Monday, December 19, 2011

Unemployment figures are up 0.1 of a percent

Watching the news earlier this week I was struck by the above item - the fact that the unemployment has risen again. Just in time for Christmas.

Many folk I know are happily oblivious to such items on news bulletins. After all, most of what passes as news here in the land of Oz is devoted to minor celebrities, sporting acheivements and how to make your dollar stretch further in the wake of rising costs of living. This last point is trumpeted about repeatedly, despite the fact that Oz-stralia has one of the highest reported qualities of life world-wide.

To wit: 1) Australian's are building bigger houses than anywhere else IN THE WORLD; 2) We have comprehensive wage setting and industrial relations laws that ensure that minumum wage is nearly 600 Australian dollars a week; 3) Australian capital cities are routinely featured on top ten lists of the world's most liveable; 4) We have a comprehensive social security system that includes income support for people looking for work, unable to work, students, carers and pensioners, universal health care and housing assistance schemes (although these benefits are nowhere near the minimum wage); 5) While economic growth has slowed since the financial crises world-wide of 2008 onwards, the Australian economy is one of the very few that aren't in recession; 6) National unemployment is still very low overall, hovering around the 5% mark; 7) the gap between rich and poor in Australia is not quite as large as it is in many other places around the world.

I could also write a whole lot more about how quality of life is defined and interpreted in the first place; how overconsumption is increasingly being conflated with quality of life by media, politicians and those who are not living on the margins of our communities; and how much of this so called 'quality of life' is funded by extraordinary amounts of household debt. Suffice to say though, that Australian levels of debt per household are amongst the highest in the global North, with this debt mostly linked to mortgages and credit cards.

Yet a trifling point about a small growth in unemployment is usually ignored by everyone who doesn't work for government agencies paid to care about these things. But for me, the reason it caught my attention (apart from the fact that I am a) unemployed, b) a sociologist and c) have a social conscience and wonder how those newly employed people are faring given the focus on consumption at this time of year) is because I am wondering this: Does a 0.1% rise in national unemplpoyment figures have anything at all to do with the fact that Universities in Australia employ up to 50% (yep, FIFTY) of their staff on a casual or contract basis and the teaching year has just ended?

Happy holidays everyone.


  1. Seems entirely possible. Plausible at least. Here in the U.S. contingent faculty in most places aren't even eligible to apply for unemployment.

  2. You have to be truly without work here in Australia too for unemployment benefits - once you start earning any income at all your benefits are reduced via a complicated equation which actually means you are better off working part-time/casually at any thing at all than having to deal with 'the system'. Which is also good for the self-esteem too, as it's really depressing being on government benefits when you can be working in a bar or cafe (or adjuncting even!) and at least feeling like a socially functional person. Even if you are barely able to pay the rent.

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