Treasury has laid the blame for continued low wage growth at the feet of stubborn workers who refuse to switch jobs in search of better pay.
Federal Treasury deputy secretary Meghan Quinn told a conference in Melbourne on Tuesday that workers who refuse to leave under-performing companies for more dynamic ones affect pay increases across the economy.
Just a 1 per cent fall in the number of people switching jobs led to a 0.5 per cent fall in average wage growth, according to the Treasury research.
“More frequent job switching is associated with higher real wage growth, even for those that stay in their job,” Ms Quinn told the Economic Society of Australia’s annual conference.
But the ACTU has slammed the research, with secretary Sally McManus labelling as “obnoxious” the idea that working people are to blame for employers refusing to hand out pay rises.
“The fact the only solution the Treasury can come up with is working people leaving their job shows how much they misunderstand the problem,” she said.
Working people were suffering through a wages crisis – and following the Treasury suggestion would lead only to more insecure work and lower productivity.
“Increasing the number of insecure jobs will exacerbate the problem,” Ms McManus said.
“The Morrison government need to stop their dangerous obsession with attacking unions and start accepting we have a structural problem of mismatched bargaining power.”
Anyone else off to work today to keep wages stagnant? Because apparently it’s our fault and not corporations whose profits are growing at more than five times faster than wages. https://t.co/Hmiu7wUrAG
— Ged Kearney (@gedkearney) July 16, 2019
The ACTU said workers were struggling to meet living costs, with a record number of people working second and third jobs to get by.
Wages growth has been stubbornly low in Australia for some time – at 2.3 per cent a year – despite solid falls in the jobless rate. Before the global financial crisis of 2008, wages growth was averaging 4 per cent a year.
Earlier in July, the Reserve Bank cut the cash rate to a record low 1.0 per cent to try to speed up a jobs boost
Minutes from the RBA’s July 2 meeting, released on Tuesday, show members agreed that a second 25 basis point cut in as many months was needed to further eat into the spare labour market capacity, with a lower exchange rate and reduced interest payments on borrowing freeing up cash for households and businesses.
It was the first time the RBA had cut the official cash rate in consecutive months since 2012.
According to the minutes, the board judged that the back-to-back move would support the growth in employment and income and, in turn, a gradual increase in underlying inflation.
RBA members said they would continue to monitor the jobs market as they mull the timing of any further cuts. Another move before Christmas has already been flagged.
What has Treasury become?
Blaming use of reusable plastic bags for the slump in consumer spending.
Now, low wages growth is due to stubborn workers, reluctant to switch jobs!
Next? Unemployment is due to people preferring to time at the beach or because Newstart is too high?
— Stephen Koukoulas (@TheKouk) July 16, 2019
Also on Tuesday, Labor frontbencher Jason Clare said it was “a bit rich” to blame workers for low wage growth, when companies controlled wage budgets.
“If today the government’s argument is that workers are to blame for wages not going up, then it shows that this is a government which is really out of touch,” Mr Clare told Sky News.