A few days into the election campaign and two big issues are already being ignored, the falling share of wages and the even worse opposition faced by those trying to live on social security payments. If campaigning had been about people, surely, what determines the standard of living of every adult and child in Australia would rate far greater importance?
Wages has stagnated for years, and their share of national income has been steadily declining for the last few of these years. Even the nurses, who have given so much during the pandemic have been ignored and forced into campaigning for better treatment.
Using the wages share of GDP as the measure, wages have fallen from 53.2 percent in 2013 to 50.6 percent. it might not seem much when put this way but consider the $49 billion, almost the $51 billion invested on the age pension, pulled out of Australian pay packets. This is the amount of money not spent in the economy.
The argument used to justify this is that reducing the wages share puts move into the hands of investors and that this will be ploughed back into new business and the creation of jobs. Reality tells a different story. Investors have not been putting their gains into growing the economy. Apart form the buying of shares and increasing property portfolios, a great deal of this has found its way into tax havens overseas. This can’t be accurately quantified, given such transactions lack transparency. What we do know is that most of the money is pulled out of the Australian economy.
When the Reserve Bank and Treasury heads come out and say that wages stagnation is a drag on the economy, we had better believe it. Neither is a usual critic of government policy. Both are decidedly conservative. Their speaking out is extraordinary and should be taken notice of.
No such thing. Our political leaders continue to ignore the warnings. There is a good reason for this. They continue to be addicted to the ideology of neoliberalism.
Meanwhile, corporate profits are up 20 percent. This does not mean profits across the economy are good. It means those at the top of the corporate ladder are doing well at the expense of the rest of the business world. Their edge is, they have been given the capacity to use the exploitation of their workforce to undercut the competition. The economy is not firing on all cylinders.
Australians depending on social security have been left in the worst place of all. The first year of the pandemic proved the importance of a substantial increase in these payments. The temporary boost worked to both lift living standards and keep the economy ticking along. This way taken away and does not rate a mention in the present election campaigning.
Aside from forcing so many into serious poverty, which is bad enough on its own, this has become a means, alongside the casualisation of work, to put further downward pressure on wages and transfer resources to corporate welfare. This is the growth area in government spending. The largest part of the gain ends in the pockets of shareholders in New York and London, and Australia is drained of the potential for investment.
The neoliberal dream is a deregulated and cheap labour market and the absence of unions, backed by government subsidies to the corporate sector. A world where all of this is enforced by government compulsion and expanding corporatism, that is, aspiring towards the transformation of government and society into a giant corporation.
Since when has Australia said this is the way it wants to go? If we want a change in direction, we must let out political leaders know that we will stand against the neoliberal dream, and work for an Australia that is in our interests.