The 'Million More Jobs' Myth

Trevor Gauld

It's the people and job numbers that aren't counted we should be looking at. 

At a press conference last year Scott Morrison proclaimed, "Over the last five years we've delivered more than a million jobs."

On Tuesday, he made a new pledge for the Government — "to see 1.25 million jobs created over the next five years".

Are they jobs for Australians?

Will they be full-time, part-time or casual?

How many hours of work counts for “a job”?

What, or more importantly, who, isn’t counted?

A report released this week by the Centre for Future Work tells a very different story to the 10-second media grabs of Australia’s latest accidental Prime Minister.

Firstly, we need to consider population growth. Australia has grown by 1.7 million people in the same five years that the Government spruiks it created just 1 million jobs. It doesn’t take a mathematician to realise there might be a bit of a gap here.

Adding to the performance critique is the fact that Australia has achieved a “one million jobs in five years” outcome on 10 previous occasions dating back 30 years. Have a think about what difference creating a million jobs makes when the population was only 16 million 30 years ago compared to our current population of over 25 million and growing at a rate of just over 250,000 a year.

So, we’ve got this big population, it’s growing pretty quickly, and the jobs aren’t quite keeping up. But a million Australian jobs is a good thing, right?

Except we know  over 1.6 million temporary visa workers currently reside in Australia on a visa with some form of work rights. Report after report is coming out showing these workers are increasingly being exploited, underpaid, sometimes forced into slave labour – some even have their passports stolen by the worst employers and often overstay their visas against their will. (How’s that “tough on borders” going, Dutton?) Oh, and we probably should mention that the Liberal Government changed the rules on mandatory skills testing to no longer require it for the majority of countries around the world. It’s now left up to an administration officer at the Department of Immigration to decide if the visa worker is an electrician or not.

Having thrown the term “jobs” around a bit now, it is probably timely to let everyone in on a little secret. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) – the people we rely on for all this information – a job is defined as:

“Employed Persons aged 15 and over who, during the reference week worked for one hour or more for pay, profit, commission or payment in kind in a job or business.”

That’s right, one hour of work a week and viola – a job is created.

But the unemployment rate is low and falling right? Well let’s play with a few more definitions.

According to the ABS, you are only “unemployed” if you don’t have a job but are looking for one. The Unemployed Workers Union published some interesting stats which tell us that for every job vacancy currently advertised in Australia there are 19 unemployed people. So, a whole group of people have given up looking for work because there literally aren’t enough jobs to go around. And as soon as you give up looking, you are no longer counted as unemployed.

According to a survey by the ABS last year, almost 900,000 Australians wanted to work and were available for work in February 2018 but did not “actively” seek a job.

In fact Australia’s actual unemployment rate is significantly higher than that claimed by the politicians. When you add the people unemployed and looking for work to the people unemployed and who have given up looking because there aren’t enough jobs – and then add the people employed on only a couple of hours a week but are looking for more hours on top- suddenly  the unemployed/underemployed rates blow out to a whopping 20+%!

That’s close to 4 million Australians who want work but can’t get it or want more hours but can’t get them.

Almost half of the new jobs created between 2013 and 2018 were part-time, and the share of part-time work in total employment grew notably.

Despite all of this, Scott Morrison claims his Government is “good for the economy” and “good for workers”. 

If Morrison was Pinocchio, someone would have lost an eye at that press conference.

It’s not what’s in the promise that matters but what’s not in it.

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