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The Future of Work. Part one. The Australian Motor Industry.

I think we would all agree that work is a good thing. I have practiced it all of my life. To a substantial degree it formed a large part of who I became. I was diligent and loyal to whoever employed me. I always demanded a rewarding salary commensurate with what I thought my abilities were. I was unfairly sacked once and immediately formed my own company. I employed others and I demanded of my staff the same principles I had shown as an employee.

For the final 25 years of my working life I experienced the ups and downs of running a small business. Balancing the needs of my business while at the same time harmonising the needs of those I employed was a constant juggling act.

Sacking someone is an unpleasant experience. When I was first required to do so I was filled with trepidation. I sought advice from a friend. ‘There is no best way. However you do it, ‘do it with dignity’ he said.

Later this year many thousands of men and women in the Australian Motor car Industry will lose their jobs. All will be faced with the heartbreak of it. The indignity of not having a job will hit some to the point of suicide. There will be no dignity in their dismissals. How will they find work? How will they feed their children, pay the mortgage. It is a frightening prospect for many.

Ford is due to close its operation this year. General Motors and Toyota in 2017. However, given that new models take on average six years from start to finish and there are no new models on the drawing boards their closures are likely to be brought forward. Already designers and engineers are being laid off.

It is estimated that when all the plants close 12,500 people will join the dole queues. It may prove to be just the tip of the iceberg. When those who supply the components close it will add another 33,000 people.

A school of thought came up with a six-to-one multiplier effect, subsequently endorsed by the 2008 Brack’s report on the car industry. Senator Nick Xenophon ​calculated, using this method that there will be between 150,000 and 200,000 people out of an automotive-related job.

And if as The Department of Industry suggests 930,000 people are employed in manufacturing. So if 200,000 automotive workers lose their jobs that will represent more than 21 per cent of the entire manufacturing workforce.

A loss of jobs of this magnitude will have a disastrous effect on our economy. Not only on the unemployment levels but welfare payments and manufacturing levels. The trade deficit will rise because we will have to import 150,000 vehicles we will no longer produce. 3.8 billion the money car manufactures had intended to invest in new models will also be lost. In addition $1.5 billion will be lost in income tax receipts from workers in just one year. And remember that Toyota did export 90,000 vehicles to the Middle East.

According to Ian Porter (a manufacturing analyst and a former business editor of The Age) soon after the next election, assuming Turnbull runs the full term, 200,000 people will hit the dole queue.

When those people lose their spending power and start drawing on the public purse, there will be a recession all right. It’s just a question of how deep, and for how long’

He may or may not be correct about a recession. And of course given the ABS has, given the complexity of its methodology, a great deal of difficulty with its forecasts we may never know the real unemployment figures.

Having said that, Morgan Research who use a different methodology to measure unemployment say that it is 9.7% as opposed to the ABS 5.8 The number of people in the workforce now totals 13,007,000 (up 106,000 since December 2014), and 11,751,000 Australians are employed (up 252,000 since December 2014). Meanwhile, the number of people who are under-employed has risen by 188,000 in the last 12 months, to a record 1,434,000 (11 per cent of the workforce).

What is being done to counter these job losses and the destruction they will cause to the fabric of society?

Some of course will be absorbed into other areas but talking up the slack will not be easy. Other than a call from the Prime Minister to innovate more and be confident in the future, in practicable terms it seems little is being done.

The problem of course doesn’t end with job losses in the Manufacturing Sector. Have you thought about what 3D Printing, robotics and as yet undiscovered advancements in science and technology will do to the job markets of the future?

Authors Note. Statistical figures for this piece acquired from an article by Ian Porter.

The Future of Work. Part two. Jobs in the Technological Future.

Another thought.

‘Science has made in my lifetime the most staggering achievements and they are embraced, recognised and enjoyed by all sections of society. The only area that I can think of where science is questioned is the religious fever of climate change doubters and unconventional religious belief.’



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  1. Terry2

    Hi John

    GM have already indicated that they will shift their Australian production to South Korea. They note in this article the Free Trade agreement between Australia and S Korea as being one of the factors influencing their decision – thanks Andy Robb – as well as the high Australian dollar at that time – but no longer.


    They don’t mention the hostile political climate or the withdrawal of government subsidies (also known as co-investment) but there is no doubt that the Abbott government provoked them into withdrawing from Australia.

  2. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    John Lloyd,

    I understand the defeat of the car industry by the LNP Government forebodes further pressures on our dwindling employment opportunities as more people join the dole queues and languish in the uncertainty of welfare.

    New industries are needed to take up the slack. Why not promote a solar car industry? Or better still, solar rail industry so that we can use the demise of the car industry pro-actively by promoting better forms of everyday transport. Mal tells us to think agilely so now is the time to be doing it.

    Manufacturing needs a boost so renewable energy industries are the ethical options. But don’t just think what the big, accepted examples of what alternative manufacturing could be. Why not think of the improvements to existing everyday items that currently don’t take into account our aging Australia and how people would prefer to stay in their own homes if everyday tasks were made easier for them to perform?

    I have become acquainted with the trials and tribulations of trying to get a product up and running. Turnbull’s LNP and the alternative Government would do well to revise aspects of the patenting system, particularly where there may be international interests, so to protect innovative home-grown Aussie ideas. That would give everyday Aussies improved everyday choices thus enhancing homegrown Aussie industries and diverse job-creation suitable for all demographics, including mature-aged people.

  3. metadatalata

    Malcolm tells us to think agiley but has no interest in what we come up with. The renewable energies industry is the obvious one but LNP are hell-bent on decimating it in favour of coal and gas powered generators now owned by their masters. There is no incentive to come up with any alternative vehicle manufacturing in Australia as it will go against the FTA that the LNP/Labor gave to Korea and China in exchange for politician’s guaranteed income for the rest of their lives through future corporation board positions.
    Really I don’t see the LNP or Labor government as being a solution; more they are and will continue to be a facilitator of the problem.

  4. Cayman Mal

    It’s all well and good for mal to promote his innovation and agility, but for most in the auto industry who are about to lose their job, they don’t have the skills, knowledge, experience, or money to innovate or be agile.

    Most will have to survive on their redundancy pay (if they get any) until they find alternative work as they will be ineligible for any support from the government – except the high profile employees of Holden, Ford and Toyota. Those in the supporting industries will get nothing!

    From personal experience, I know how difficult – impossible – it is to find alternative work when one loses their job in their early to mid fifties!

  5. JohnB

    Just a reminder folks, the pullout of the car industry started when LABOR were in government.
    It was not going to stop once the first one (Ford) announced they were pulling out.

  6. king1394

    In 1948 when the first Holdens rolled off the assembly line the Labour Prime Minister Ben Chifley was there to proudly take some of the glory for Labour’s visionary support for manufacturing in Australia. I’m hoping that when the doors shut for the last time, the Liberal Prime Minister, and his fellow economic geniuses from the Liberal party, responsible for the removal of support for the vehicle manufacturers, will be lined up to have their photographs recorded for history.

  7. win jeavons

    My husband and I are in our 80’s living on savings from low paid ( relatively ) but secure jobs. With a son now retrenched, in his mid-50’s we will likely have to help support him as very few get new work at that age. We could grow some food, but we are in drought . We might have been eligible for a part pension, but this mean-spirited bunch of self-servers lowered the assets level, even as costs keep rising. Any one who votes for this govt. contributes directly to the insecurity and misery of decent citizens . I hope they have consciences!

  8. Catriona Thoolen

    I am still blaming the Button Plan for the demise of our auto industry. It was doomed from the beginning of the removal of protective tariffs, which many other countries still have, to protect their industries and jobs.

  9. terry

    not too mention 457 visas

  10. Matters Not

    about what 3D Printing, robotics and as yet undiscovered advancements in science and technology will do to the job markets of the future

    A CEDA Report suggests that 40% of existing jobs will disappear in the foreseeable future. And those ‘existing’ jobs will extend far beyond the low paid, low skilled jobs to include accountants, real estate agents, dentists and even some of the roles now performed by doctors. Those with ‘law’ degrees are already a dime a dozen and that over supply includes psychologists, optometrists and indeed so many areas that demand even post graduate work.

    Imagine the impact of the driverless vehicles, including trains and most probably planes. The Uber revolution will be nothing compared with what’s on the technological horizon.

    The problems are many. They include the fact that labour displacing technology is owned by the few who have the capital and who will therefore reap enormous rewards which extend far beyond ‘income’ to include ‘power’ and ‘control’. This ‘wealth’ will not be shared. The evidence is ‘in’ that they will not pay taxes and the like.

    Sure we can create countless jobs in the virtual ‘morrow. Very simple. Put limits on the use of certain technologies. Replace bulldozers with buckets and shovels and the like. Become modern day luddites and destroy the technologies that displace us and deskill us. But that would be a road to stupidity. And certainly not recommended.

    No for a ‘good’ future we must take political action. Where are the political visionaries? Not only in Australia but across the world.?

    (As an aside, I farewelled a son today who is off to China on business for a few weeks. His phone is now a ‘translator’. Speak in English and it will translate to any number of languages including Chinese and Russian – the only two I tested from an enormous range. Not across the detail but can see how it will revolutionise the way we learn another language.)

  11. terry

    surely john you can see the con, abbott was never going to go full term ..tag teamed turnbull , bad guy good guy and they are still at it , both millionaires and both on the same team . fancy killing the car industry , what a sad day billions flowed through the country plus we made exceptable vehicles not like the shit they are going to import with this low aussie dollar. half the quality double the price , now its gone . its not abbott or turnbull.. its the multinational companies running this show , a full class war and blind sheep are just listening too Murdoch and co . nobody can make a franchise better then a jewish American and people worry about the chinese and moslems they haven’t got the money and power

  12. RosemaryJ36

    win jeavons – If they had consciences, we would not be in our current parlous condition. They just have accountants to tell them where to invest and how to avoid tax!

  13. Terry2

    if you want to get a snapshot of how machines and robotics are now and will in the future replace human labour , have a look at this clip :


  14. stephengb2014

    The way to remove this inequality is to remove their tools of misinformation about how the economy is run.
    Learn, learn how money is created. start by going to the Bank of England get from the horses mouth – look up “money creation in a modern economy”
    It will tell you how it realy done.
    Then look up MMT. This is the way it realy works, and a path to removing inequality and creating full employment!

    Then like John and I (and others) – keep putting the truth out there, the more the public knows about the real way the economy works the better we are armed to keep our politicians true and put a barrier against the Oligarchy that runs them!

    I know some of you already know, but we need every one of you to keep pushing it put there! There are many people who just havent got a clue and many more in denial!

  15. Matters Not

    creating full employment!

    Not sure that I want to be employed if it means that I have to work in a ‘soul’ destroying job. And there’s many of those still in existence.

    No I don’t want to ‘labour’ using a ‘pick and shovel’ when I know that a ‘bulldozer’ will do a much better job than I (and many others) can ever do.

    What I really want is not ’employment’ but a good ‘return’ from the (my) ‘society’ that facilitated the ‘technology’ that saw/allowed/enabled the ‘bulldozer’ to emerge.

    We need to think outside the ‘square’ because many, many of the ‘jobs’ as we define same will never, never return.

    And that’s a good thing.

    We need to start a conversation about who gets what from social/cultural/scientific/cultural advancement that is separate from the interests of ‘capital’ which in itself is simply a cultural legacy. We need to embrace a future that’s not locked in the past.

  16. Jennifer Meyer-Smith

    Ok, I accept that line of argument. So, we need to concentrate on mounting property rights arguments against those that introduce technology that limits our employability in its present form. If our jobs are defunct, then our skills should be compensated substantially repaid in company shares and so on. That’s the argument. No buts.

  17. Matters Not

    need to concentrate on mounting property rights arguments

    No! Not even close. Sorry.

    ‘Property rights’, as currently defined, are in fact a large part of the problem.

    Clearly I need to improve my communication.

  18. David

    Production does not require private property and private profit. Production does not require that the value of private property be maintained. All that production requires is a specifically human interest and the political will to satisfy it. All that production requires is the political will to satisfy human interests and humans to supply the political will. All production requires is workers who know how to make things that people want. All production requires is workers who know how to look after their own needs. All production requires is to free production so workers can produce things to satisfy their own needs. All production requires is producers producing for themselves. All production requires is producers. All production requires is production. Let’s get this straight: I produce something that we both need, you produce something that we both need, we both produce something to satisfy each other’s needs. From the top: we make things together to use to make things better for us. What could be simpler?

  19. Pingback: The Future of Work. Part one. The Australian Motor Industry. – » The Australian Independent Media Network | olddogthoughts

  20. Terry2


    You are quite correct, we did have a greater car manufacturing capacity in Australia than our market could support or than the export market could absorb given our high dollar at that time.

    We could, however have made an effort to retain an auto building capability in this country and if we had had the political will GM Holden would have stayed.

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