Magazine of the Socialist Party, Australian section of the CWI

Australia’s looming jobs crisis

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‘Jobs and growth’ were the words we could not escape in the lead up to the federal election of July last year. Six months have passed since the Turnbull-led coalition limped across the line, and this mantra has proved to be yet another empty promise.

As we head into 2017 there is no doubt that the lack of jobs will become an even bigger issue for many. The current official unemployment rate is 5.7 per cent, with South Australia holding the highest unemployment rate of 7 per cent.

The government attempted to put a spin on these figures by claiming that tens of thousands of jobs had been created. However, the bulk of the jobs created were part-time, precarious and low-paid.

Today, 32 per cent of workers are employed part-time compared to only 21 per cent in 1988. The Financial Review further broke down the figures explaining that the number of full time jobs in Australia actually fell by nearly 50,000 in the past year. There is no doubt that it is already getting much harder to find a permanent full time job.

Unfortunately, things are likely to get worse before they get better. There is the possibility of a perfect storm whereby the property bubble bursts around the same time that the car industry winds up production in Australia.

Up to 200,000 jobs could be lost as a result of the collapse of the property bubble. This is on top of the jobs that have already been lost due to the end of the mining boom. These job losses were not inevitable but a result of employers making moves to protect their profits.

The issue is not that there are not enough jobs that need doing, but rather that there is a lack of political will to create them. It is obvious that there are many things that our society needs. One of the most pressing is the need for public housing to be built to end homelessness.

Another issue that needs desperate attention is climate change. The transition to renewable energy could begin immediately, creating many green jobs, but the capitalist class are generally refusing to invest in industries such as this because they think they can make more money elsewhere.

What we are seeing unfold in Australia has already happened around the world as a result of the global financial crisis that began in 2008. Whereas previously we were shielded by the mining boom, we have no such protection now and we are starting to see Australia catch up to the rest of the world.

There is an international attempt to try and force the working class pay to pay for the crisis, despite the fact that it was not of our making. In order to ensure we are not forced to pay we need to get organised. This means that the trade unions must fight to defend all jobs. Industrial action should be used if the bosses refuse to comply.

These defensive measures alone however will not be enough. Unemployment and underemployment are products of a profit driven system. We need to implement policies to do away with the misery that capitalism creates. For example, the introduction of a 35-hour week with no loss in pay would help to share out available work.

Together with investment in training and education, this would help end the disgraceful situation where many people work themselves to the bone while others have no work at all. A program of public works to do things like build homes and address climate change would both create jobs and address society’s needs.

Unfortunately, both of the major parties are tied to big business and they would never push for such an approach. Part of winning socialist measures like these is building a political alternative to the big business parties. We need a government that puts the interests of workers first.

In the end, we have to say that if this system cannot afford to give us decent jobs, then we cannot afford this system. Replacing capitalism with a democratic socialist society is the only real way to ensure that there are jobs for all and that society’s wealth is used to raise living standards.

By Kat Galea

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