A Better Future for Self-Employment: How is it changing, and how can ‘gig’ work be regulated?

This new report from Prof. David Peetz, Laurie Carmichael Distinguished Research Fellow, shows that, in reality, self-employment is not growing inexorably — in fact, in most countries (including Australia) it is declining.

The much-trumpeted surge in self-employment and ‘freelancing’ is a myth. However, the nature of self-employment is changing: fewer self-employed people are running successful independent businesses, and more are engaged in precarious ‘solo’ activities like short-term contracting and part-time ‘gig’ work.

The report also shows that some forms of self-employment can be regulated to protect affected workers, provided two simple and important criteria are satisfied: the workers are vulnerable and hence need protection, and a viable mechanism exists that enables their work to be efficiently regulated.

The report reviews the proposed provisions of the second part of the federal government’s new Closing Loopholes legislation, which would allow for minimum labour standards to be applied to digital platform workers and owner-operators in the transportation sector. The new legislation (to be considered in Parliament in 2024) is an appropriate and effective response to the challenges facing these two groups of ‘gig’ workers.

Read the Carmichael Centre's new report here.

Manufacturing the Energy Revolution: Australia’s Position in the Global Race for Sustainable Manufacturing

A major new report by Charlie Joyce and Jim Stanford has found that Australia needs to respond quickly to powerful new incentives for sustainable manufacturing now on offer in the U.S. and several other industrial countries, or risk being cut out of lucrative new markets for manufactured products linked to renewable energy systems.

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A New Era for Climate Industrial Policy

As the global transition to renewable energy technologies accelerates, industrial countries around the world are racing to prepare their domestic economies to make the most of the enormous industrial opportunities associated with that transition. The manufacture of inputs and components to renewable energy systems will constitute a substantial new high-tech industry. And the opportunities associated with using renewable energy as an input to other manufacturing (such as green steel or aluminium manufacturing) are equally exciting.

Given this rapidly evolving industrial landscape, the Biden administration's new Inflation Reduction Act, which contains dramatic new incentives to locate renewable energy-related manufacturing in the U.S., is proving to be a global game-changer. How can other countries, including Australia, respond to the new benchmark established by the U.S., and being reinforced in other jurisdictions, regarding the active role of government in pro-actively shaping renewable energy-related manufacturing?

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Strengthening Union Training Programs in Australia

Union education and development is critical for union survival and growth. Major advances have been made in union delegate education and development, given the array of challenges facing the union movement. However, there were still significant areas of education and development in which improvements could be made.

In this major report, based on interviews with union educators, delegates, and course participants, Prof David Peetz (Laurie Carmichael Distinguished Research Fellow) and Dr Robyn May (of Griffith University) consider the strengths and limitations of existing union education programmes, and make important recommendations for improving those offerings.

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Taking Charge of an Electrified Future

A new report from the Carmichael Centre highlights the exciting economic and industrial opportunities facing Australia as a result of the accelerating global transition toward electric vehicles. The report, by economist Mark Dean, provides a roadmap for policy-makers for maximizing the domestic manufacturing and innovation spin-offs associated with growing personal, commercial, and public transit use of electric vehicles.

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Sharing the Benefits: The Case for Shorter Working Hours

Sharing the Benefits: The Case for Shorter Hours, a new research paper by Mark Dean and Lance Worrall, makes the argument for a statutory reduction in standard working hours and the working week. It does so primarily from the viewpoint that Australia should reinstate full employment as the superordinate economic goal of national policy.

Sharing the Benefits provides an historical survey of progress made in Australia towards shorter hours over the past century and a half, and the halting of that progress around 40 years ago (about the time of the 35-hour week campaign led by Laurie Carmichael), coinciding with the implicit abandonment of a national full employment objective. It surveys the current imbalance between the two poles of exploitation in the Australian labour market – overwork and unpaid overtime, versus underemployment and perpetual insecurity. It assesses the extent of these undesirable features and how Australia compares to other nations, finding that Australia scores high in the incidence of these negative characteristics in international perspective.

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Educating for Care: Meeting Skills Shortages in an Expanding ECEC Industry

This report from the Carmichael Centre argues that Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) services should be treated as a strategic industry of national importance – not just a ‘market’, and not just a ‘cost’ item on government budgets.

Building a stronger, more accessible, and high-quality ECEC system is not just a top-ranking social priority for several reasons:

  • The ECEC sector supports hundreds of thousands of jobs.
  • It directly creates billions of dollars of value-added in the Australian economy.
  • It generates further demand for other sectors – both upstream, in its own supply chain, and downstream in consumer goods and services industries that depend on the buying power of ECEC workers.
  • It facilitates work and production throughout the rest of Australia’s economy, by allowing parents to work – although that goal would be much better achieved if Australia had a more comprehensive, universal, and public ECEC system.
  • ECEC enhances the long-term potential of Australia’s economy, and all of society, by providing young children with high-quality education opportunities – that are proven to expand their lifetime learning, employment, and income outcomes, and enrich their families and communities.
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Rebuilding Vehicle Manufacture in Australia: Industrial Opportunities in an Electrified Future

This report illustrates how Australia can rebuild a vehicle manufacturing industry, on a sustainable ecological foundation, and meet our international environmental obligations.

The report covers several important related dimensions of the issue:

  • How an EV manufacturing strategy can add value to Australia’s existing exports of primary resources – connecting them to innovative, sustainable manufacturing industries;
  • Developing supply and value chain linkages to the global EV industry by increasing the capability for innovation and advanced manufacturing amongst small and medium-sized enterprises;
  • The central role of Australia’s education systems in delivering sustainable industry-focused training and skills development, to provide workers with career pathways shaped by lifelong access to education and learning;
  • How active government intervention can coordinate economic sectors in an innovative and strategically oriented industry policy driving sustainable economic and technological transformation; and
  • Understanding the importance of automotive manufacturing to our industrial future, its role in redesigning transport systems, investing in new technology and gearing production systems to meet social and environmental requirements.
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