The Australian labour market in 2017

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Journal of Industrial Relations, 2018, 60 (3), pp. 298 - 316
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© 2018, © Australian Labour and Employment Relations Association (ALERA), SAGE Publications Ltd, Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore and Washington DC. Low wage growth consistently featured as the main underlying characteristic of the Australian labour market in 2017. Overall economic conditions remained weak, although unemployment was fairly static. All indicators of average wage growth declined: average weekly earnings, the wage price index and the average annual wage increase in enterprise agreements. Collective bargaining coverage continued to decline. Although the 3.3% minimum wage increase represents a modest increase in real wages for low-paid workers, the Fair Work Commission decision to reduce Sunday and public holiday penalty rates for some award-reliant workers would put further downward pressure on workers’ incomes. There were more successful applications to terminate expired enterprise agreements, including those where wage rates were thought to be uncompetitive and unsustainable. The underlying causes of low wage growth remain contested. Despite some agreement that the regulatory framework is a contributing factor, firm proposals for regulatory change are yet to emerge.
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