The Guardian • Issue #1999

Morrison government decisions have left the average worker $800 poorer

Australian Unions

  • The Guardian
  • Issue #1999

If you were left flabbergasted by the numbers at the supermarket checkout last week, you weren’t the only one.

The cost of living has rocketed past wage growth, effectively leaving the average worker $832 poorer in 2021.

This loss is calculated for the average income of $68 000 but is even worse for those who have been keeping this country afloat for the past two years.

If you were a frontline worker in healthcare or social support, the amount would be more than $900.

Flowery promises aside, the federal government has repeatedly been wrong in their budget forecasts on wage increases.

But this hardly surprising considering they’re the ones who have made precarious work and casualisation the norm.

And remember those loaves of bread Morrison didn’t know the price of?

When the shelves have been stripped and you’re only left with the fancy loaves, that’s still around 200 Helga’s or Abbott’s white loaves you could have carted home with that $800.

With basic necessities increasingly out of reach, wage setbacks are the last thing anyone needs.


Wage stagnation is a direct product of the Liberal government’s economic design. They have embedded casualisation and precarious work into our national labour force.

Last year, the Morrison Government stripped back the little security casual workers did have, making it even more difficult to convert to permanent work.

This is why fixing the insecure work crisis is crucial to solving our wage crisis.

The Centre for Future Work policy director Greg Jericho pointed out the teetering position of precarious workers when trying to make a living.

“Workers struggle with the dilemma of, ‘Do I push hard for wages growth, or do I take the hours?,” he said.

Insecure work affects more than just casuals and also includes gig workers or those employed by labour hire companies.

ACTU President Michele O’Neil explained unemployment figures don’t provide us the full picture of economic hardship. Many of the new jobs recently created have been taken up by people who are already employed:

“A record number of Australians – 867,000 – are now forced to work more than one job just to make ends meet.

“If you are one of these people, bargaining for a pay increase is difficult, when your boss can so easily cut your hours or conditions.”

While our political leaders are happy to talk about workers’ lives as if they were merely numbers on a spreadsheet, these statistics have human impact.

“All of these workers are in a situation where they can’t predict or have certainty about what they’re going to earn week to week or month to month,” O’Neil said.

Such financial instability hinders our ability to survive. If you don’t know when the next paycheque is, you can’t take out a rental agreement or fill up your car.

The Morrison government implemented the economic policies that have led to this point. In other words, they have planned our poverty.


How much extra time or money would you have if childcare were free?

The Morrison government has done little to facilitate women’s engagement in the workforce, which is why women’s workforce participation rate is at only sixty-two per cent, lagging eight percentage points behind men. Free universal early childhood education would take away the burden many women bear, allowing more women to do paid work if they so chose.

“This measure alone is a tremendous boost to national productivity – an estimated $11 billion per year,” O’Neil said.

“It also gives our youngest the best possible start in life.”

Australia is home to one of the most expensive childhood caring and education systems in the developed world.

But Nordic countries have shown us that free childcare can be done – and with impressive results.

Research from The Australia Institute has demonstrated that not only do Nordic countries have higher female participation rates than Australia – “They also have a larger proportion of the female workforce in full-time employment.”

Morrison had no excuse. He could have reduced insecure work and bolstered the economy. But he has been missing once again when it comes to improving the lives of everyday workers.

But unlike Morrison, union members have been actively working to improve working conditions for women and end insecure work.

Already members earn, on average, $250 more per week than non-union members.

From community and aged care workers to technicians and trades, workers in Australian unions continue to negotiate higher pay for all members. ϑ

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