Trying to get a job is awful. You can write hundreds of letters of application and receive only a handful of polite negative responses and no response at all from the remainder.
You lie awake at night wondering how you will pay your bills. Of course, many other countries are worse, but employment in Australia seems to be disappearing; you wonder what the jobs in the middle of this century will be. Not in car manufacturing, it seems.
Our politicians keep telling us that they want us to work, and that jobs are the issue.
They seem to be missing the point, though – where are the jobs?
China has achieved great employment increases by managing its exchange rate so its manufacturing sector can out-compete everyone else’s.
Germany has done a similar thing by using the other weaker economies in the EU to hold the Euro down, but our Australian politicians dropped the ball on the Dutch disease.
Most don’t even know that the phrase refers to a reduction in employment when raw material exports raise your currency to the point where manufacturing dies. And it has – manufacturing has been sacrificed on the altar of coal and iron exports.
First we need some principles about employment in general – employment principles – and then some principles about where the work is going to come from – jobs principles.
The first employment principle is that of high wages. We must accept that we will never get sustained employment at the hourly rates of many Asian countries.
Australia will not tolerate that level of poverty. Therefore, there are many jobs done overseas that we cannot do competitively. This means that we must have an educated population, so fixing the education system is our top priority.
In some areas in China, students are, on average, two years ahead of Australian students in science and maths, so alarm bells should be ringing.
We need internet-based products for science and maths, especially for secondary school students, while we crank up support for teachers to the level where people with research degrees are attracted to teaching in schools.
Another issue with our education system is the schism between universities and business.
Friends of mine recount horror stories of academics feeling no obligation to do agreed upon work in association with industry, or even questioning the morals of those who would leave the hallowed halls of universities for the foulness of business.
Australia is close to bottom of the OECD when it comes to producing the fruit of cooperation between industry and academia. As long as this persists we will be badly uncompetitive.
Another principle is fairness. It is simply not fair for some senior executives to get paid more than 100 times other fully employed people in the same company. Company tax and government assistance should strongly encourage pay ratios closer to 20-to-one or less.
This article is an abbreviated version first published on ABC’s Radio National as ‘The future of employment in Australia’. To find out Hudson’s take on jobs of the future, view the article in full here.