Australia must do more to ensure fair income distribution

Contributed from Victoria

Why has Australia been accepting stagnant wages for eight years? Nominal wages have only grown by around 2 percent on average. Since this has not kept up with the cost of living, it amounts to a real wage cut. This should be making us all as mad as hell. It is worth noting that the decline has been going on since the Prices and Incomes Accord in 1984.

I feel sorry for the younger generation, who are finding work and getting by harder than their parents ever did. Back in my day, there were plenty of jobs to pick from, and a single wage could keep a roof over a family. No more. The high levels of Youth unemployment and underemployment are a disgrace. The high cost of housing these days makes it worse. Then there is COVID-19.

Source: ABS National Income, Expenditure, and Product: long time decline in wagers share and rise in profit share

Do we want a dog eat dog nation where we don’t give a stuff about others?

Our poor excuses for political leaders are even having a go at retired pensioners. The age pension has also been stagnant, and the word is, they are considering putting us oldies for the welfare debit card. They want to add indignity to  the generation that put in the effort to build Australia. It’s even worse for the unemployed, and those on single parents and disability payments.

CVID-19 has returned, and the Morrison government refuses to return JobKeeper and give those who can’t go to work something to live on.

We need our unions to lead battle to turn all this around. I am glad to hear that the Australian Council of Trade Unions  (ACTU) has put the wages issue on the agenda for its triennial Congress. This was made clear in Australia Institute’s online address given by ACTU secretary Sally McManus on 14 July. It would have been even better if the plight of the others on falling real incomes had taken a bigger profile.

But there is an emphasis on highlighting the economic and social consequences of  the wage crisis. There is recognition that this is deliberate policy and no accident.

The wage crisis comes hand in hand with the rise of insecure part time and causal work as a new cheap labour force. It goes together with the rise of  labour hire to replace those with a permanent job and industrial agreements guaranteeing existing wages and conditions. These issues must be dealt with. This means standing against measures that benefit the richest at the expense of others and targeting those responsible.

I would like to see more attention paid to discussion over an economic plan for the future of Australia. One that calls for the creation of real jobs and  distributes the benefits fairly and no one is left out.

The unions have the capacity to lead this. At the same time, this is a matter for everyone. Building a broad union and community alliance was once considered important. We must make it important once more.

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