Myths and realities : a critical expose of older workers and industrial relations reforms in Australia
conference contributionposted on 2017-12-06, 00:00 authored by C Kossen, C Pedersen
A decisive 2004 fourth term win for the Howard Government and control over the Senate provided the Australian government with a strong mandate to further deregulate the labour market in the name of ‘flexibility’. This conceptual paper uses a critical perspective to challenge the wisdom of neo-liberal market economics as the driving force behind the rapid expansion of non-traditional ‘flexible’ forms of work and argues that this kind of divestment strategy can produce negative long term consequences including under utilisation of labour and skill shortages stemming from a lack of investment in human capital. In the context of an ageing workforce and predictions that labour shortages are set to intensify long into the future, the Howard Government have adopted modest measures designed to counter age based discrimination and encourage workforce participation by older workers. However, it is also argued that the Government’s labour market deregulation policies are reducing the availability of jobs that provide sufficient working conditions and remuneration to make workforce participation attractive to many of those not working. The erosion of employment conditions associated with a reformed ‘flexible’ workforce leads to underemployment and other employment outcomes that often fail to meet the needs of disadvantaged groups in the labour market. Recent research has shown that workforce participation rates among mature age workers in Australia have remained one of the lowest among OECD countries. However, the Government has recently begun embarking on reforms that appear to provide genuine incentives aimed specifically at attracting workforce participation among older workers.