The Sydney Morning Herald of June 4th this year reported that Kristina Keneally, labor's Shadow Minister for Home Affairs, would advocate the economic importance of immigration - a sign the Opposition is willing to make the case for a bigger Australia as it considers its post-election policy platform. It would be a policy that was against the wishes of a majority of Australians and would be destructive economically, environmentally and socially.
The SMH of June 14th stated that the official ABS figure for unemployment had increased to 5.7% . Australia's unemployment rate is now among the worst in the developed world, according to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development of the 36 rich nations which comprise the group, Australia is now ranked 20th in terms of unemployment. Two years ago, Australia was 14th and in 2013 it was among the top 10 which does suggest we are going downhill very rapidly, especially when you consider unemployment was around 2% from the 50's right up till the oil price shock in the 70's . What makes it worse is the official unemployment figure is a very conservative estimate with others like Roy Morgan research putting it at 10.3% and also stating ;
“The latest Roy Morgan employment estimates show that 11,926,000 Australians were employed in May, down 166,000 on a year ago in May 2018. The fall in employment has led to a rise in unemployment over the last year, up by 53,000 to 1,369,000 (10.3% of the workforce) in May. In addition to the high level of unemployment there are 1,223,000 Australians (9.2% of the workforce) now under-employed for a total of nearly 2.6 million Australians either unemployed or under-employed equal to 19.5% of the workforce.”
Australia's unemployment rate is now well above other comparable nations including the United States (3.6 per cent), Britain (3.7 per cent), New Zealand (4.2 per cent), Germany (3.2 per cent) and Japan's 2.4%. It is also not uniform across the nation or demographics, with unemployment among youth in rural areas reaching over 20%, and it does not consider that around 2 million Australians are working multiple jobs or high levels of unpaid overtime. A study by the Australia Institute found that Australian employees will work a total of about 3.2 billion hours in unpaid overtime this year, that's an average of six hours’ unpaid work a week in 2018 - up from 5.1 hours in 2017 and 4.6 hours in 2016. Those worst affected include the disabled, indigenous people, and migrants, especially those on temporary work visas. Many temporary migrant workers in Australia are chronically underpaid by their employers as revealed by the 2017 report, Wage Theft in Australia. One was paid for 38 hours work when he clocked in for 70 hours over a 2 year period. He was afraid to complain because of a threat to cancel his visa and, as he said;
“But the worst part is that he (former employer) was from my own community. When our own people exploit us, then you wonder who to trust in a new country.”
During the run up to the 2019 election, the Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, continually referred to the issue of employment using the tag, "Jobs and Growth," and claiming that over the last five years the government delivered more than a million jobs. However 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. Greater reliance on part-time jobs transforms a given number of hours of work into a larger number of jobs — but at the cost of reduced income, insecurity of employment, and underemployment. Even so a million jobs does sound significant until you take into account that our population grew by 1.7 million in that time and according to Commonwealth Bank senior economist, Gareth Aird, a million jobs is really only about enough to keep the unemployment rate flat.
A cynic might argue that high unemployment maintained by high immigration rates is the stock and trade of the coalition government, who use it as a tool to control wage growth and provide the likes of Adani with desperate job seekers. It is however harder to rationalise why the labor party would acquiesce to such a scheme, given its potential impact on employment, although market economics still dominates their policies. The Labor Party would argue that high population growth increases GDP - but our GDP growth has been lacklustre and, more importantly, the per capita GDP growth – which is a more useful indicator indicator – is only 0.3% compared to the UK's 1.2%, US 1.6%, Japan 1.9% and Germany's 1.7%. The last two nations in the unemployment list I quoted managed this with declining populations and declining greenhouse gas emissions, Germany 31% reduction since 1990, and Japan 8.2% in the last 4 years, while Australia's emissions continue to increase.