By Joe Montero
Why did an article in Melbourne’s age doing trumpeting the headline “jobless rate falls to a near eight-year low” (Shane Wright 21 March 2019), when even in the term of its content, It is simply not true?
This is how the news is so often presented these days. Those in the media game know that a headline captures attention and sets the tone. It is often a means to manipulate words to create an impression. In this case, the government’s smoke and mirrors attempt to show something that doesn’t exist has been faithfully followed.
It may not be the fault of the writer. Sub editors and higher up, are often the ones who settle on headings. This does not take away from the fact that a false story is being told.
The headline comes out of Australia Bureau of Statistics (ABS) figures, which say that the unemployment rate went down to 4.9 percent from 5 percent in the previous quarter, and refers to this as the highest fall since the June quarter of 2011. On face value this looks good. But when you get down to the details, the story is very different.
The rub is that the ABS also has numbers that show a fall in employment in New South Wales by 5,800, and in Victoria, the number out of work jumped by an 0.2 percent. There were marginally lower unemployment rates in Western Australia and Queensland.
Over the last six months, growth in full time employment has slowed sharply, falling each month, from 28,900 last August, to 12,30 this February. This is also from the ABS.
How do these facts support the claim that the jobless rate has fallen to a near eight-year low? They don’t. That’s the answer.
Hidden here is the shift in the pattern of employment from secure and full-time jobs, towards casual and part-time jobs. To imply that that one equals the other is dishonest.
Honesty demands some simple arithmetic. If, for example, a 38-hour jobs gives way to two 15-hour ones, this is not an increase in employment. There’s been an 8-hour loss of employment. When a third of the workforce is in casualised employment like this, adding the loss from full time work would show a much higher unemployment rate. We call this under employment. It is not included, because it is not politically suitable.
By the way. Anyone who has worked one hour during the week of the ABS survey, is considered to be in full-time employment.
There is another significant area of hidden unemployment. The Centrelink system is deliberately designed to exclude as many as possible, through a network of hurdles and loopholes that exclude them from benefits. We know that many fall victim to this. They are no longer counted as unemployed.
Young people pressured into study they don’t necessarily want or need, if their parents are not forced to maintain them, or persons whose partner has an income are excluded from the workforce participation rate, and therefore are counted among the unemployed, even when they are looking for work.
If these little realities are factored in, the real rate of unemployment in Australia is considerably higher. As much as 18 percent and growing. Imagine the whole of Australia being aware of this truth. Many of our political leaders would find themselves looking for alternative employment. This is why they need to keep it away from us through sleight of hand.
The media should not be a partner in this dishonesty.