Economy // Workforce | Skills

CEDA CEO update: 31 August 2020

Latest labour market tracking released | rethinking work and IR

Last week I participated in the AFR Shaping Australia Dialogues Rethinking Work livestream where conversation turned to trust and, unsurprisingly, industrial relations reform.  

The changes we have seen during COVID show progress can be made. However, the temporary changes agreed were able to be achieved because they were win-win and, more specifically, because employees could see the benefits to them. Longer term reform requires the same thing – a genuine belief from both sides that changes will benefit workers as well as business and a mechanism to review and respond to changes. A promise of more jobs ‘over the cycle’ or in due course won’t cut it, and changes that aren’t backed by workers are unlikely to be sustainable. 

During the AFR livestream, Telstra CEO, Andy Penn, called for a more principles-based approach and I agree whole-heartedly. The system and regulations are wickedly complex. This means that some inadvertently fall foul of the rules, while others intent on doing the wrong thing have plenty of opportunity because the complexity of the rules, which are designed to provide greater certainty, only create more confusion.

I have spoken to some organisations that would benefit greatly from reform, including in their capacity to deliver a stronger employee value proposition, but who are not interested in the current agenda because they can see no hope for genuine simplification. 

And this is where it will come back to trust. Greater trust between employees and employers as we have rolled out more flexibility and work from home has been key. And we will need to carry the lessons from this forward if we want to make progress with IR reform.

You can read more from me on this in my opinion piece today Trust and industrial relations reform in the time of COVID.

Labour market tracking
CEDA’s latest labour market tracking has just been published showing that the discussion of a pink recession may be more complicated than initially thought and that job losses are dispersing across sectors. While some of this could be explained by drops in the labour force and hours worked, the trend relative to previous recessions are instructive.

The latest data in CEDA’s series shows that while part-time hours worked (normalised by the labour force) for women saw a sharp dip initially when restrictions were announced, this is recovering, although underemployment is still impacting women more than men. However, interestingly at the same time the wages index shows women’s wages have recovered more strongly. Men have also seen a greater drop in total hours worked compared to women and a slightly higher unemployment rate.

The data also shows overall that while we began to see some improvement in jobs, that momentum seems to be faltering, most likely due to the stage four restrictions in Victoria. In addition, while job losses were initially hitting key sectors such as accommodation and food services and arts and recreational services, job losses appear to be building more broadly across the economy.

This work builds on the first tracking published in May. We will continue this series and it will be interesting to see the full impact of the Victorian stage four restrictions in the next instalment.
CEDA news – new appointment
In CEDA news, in addition to the new appointments announced last week of the WA Senior Economist and new membership staff in NSW, joining us today as our new Media Manager and Content Specialist is Justine Parker. Justine will be based in Sydney. Prior to joining CEDA, Justine was a Business Reporter and Supervising Producer at the ABC for RN Breakfast with Fran Kelly. It’s great to have Justine on deck.

WA face to face events
I’m also pleased to announce that we have locked in a number of face to face events in WA, following successful events in NSW and Queensland and a clear appetite for this among our members in the West. 

As mentioned previously, CEDA’s flagship Copland Lecture will be hosted from Perth this year and tickets for the face to face event are now open. ANU Chancellor, the Hon. Julie Bishop, will present the Copland Lecture on Friday 16 October and will be speaking on strategic and ethical leadership in a time of change and disruption, providing insights from her engagement with leaders around the world and through times of disruption. You can register for the livestream here and you can and book tickets for the face-to-face event here.

We also have locked in the WA Vice Chancellors’ panel 2020 on Tuesday 15 September with Curtin University, Murdoch University, Edith Cowan University, University of Western Australia and The University of Notre Dame of Australia all represented.

But wait there’s more – we also have Women in leadership: the ‘isms’ of diversity locked in for Tuesday 27 October.

Tomorrow we have The digitisation of services with former Prime Minister of New Zealand and Impact Lab Chair, the Rt Hon. Sir Bill English; CSIRO Director Health and Biosecurity, Dr Rob Grenfell; NSW Minister for Customer Service, the Hon. Victor Dominello; and Portable Chief Strategy Officer, Sarah Kaur. This event precedes CEDA’s research out in the September on The digitisation of human services

There is a strong program of upcoming events across a broad range of topics in coming weeks, everything from border management and climate recovery to data, too many to add here, so I strongly recommend heading to the CEDA website to check them out.

I do want to highlight that we have just confirmed the Tasmanian State of the State livestream with Tasmanian Premier, the Hon. Peter Gutwein will be held on Wednesday, 30 September.

As noted above, part two of CEDA’s ongoing Labour market tracking series from Senior Economist, Gabriela D’Souza is online here.

You can also read my extended reflections on the importance of trust in making progress on industrial relations reform here.
Leadership team profiles
Following last week’s profile of CEDA Director, Programming, Fleur Morales, this week the focus is our Director, Membership, Mel Nelson. You can read Mel’s profile here.
Once again thank you to all our renewing members this week:

National member
Chartered Accountants Australian and New Zealand
State members
City of Casey (VIC)
Chamonix IT Consulting (SA)
ExxonMobil (VIC)
GTA Consultants (VIC)
Infrastructure Australia (NSW)
Queensland Department of Employment, Small Business and Training (QLD)
As always, stay safe.

Melinda Cilento


About CEDA

CEDA – the Committee for Economic Development of Australia – is an independent, not-for-profit membership organisation.

We identify policy issues that matter for Australia’s future. We work to drive policies that deliver better economic, social and environmental outcomes for Australia. We deliver on our purpose by: Leveraging insights from our members to identify and understand the most important issues Australia faces. Facilitating collaboration and idea sharing to invoke imaginative, innovative and progressive policy solutions. Providing a platform to stimulate thinking, raise new ideas and debate critical and challenging issues. Influencing decision makers in government, business and the community by delivering objective information and expert analysis and advocating in support of our positions. CEDA's membership spans every state and territory and includes Australia's leading businesses, community organisations, government departments and academic institutions. The organisation was founded in 1960 by leading economist Sir Douglas Copland, and his legacy of applying economic analysis to practical problems to aid the development of Australia continues as we celebrate 60 years of influence, reform and impact across the nation.;