviour, and when we can simply relax and be ourselves. The encroachment of business into our private lives in this way seems likely to cause more than a little existential discomfort in a situation that should ideally be free from unwanted external observation or interaction.

In fact, several studies conducted into the effects of work-life balance on the psychological and physical wellbeing of employees point fairly strongly towards a good work-life balance being a stepping stone to enjoying better health.

A study published in the Journal of Social Service Research indicates that “results show that employees who viewed their work schedules as flexible reported higher levels of work-life balance, which in turn were associated with positive paths to well-being.”

Investigations carried out by the Government of South Australia point to the same conclusion. “Work life balance initiatives increase loyalty and dedication, and decrease employee absenteeism, improving client service and enhancing business reputation overall.”

This 2002 study even suggests a benefit for employers:

“Many employees reported clearly benefiting from the flexible policies/practices offered by their organization. HR managers also generally believed that such policies/practices yielded tangible business benefits, including improved employee morale, greater employee commitment and performance, and reduced casual absence and turnover.”

In real economic terms then, supporting employees in their movements towards more balanced schedules gives us happy, committed and productive workers. This seems like a sound investment, a win-win situation that extends beyond the employer/employee dyad and out to the clients and families of the two.

So the question floating to the surface of this muddied pond seems to be, “who stands to benefit from the adoption of an ‘intentional imbalance’ in our work-life arrangements?”, and we don’t have to look far to answer that.

It seems Judy Reynolds is more than comfortable employing doublespeak to gussy up worker suffering.

Rather than addressing the problem itself, namely that five million workers (and more) are dissatisfied with the security of their jobs and the amount of time worked, Reynolds simply entices us to call our suffering by any other name.

The phrase “intentional imbalance” is a re-branding of wage slavery. What it means in real terms, stripped of the doublespeak, is that we are being beckoned by the business community to smilingly accept infringements on our rights at work. We are being told that things are not going to get better, and that rather than calling a turd a turd, we should simply spice it and serve it as gourmet.

Adam Smith’s condemnation of the “vile maxim of the masters of mankind” is as cogent now as it was when it was written. We cannot acquiesce to those who would run the world along the lines of “all for ourselves, and nothing for anyone else”, and this undermining of workers serves to perform exactly that function.

Who benefits from job insecurity? Business, of course, who can simply replace unruly workers with cheap overseas labour should they have the cheek to stand up and exercise their legal rights. They need not even follow through, as the threat of replacement is often more than enough to quash any organised resistance to damaging workplace policies. It may be too obvious to warrant mention, but longer work hours means exhausted workers, and the likelihood of a tired man causing a fuss is significantly lower than that from a well rested individual.

The observant reader will have noticed by now that these negative effects on the lives of workers are anything but good for the economy, so in practice, those businesses without access to government subsidies or the ability to whipsaw labour forces over international boundaries will likely suffer as much as their workers from this justification of abuse.

Ms Reynolds concludes her stunning insights into the topic with the suggestion that we “work out a plan that includes [our] goals for work, family, friends, health and recreation.”

I say we add to that list the direct and active opposition of Ms Reynolds’ absurd attack on the backbone of this country, and that we work to “intentionally imbalance” any attempts to implement it in our own lives and the lives of our friends, family and co-workers.

This article was originally published on the author’s blog, which you can find here.

Work Is Not Just a Four Letter Word!

As a professional actor on the dole once told me that she couldn’t use an audition as proof of looking for work – it had to be an actual job interview.

Now, I have a lot of trouble in working out the distinction between trying out for work in one’s normal line of work and trying out for a job in an area where one isn’t likely to be employed. It could be argued, I suppose, that she was unlikely to be successful in the audition, but then, she was unlikely to be successful in most of the job interviews given that she had very little experience in anything other than acting.

But that’s the way we look at things. If you’re unemployed, you should be suffering.

I spent some time unemployed, in between some casual work as a teacher. And writing. I was reasonably content at the time. The casual work meant that I earned enough. The unemployment payments were handy when I didn’t get work.

“Someone like you should be working!” I was told. (And this is a true story, I’m not making it up to prove some point!)

Why, I wanted to know, when I’d be taking a job from someone who desperately wants it.

“Why should my taxes support you?” they retorted.

Mm, given I’d actually paid some tax as well received unemployment benefits, I reckoned that I was about even, but in order to compare, I asked them: “How much tax did you pay last year?”

Well, it seemed that the business they were a partner in hadn’t actually done that well. and they weren’t all that sure how much tax they’d paid, and anyway that wasn’t the point. The point was that I WASN’T WORKING and I SHOULD BE.

Now, I considered both the teaching and the writing to be work. But something like writing, well, if you’re not being paid, it’s not work. I thought about suggesting that as the business hadn’t made a profit (on paper anyway) that therefore they hadn’t done any work either.

But that’s not how some people perceive work. If you’re doing a potential money making activity that you don’t enjoy, that’s work even if you don’t enjoy it. On the other hand, if you enjoy what you’re doing, it has to make money before anybody will concede that it’s actually work too.

To oversimplify for a moment, both the Left and Right view having unemployment as unfair. The Left feel that it’s unfair that the unemployed don’t have the same opportunities as the employed. The Right feel that it’s unfair that we support them when they’re not making “a contribution”.

But that was the thing that my period of unemployment taught me. The sort of people who are able to use their time wisely are the ones who are often less likely to be unemployed. And if people discover someone who is using their time to pursue their interests and seems quite content not to have a job, it’s a cause for outrage.

Yes, I’m generalising and – as I’m fond of saying – generalisations are always wrong. But I think that we need to start as a society to look at unemployment as part of an economic choice. When governments decide to reduce tariffs, remove subsidies and slash services, unemployment will result. The idea that somehow this crept up, or caught us unaware is ludicrous. The real question is how we manage the situation.

If we take the Holden situation as an example, there is a managed transition for the workers from the jobs that are disappearing to something else. (At least, in theory.) But when we lowered tariffs opened our borders, and embraced technology, we didn’t seem to regard rising unemployment as the direct result of those policies. It was like an unexpected rainstorm, who could blame us for not having an umbrella ready?

As we move back to a ‘work for the dole’ scheme, some will argue that people have an obligation to give something back in order for our support. Others will argue that work is “good for them”. However, I think it’s about time we actually started looking at the unemployed, not as a group, not as the other, but as individuals who have different capabilities and needs. Rather than making decisions for them and about them, perhaps, we could even ask them for some ideas on what should be done.

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