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Australia's claimed record low unemployment rates

This is a response to a post on an Online Opinion discussion another thread at concerning "How Bad is terrorism" I am putting it here to prevent putting too much off-topic material in the other thread. It also interects another current thread topic "Workchoices the hidden victims" at and the article "What do AWAs really pay?" at

Australia's claimed record low unemployment levels has become a catch-all answer to any concern about any consequence of any Federal Government policy decision. Some examples:

* A standard response to objections to the removeal of protection against unfair dismissal or any other abuse resulting from Howard's "Work Choices" legislation is that with such low unemplyment any worker can easily leave one job and find another.

* Once when confronted by a caller on talk-back radio in late 2005, as I seem to recall, by a woman who feared for the loss of her husband's job in a Telstra call centre due to Sol Trujillo's plan to axe at least 10,000 jobs over the next five years, Prime Minister John Howard responded that the economic propserity and low unemplyment he claimed that his government had brought about would ensrure that her husband had little to fear if his job was lost.

Also, hysteria about our supposed 'labor shortage' is also used as an excuse to break down Australia's immigration control. Without allowing skilled migrants into the country, it is claimed that our economic boom will be brought to a grinding halt. As a consequence, the categories of 'temporary' workers allowed in under the section 457 skilled worker visa program have been expanded.

Partially as a result of 'skilled migration' under Howard who famously said on 6 December 2001 immediately prior to the Federal elections 'We will decide who comes to this country and the circumstances in which they come', immigration has rocketed up to an unfficial 300,000 from only 68,000 in Howard's first year of office (See Ross Gittins in the Sydney Morning Herald at

However, a good many important facts are overlooked when these claims of low unemplyment are made. Many of the jobs that people are forced to take are not the same kinds of jobs that were on offer a generation or more ago. Many occupations are casualised with no career path. The hours are often shorter and unpredictable. Largely, thanks to "Work Choices" provisions for penalty rates have been effectively removed.

One category of very unpleasant and work which appear to be booming is traffic controller. The frenetic expansion of road building to cope with our enforced population growth has created the necessity for ever more people to control the flow of traffic past roadworks and construction sites. It would be hard to imagine a less interesting and more unhealthy occupation than to stand at the side of a road in the hot sun for the order of six to ten hours per day breathing in poisonous car and truck fumes.

Other categories in our emplyment 'boom' would inlcude telemarketing, delivery of junk mail, casual unloading of containers (low paid work that leaves one physically exhausted after having worked, and been paid for, only four hours).

Our economy has largely shifted away from a situation where practically every motivated person could aspire to achieving a stimulating socially useful and well paid job to what we have now.

The number of jobs in Australia's now booming mining sector still seems insignificant compared to Austalia's overall population. Also, this industry is not sustainable in the longer term because it depends upon the extraction of finite non-renewable resources and is contributing unacceptably to the planet's grave current environmental problems.



Another factor to consider when talking about Australia's "record low unemployment rate" is Australia's very low workforce participation rate. The OECD in June said that the workforce participation rate amongst males aged 15 to 55 was 52% which is amongst the lowest workforce participation rates in the world.

I am not quite sure what this statistic means. If only 52% are participating, then what are the other 48% doing? Presumably only a fraction would be receriving a disabiity pension, so how do the rest feed themselves, clothe themselves and pay the rent?

I would be most interested to know.

(Presumably, you are the same 'billie' who contributes such fantastic posts to Online Opinion. I am flattered that you have taken the trouble ot post to this web site. Still somewhnat disorganised, my apologies. That should change.)