Employment down, wages up as manufacturers fight market pressures

Manufacturing employment dropped during the 2011 financial year, and manufacturers were willing to pay more for skilled labour, according to official statistics.

A report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), called ‘Australian Industry, 2010-2011’, shows manufacturing employment dropped from 954,000 workers in June 2010 to 936,000 in June 2011, which is significantly lower than the 1.005 million workers employed in 2006-07, before the GFC.

Manufacturing wages across Australia rose however, from $51,957 million to $53,117 million, compared with $50,036 in 2006-07, showing union activity during the past 12 months has paid-off.

Various high-profile industrial action cases have been reported over the year, including: Holden, which together with the Australian Manufacturing Workers' Union (AMWU) secured raises of up to 22.2% for factory workers over the next three years; and Toyota Australia, which agreed on a 13% pay rise over 42 months.

According to the ABS report, the manufacturing industry added $101,434 million in value from 2010 to 2011, which is higher than the corresponding previous period at $97,940 million, however lower than the 2006-07 figure which shows $101,898 million of added value.

In comparison, the local mining industry added $126,296 in value to Australia’s bottom line and employed 161,000 workers during the 2010-11 financial year, which is a sharp rise from the $71,005 million and 117,000 workers recorded in 2006-07.

Victoria employed the most manufacturing workers during the year, accounting for 274,000  of the 936,000 employed in the sector across the country, while New South Wales employed 272,000 people, said ABS.

The carbon tax — which will be implemented on 1 July — has been blamed for many of the job losses in the sector over the past 12 months. According to the shadow minister for industry, innovation and science, Sophie Mirabella, more manufacturing jobs will be lost when tax comes in to effect. 

“Since the announcement of the carbon tax, 642 jobs a week, on average, have been lost in manufacturing. That is 1 job every 15 minutes,” said Mirabella, speaking following the June 14 release of the ABS’s quarterly ‘Labour Force, Australia’ report for the period of May 2012.

“This is in addition to ABS data from last week indicating yet another fall in manufacturing output, and that manufacturing profits have fallen by around 10 per cent, back to mid-GFC levels,” she said.

“Now is the worst possible time to introduce a carbon tax that will slug an already struggling sector.”