“On Your Marx”, a frequent commenter on this blog, made a very good point on a recent post on WorkChoices: where was the econometric evidence that WorkChoices had created jobs?
WorkChoices was certainly the biggest reform since the GST, so you would expect that Australian economists would have done quite a bit of work on this question. Amazingly, I can not find any econometric work. (I have searched EBSCOHost and Proquest, no access to EconLit though.)
I did find a paper criticising Australian economists for ignoring the productivity benefits of individual contracts in New Zealand. The OECD concluded that “the reform [WorkChoices] may improved labour market performance” but the only reference they give is a speech from a Treasury official that doesn’t mention WorkChoices but does comment on the fall in the NAIRU.
I did find a lot of articles analysing WorkChoices from a social justice perspective. For example:
WorkChoices extended previous neoliberal reforms and consolidated the negative impacts of those reforms on marginalized groups of workers, especially those in precarious employment. This paper reports on the findings of an occupational science-based, critical discourse analysis of a government newspaper advertisement that promotes the reforms. The construction of aWorkChoices discourse, one that was based on and sought to extend neoliberal hegemony, is identified by exploring the ways that particular ideas are presented as natural and mutually beneficial and, in response, the development of a counter-hegemonic argument, based on occupational justice theory, is discussed. The broader application of critical social research is also recommended in extending the occupational justice paradigm.
Reminds me of why I dropped an English major after my first subject with the word “discourse” in its title.
Am I missing something? Is there work that I’m ignoring.
If there is not that is a serious failing of Australian academic economists, especially given that there is some evidence for WorkChoices’ beneficial impact.
The WorkChoices regime lasted from March 2006 to March 2008. (Julia Gillard intentionally had the Governor-General assent to the law prohibiting AWAs exactly two years after WorkChoices was passed.)
Over that period, jobs growth averaged 3.3% per year, significantly higher than the long term average growth rate of 1.9%.
Basic economic theory says that if you remove unfair dismissal laws, remove a ‘no disadvantage’ test and make it easier for agreements to clear regulatory hurdles then more people will be hired. Prima facie that is what happened.
I think WorkChoices deserves the benefit of the doubt, or at least that doubt should be properly tested.