After almost a week of economists trying to fathom what Donald Trump’s presidential win means for the global economy, Australian politics has tried to return to the more tangible issue of domestic employment.
Crucial labour force figures for October are out this week, as is an update on wages growth.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has accused the Turnbull government of leaving employment to the market instead of getting involved in industry policy and making a genuine effort to find jobs for people who have been dislocated by change.
He also wants a focus on the problems created by a temporary visa system which is importing cheap labour from overseas and undercutting Australian jobs.
‘We also ask the federal government that in the light of the closure of Hazelwood (power station) next March, please don’t throw a few million dollars at the problem and set up a committee and then forget about it,’ Mr Shorten told reporters while touring a factory in the Latrobe Valley on Monday.
But Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull insists Australia has a strong jobs market, accusing the opposition leader of flirting with protectionism.
‘The reason we have strong jobs growth in Australia, the reason we have a transition that has not been the hard landing many expected is because of the considered, deliberate, economic leadership that my government has delivered,’ he told reporters in Sydney.
Economists expect Thursday’s employment figures to show the jobless rate ticking up to 5.7 per cent from 5.6 per cent, albeit with some stabilisation in the number of people employed after weakness in the previous two months.
While the unemployment rate has eased from six per cent since the start of the year, it’s masked a preference by employers to hire part-time workers rather than full-time staff.
This has left many workers wanting more hours of employment, known as the underemployed, and a status the Australian Bureau of Statistics gauges on a quarterly basis.
As of August the number of underemployed was 1.1 million or 8.7 per cent of the workforce, the highest level since this was first estimated in 1978.
One Wednesday, the wage price index for the September quarter – the Reserve Bank’s preferred measure of wages growth – is expected to rise 0.5 per cent which will take the annual rate to two per cent, the lowest since the series began almost two decades ago.
Commonwealth Bank economists say heightened fears about job security means workers are not willing to push for wages increases.