New Zealand: Inequality in Wages and Self-Employment 1998-2015

In this report for the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions : Te Kauae Kaimahi  Bill Rosenberg shows rising inequality in the hourly rates of gross earnings (before tax and benefits) among both wage and salary earners and the self-employed over the period 1998-2015.

For wage and salary earners (employees) this study finds increasing inequality in average hourly wages. The exception is the lowest income decile which is heavily influenced by the minimum wage, whose income has risen on average at about the same rate as the top decile and rose faster during the Labour-led Government in the early 2000s than in previous or subsequent National-led Governments. Other than that, wage rates for the next 50 percent (deciles 2 to 6) of employees rose much more slowly than the wage rates of higher income wage and salary earners: the real average hourly wage of the top 10 percent rose by 39 percent while the low and middle income 50 percent rose by 18-20 percent between 1998 and 2015 in real terms.

Beyond Full Employment: What Argentina’s Plan Jefes can teach us about the Employer of Last Resort

Australian unions are campaigning to “Change the Rules” to improve rights at work. A fundamental part of this should be a job guarantee, as advocated by political economist working within the Modern Monetary Theory frame. One of the outstanding workers in this field is Pavlina Tcherneva. This paper analysing what happened in Argentina after the collapse in 2001 is an indication of the impact the job guarantee has on local comunity, gender inequality, social power and community development.

She emphasises that the Argentinian program was not developed along the lines her c0-theorist were pushing but it did share many features.

Key aspects of the analysis did match Keynes arguments (so often ignored by what Joan Robinson referred to as “bastard Keynesianism) that it is not pump priming o the economy that works, rather that a DIRECT JOB CREATION program works.

Further it does not “destabilise”, it is countercyclical, it is sustainable in the long term in sovereign currency economies (like Argentina with Peso on floating exchange rather than tied to a fixed exchange rate with the US dollar, like Australia with its dollars, like US wit its dollars but NOT like Greece without its own currency.

It empowered women in particular (and this aspct was one of the standout features of the program that the male policy makers and community members were forced to recognise), it created and maintained socially useful work designed and controlled at the local level, but financed federally. Thus it was a way to advance greatly socio-economic goals by creating work that enhanced the community (and was not compulsory). The model was not based on the minimum wage so was not totally successful at bringing all out of poverty but did hve the immediate impact of lifting socio-economic development by creating jobs directly, rather than jobs growth happening AFTER growth begins, which is the mantra economists bash us with today.

This is hardly radical left wing revolutionary stuff but does create a workforce that is locally organised and in control of their work and life, just as unions would surely wish to be a part of.



Ceteris publicus

Pamphlets into the Wind on why unemployment is a policy creation not a natural phenomenon

But if we really want to run ceteris paribus into the ground, there’s one final comparison to make — the share of workers in the public sector. In 1966, almost one-quarter of employees found work with the government. It should be obvious where this is going. Let’s assume that, rather than paying people to be unemployed, the government started paying people to be employed. Maybe in constructing public housing, acting as teacher’s aides, providing home care support for the elderly, or improving transport like Paul Kelly did.

Enterprise Bargaining – Not just “Broken”, but Rotten to the Core

Don Sutherland on the whole trouble with our “Fair Work” Act and enterprise bargaining

Don Sutherland's Blog

Recently, I discussed Australia’s “broken” enterprise bargaining laws with Caroline Pryor on Radio Skid Row’s “Workers Radio”. Click here to listen. These “broken” laws are stacked against workers and are an essential element in driving more inequality in Australia.

Later that day, Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) Secretary, Sally McManus, gave an important and revealing keynote address to the T.J. Ryan Foundation in Brisbane, Queensland. (Click here to read the released version.) McManus described increasing inequality in Australia and how the Fair Work Act 2009 (FWA09, the “rules”) is contributing to that. Also, she specifically talked about the enterprise bargaining rules that are stacked against workers.

In this post I include information not covered in the radio discussion, focus on just three of the broken enterprise bargaining rules, and discuss what the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) “Change the Rules” campaign should prioritize.

In Australia…

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Austerity Versus Green Growth for Puerto Rico

Amanda Page-Hoongrajok, Shouvik Chakraborty, Robert Pollin have developed a green growth plan for Costa Rica that would eliminate demand for fossil fuels, creat good jobs, reduce energy costs and give back local control of the economy. “In its essentials, our green growth plan consists of two elements: large-scale annual investments in both energy efficiency and clean renewable energy. Through these investments, low-cost, domestically-produced clean energy will steadily supplant imported fossil fuels, with the target being that by 2050, clean energy sources will have replaced fossil fuels entirely in Puerto Rico. This green growth program is capable of delivering much lower energy costs on the island, while also steadily reducing, and finally eliminating altogether, its dependence on fossil fuel imports. The green growth program will also be a major new source of job opportunities and will create widespread opportunities for small-scale ownership forms to flourish within the island’s energy sector. Major debt write-downs will be necessary to enable the green growth program to move forward at a significant scale.”

Unemployment: The Silent Epidemic

Pavlina R. Tcherneva examines two key aspects of unemployment—its propagation mechanism and socioeconomic costs.
“This pattern suggests that unemployment behaves much more like a virus or
an infectious disease than a random shock event. Not only does it propagate in a specific geographic pattern, but it also inflicts severe consequences on individuals
and communities. Indeed much of the literature on the costs of unemployment indicates that this is precisely how unemployment should be studied.
The relevant literature comes from health economics, the cognitive sciences, and public health. There is a large and growing body of research on the social determinants of health outcomes/inequities and social well-being, for example, where unemployment and underemployment emerge as key determinants among a set of multiple deprivations.
And while there is abundant research at the micro level on the impact of unemployment on labor markets, individuals, families, and communities, economic theory is impoverished for not theorizing these findings at the macroeconomic level.”

Precarious couriers are leading the struggle against platform capitalism

Deliveroo, Foodora, Giovo. The success of these companies depends on the exploitation of an invisible precariat. Now, against all expectations these workers are mobilizing across borders to claim their rights.

A strike by Deliveroo workers London in the summer of 2016 was the first sign that food delivery platform workers were capable of mass collective action. The strike spread from Deliveroo to UberEats, and then around the UK. A year on, that struggle has spread transnationally. Food delivery platform workers have now been on strike in over ten cities across the UK, Italy, France, Spain and Germany.

Their struggles have both won victories and faced serious setbacks, but the fact remains that a transnational movement of precarious labour has emerged from what appeared to be the most unlikely of circumstances. Workers who were supposed to be weak and powerless have spread their antagonism with capital across borders in militant, unmediated action. This transnational circulation of struggle provides an example of how the changing composition of the working class can provide new opportunities, even as it demolishes old certainties.