Aussie manufacturing contracts, leads to poor job quality

A recent research has blamed the slowdown in Australia’s manufacturing sector on an increasing number of people working in jobs that are low paid, unskilled, insecure and offer few career prospects.

The organisers of a national conference that will seek to define job quality said that Australia is at risk of imitating the US as it moves towards a polarised society with a highly paid group of people and a large underbelly of workers in unsustainable, unsatisfying, high turnover jobs, the Sydney.edu.au reports.

An 'Expert Conference on Job Quality in Australia' this week, will aim to identify ways that federal and state governments can address the decline in job quality.

At the conference, US expert on employment and job quality, Arne Kalleberg warned Australia that it could follow the US, where a quarter of those who work full-time earn less than the poverty level for a family of four.

Kalleberg stated that "with the decline of manufacturing in the US, most of the new jobs created in the past few years are in low-wage occupations.”

Professor Chris Warhurst said "it's becoming very difficult now for workers at the bottom of the ladder to aspire to better paid and more satisfying middle ranking jobs in the manufacturing sector or to do an apprenticeship, become qualified tradespeople and move into jobs that were once highly desirable."

Warhust pointed out that the job quality has also been severely affected by a decline in the trade union movement which once ensured that jobs were protected and that working conditions, training, wages levels and opportunities for career development were maintained.

According to Business school's doctor Angela Knox "in recent decades, the focus has shifted away from job quality to job quantity and too many people are now in work that is precarious, insecure and unable to provide a decent standard of living."

“It's a situation we need to avoid in Australia.”

She went on to say that the overwhelming focus on industrial relations policy has diverted attention away from other equally important levers that should be addressed to create better quality jobs.

"It is now time for government, business and unions to work together to improve education and training and to develop economic and industry conditions that support good jobs," Knox stated.

According to Warhust the rising employment participation rates in Australia makes the quality of work an increasingly important policy focus.

"Job quality can affect general life satisfaction, health and family life as well as productivity, turnover rates and absenteeism.”