October 18, 2013

Working Life 2

Belinda Probert


Housework as a Female Occupation


The home, which is [your husband's] paradise, is
  • your handiwork,
  • your refuge,
  • your pride,
  • your castle,
  • your very, very own,
  • your actual self,
  • a part of you inseparable.
It is your heart and brain translated into the arrangement of daily life.

(The Australian Housewives' Manual, 1885)


The Future of Work


[Technological] change is not a neutral process driven by scientific progress or an abstract concern with efficiency.
On the contrary, specific technologies are developed and applied as a result of pressure form identifiable social groups pursuing their particular [interests.]
Nor is it the case, once these technologies have been developed, that the way they are used will be shaped by considerations of broad social benefits.
Rather, the use that is made of them is determined by the economic and social relations within which they are introduced.
(p 164)

[Whether the] labour-saving potential of new technology [will be realized or not] is not something which will be democratically decided or fairly shared if [the existing system of] economic, social and political [relations] remains unchanged.
(p 171)

It is more likely that technological change will lead to permanent unemployment for some … rather than shorter working hours for all.
(p 172)


Contents


Women at Work

Migrants and 'Dirty Work'

Technological Change

Globalization

The Future of Work


BELINDA PROBERT


Senior Lecturer in Sociology, Monash University.

  • Working Life, McPhee Gribble, 1990.

    Women in Paid Employment


    The idea that women should confine themselves to child-rearing and housekeeping is a very recent one, associated with the process of industrialization.
    The appearance of large-scale commercial agriculture and the rise of factories meant that the family ceased to be an an independent productive unit. …

    At the start of the nineteenth century [in the agricultural, mining and textile industries,] men often relied on their families to work with them.
    This is not to suggest that women worked as equals with men, but rather that they worked as members of a family labour team, though still in the traditional 'women's place'.
    However, the practice of hiring families declined as employers came to prefer wage contracts with individuals …
    [As a result,] increasing numbers of women began to get jobs on their own. …
    [And] since women's wages were lower — a reflection of [historical] legal and political [inequality — men found themselves at a competitive disadvantage in] a labour market in which individual workers [competed against each other.]
    (p 91)

    [And even] if both husband and wife found work [there was still] the potential to undermine the man's authority within the family.
    Not only might women neglect their domestic responsibilities if they had some economic independence [but children too] were becoming increasingly unruly now that they had independent access to a wage in factories. …

    During the eighteenth century young women had still been admitted to apprenticeships in many trades.
    [And even] when they were not … married women worked alongside their husband in his trade, and if he died it was not unusual for [his] widow to carry on in his place.

    As this kind of small-scale production [was superseded by factory production, skilled tradesmen used] their powerful craft unions to [strictly] control entry to their trade [in order to preserve] some of their status and privileges.
    In the skilled metal trades, for example, women were successfully excluded from training needed for employment.
    So effective has this exclusion been that engineering remains an almost exclusively [male] occupation …

    In the cotton industry [in 1816] women and children formed … eighty-two per cent [of the workforce.]
    Factory owners [preferred women and children because] they could be paid less than men …
    [And for women, despite the reduced pay, the wages were still more than] they could get for [domestic] work.
    In this industry, unskilled male workers could not hope to exclude women from the workplace [— even if they could have afforded] to do without the additional family income …
    (p 91)

    Nonetheless, from the beginning women were excluded from the best jobs …
    [They were also] barred from membership of the cotton workers' unions [on the basis] that they had an unfair advantage over men because of their lower wage rates.
    [Male workers retained] their relatively privileged position by ensuring that women [were permitted to do only] certain kinds of work [— so-called] job segregation.
    [In 1968, for example,] in the Victorian Woollen Mills … women worked the power looms [for ten shillings a week, while] men did the heavier, skilled work [using] hand-looms [for which they] were paid thirty-five shillings a week …

    The relegation of women to second-class status … was not the only possible solution to the threat [to] male workers.
    Unions could [have sought] to unionize women workers, and raise their rates of pay so that they ceased to be a threat to wage standards.
    Indeed some women and radical unionists [accused men] of resisting female unionization out of
    [A] desire to have women utterly scattered, each subject to her own husband. …

    [In the first part of the nineteenth century, families were also facing] new problems in combining work with the care of infants and young children. …
    Surprisingly 'modern' alternatives were found …
    like eating shop-made pies and puddings, and having the day-care of infants [and] the washing and basic cleaning done by women who specialised in these jobs …

    [However, these] radical ideas … were rejected by the more conservative] elements of the Australian and British labour movements who instead] adopted a policy of preserving male workers' interests by excluding, as far as possible, [women and (in Australia) non-white men] from the workplace.
    (p 93)

    The Factory Acts [passed in] the second half of the nineteenth century … defined minimum safety regulations in many industries, and set limits on the hours that women and children might work in textile mills, and [subsequently,] in shops.
    [While] these reformers were [concerned with protecting] women and children from the extreme hardships of many work places [they were also worried] that women who worked [might not be] able to fulfill their family responsibilities properly …
    [There was concern, too, about] the decline in sexual morality [that was assumed to follow] from factory work.

    [Had occupational health and safety been the primary issue] there would perhaps have been [greater] attempts to extend [these protections] to all workers, male and female.
    [While it is true that, some believed] moves to protect women workers were far more likely to be accepted than moves to protect all workers [— legislation that] could later be extended to cover men as well [—] there is plenty of evidence … that many men supported the legislation [specifically to safeguard their] interests.
    (p 94)

    Restrictions on women's working hours [and conditions (eg heavy lifting)] helped to restrict women's employment to unskilled areas of work, thereby improving men's employment opportunities.
    [It also] increased the amount of time that women were likely to spend on domestic duties [—] something that many male unionists … explicitly wanted. …
    [The] wages of the [coal miners] are amply sufficient to enable them to maintain the female members of their families at home to look after his family, cook his victuals, and mend his clothes, and keep everything snug and in good order.
    [On the other hand, many women defended their] right to employment [in order] to support their families.
    [Female textile workers] in Yorkshire pointed out that [their only other employment alternatives were servitude or dressmaking. …]
    We see no way of escape from starvation, but to accept the very tempting offers of the newspapers …
    [To] ship ourselves off to Van Dieman's Land, on the very delicate errand of husband hunting.

    Restrictions on the hours that women may work and weights they may lift have been directed primarily at workplaces [in which men and women were in direct competition.]
    They [were] never extended to traditionally female occupations such as nursing, where [heavy lifting and long hours were] a taken-for-granted part of the occupation.
    The legislation protected men's jobs and domestic privileges rather than women's health and welfare as such.
    (p 95)

    In 1980 a group of women [complained] that they had been denied employment by … Australian Iron and Steel (AIS) simply because they were women. …
    AIS avoided further [action by] agreeing to hire some women …
    Three years later, however, AIS laid off large numbers of workers including most of the women [on a 'last hired, first fired' basis.]
    The women [returned] to the New South Wales anti-discrimination commissioner … arguing that if they had not been discriminated against originally they would not be top of the list to be retrenched.

    [AIS's defence was] that it had not employed women earlier at the Port Kembla steelworks because [a law prohibiting them] from lifting more than sixteen kilos …
    [However, the] Equal Opportunity Tribunal [found] that where this was necessary workers used their brains to avoid individual strain.
    [The] company was instructed to rehire [the women] and to reform its employment practices.
    [It] became clear that [the women] greatly preferred the so-called 'dirty, heavy work' of the steelyards to the … closely supervised traditional womens' work in the textile industry.
    (p 96)

    [The 1890s saw a] more far-reaching attack on women's status in the workplace [in the form of the] 'family wage'.
    [While there] was genuine humanitarian concern about … working families trying to survive on below-subsistence wages [some officials clearly] disapproved of women having paid work at all.
    [On one hand, it was assumed that middle class] 'respectable women' did not work, and [on the other, that] working-class women ought not to work because it [interfered] with their primary duties of childcare and domestic labour.
    [Even working class men] whose wages were [inadequate] to support their families [found relying] on the wages of of their children [less of threat to their role as breadwinner than the shame of resorting to their wive's income to support the family. …]

    In 1980 [Justice Higgins ruled that:]
    A wage that does not allow for the matrimonial condition for an adult man is not fair and reasonable, is not a "living wage".
    (p 97)

    In 1918 the Arbitration Court [considered the] minimum wage for women working in the clothing trades. …
    The union did not ask for equal pay for women and men, however. …
    [Justice Higgins determined] what the average female employee needed to support herself.
    Assuming that she had no dependants [it was] concluded that the female basic wage should be … £1 15s, while the men were granted £3 5s.
    [This established females wages at] fifty-four per cent of male breadwinner wages.

    One result of this ruling was that [it gave employers an incentive] to employ women, and to substitute them for [men] wherever possible.
    [Accordingly,] Higgins … warned employers to keep women out of 'men's jobs'.
    [Unsurprisingly, employers applied] to have particular occupations classified as women's work [while unions] made counter-applications] to have jobs defined as 'male' [to preserve] men's higher wage levels.
    [The result was] a labour market … highly segregated by sex. …

    [Those] unions that covered mixed-sex occupations realized that the only way to preserve male [rates of pay] was to ask to equal pay for men and women.
    They simply assumed that employers would prefer [men over] women if there was no greater cost involved.
    (p 98)
    Justice Higgins:
    If blacksmiths are the class of workers, the minimum rate must be such as recognizes that blacksmiths are usually men.
    {If milliners are the class of workers, the minimum rate must … be such as recognizes that … nearly all milliners are women, and that men are not usually in competition with them …}
    If fruit-pickers are the class of workers, the minimum rate must be such as recognizes that, up to the present at least, most … are men [but] that men and women are fairly in competition in that class of work.
    [Therefore,] in the case of pickers, men and women, being on a substantial level, should be paid on the same level of wages.
    [Nevertheless,] equal pay was not to be extended to [fruit packers, who were] almost entirely [female.]
    Equal pay was [extended to women] to protect men's [incomes,] not because women because women should be paid [the same] for doing the same work.

    These decisions … institutionalized the assumption that women were financially dependent on man (as fathers or husbands) and that they had no dependents of their own.
    Yet, just as many men did not marry, so many women found themselves the family breadwinner, on a totally inadequate income.

    This assumption was also used to deny married women the right to work.
    [Until] 1966 women who got married were not allowed to hold permanent postions in the Commonwealth Public Service, or in the banking industry.
    Female employees who got married often lost their jobs.
    [Some unions] actively organized to prevent married women from working.
    [During the Great Depression] newspapers denounced married women who took paid work as 'evil', on the grounds that they were depriving unemployed men of jobs.
    (p 99)

    When unemployment again rose sharply in the mid-1970s … The Australian attacked married women for taking men's and young people's jobs.
    In 1977, Rockhampton Council dismissed a female employee for getting married … on the grounds that [sacking married women] helped create jobs for young people. …

    The effects of this historical segregation of men's and women's work are still felt today.
    The majority of paid working women are clerks, typists, domestic workers, unskilled factory workers, nurses or teachers. …
    Many women't wages are still not adequate to live on, creating a financial incentive to marry. …

    In 1949 women's wages [were] set at seventy-five per cent of men's …
    [It] was not until 1969 that [women were granted equal pay for equal work but only where the work done by women was] 'of the same or like nature' to men [— ie it] was not applicable to work that was usually done only by women.
    (p 100)

    In 1972, with the [Whitlam] government's encouragement, the [Arbitration] commission announced that women should also get equal pay for work of 'equal value' …
    However, decisions about the relative 'value' of different kinds of work … reflected traditional assumptions [which devalued] women's skills.
    For example, the ability to life heavy objects [was] assumed to be more valuable than the dexterity needed to do intricate work …
    [Meanwhile,] employers were busy reclassifying jobs to minimize the number of women … who could claim that they [were doing] the same job as a man.

    In 1974 the … national wage case granted women the same minimum wage as men. …
    [Yet] even this [did not have] as much influence as might be expected because workers' pay packets usually contain the basic minimum for the job, plus payments for over-time work , over-award rates, commissions and bonuses — and women get very little of the latter.
    This … reflects their lack of industrial strength, and the unwillingness of unions to fight for extra pay in occupations that are dominated by women.
    Construction workers, for example, get allowances for working above a certain height, while nurses get no allowance for lifting heavy weights.

    In 1988 [women were] still earning only seventy-eight per cent as much as men.
    (p 101)
    The Age:
    [Revaluing] all female-dominated professions against some set of criteria, or by comparing them to [equivalent] male-dominated professions [presents] enormous practical and economic difficulties which are probably insurmountable.
    The economic burden on the nation, and the individual employer, of raising total female earnings to the level of total male earnings would be ruinous. …

    For many women, paid work does not provide a guarantee of financial independence or a 'living wage'.
    (p 102)

    [One] in four Australian households [are] headed by a woman.
    Without financial independence it is hard to see how women are going to be free to make real choices about their adult lives. …

    Many men still think of their work as being masculine [and if] women begin to do the same work, such men often feel [threatened.]
    In these circumstances it is not uncommon for women to be sexually harassed, or otherwise made to feel uncomfortable.
    At the same time many women stay away from traditionally male occupations because they feel that such work is incompatible with being truly 'feminine', or because of traditional ideas which suggest that women are not good at 'men's' jobs.

    [In some cases traditionally] male jobs in which women make some headway tend to become increasingly feminized, and in the process lose pay and status. …
    Since the late 1960s [the] banking workforce [has been] increasingly divided into two separate tiers,
    • one of which is the career grade,
    • the other confined to low status operations like telling and electronic data entry.
    [This has been accompanied by almost complete] feminization of the lower grades.
    Men have stayed away from such work … initially because of its loss of career prospects and subsequently … because of its increasingly feminine associations.
    (p 103)

    A study of women in the banking industry [found that:]
    Women have a very high drop-out rate and the banks can quite confidently predict how many will leave after four or five years.
    Most leave to have children by about age twenty-five.

    While increasing numbers are making it to junior supervisory positions, the number who go much further tapers off quite dramatically.
    Most have dropped out by the age of thirty.

    Natural wastage thus sorts out the problem of promoting large numbers to low level management. …
    (Anne Game and Rosemary Pringle, Gender at Work, 1983, p 49)

    Women's enrolments in universities … have increased dramatically since the mid 1970s when the Labor government abolished university fees. …
    In law and medicine women now make up over forty per cent of the student population.
    However, when it comes to being registered to practice … the number falls to only twenty per cent, and … women tend to remain concentrated in … the lower status end of the profession. …
    (p 104)

    The pattern of finding women concentrated in the lower rungs of a particular occupation or industry is common in all industries that employ both sexes. …

    [In 1978 Deborah Wardley] claimed that Ansett Airlines had discriminated against her by refusing to employ her as trainee pilot.
    The court ordered Ansett to employ her despite Sir Reginald Ansett's public insistence that he would rather sack her than let her fly. …
    In Townsville's Ross River Meatworks the male slicers walked off the job when a women won the right to work [alongside] them.
    (p 105)

    [The] Hawke Labor government introduced the Affirmative Action Act which [requires] large employers to take positive steps to [redress] the status of their female employees.
    This is not the same as US legislation which sets quotas for … women and other disadvantaged groups.
    [Instead, it requires] large institutions to
    • remove barriers to women's career [advancement,]
    • to actively seek out female employees where there are few, and
    • to reform the management practices.
    [The penalty] for failing to do so [is 'naming' of] the offending company [in Parliament. …]
    [There] is good reason to believe that [the legislation] will be of more help to middle-class women in senior positions than to unskilled working-class women [working] in feminized industries.
    (p 106)

    For women with school-age children the problem of childcare and continued responsibility for cleaning, shopping and cooking is often solved by taking up part-time work. …
    Unfortunately … part-time work tends to reinforce all the negative aspects of women's employment …
    It is usually … in low status, low pay occupations … such as cleaning and retailing.

    [The union] movement has traditionally been strongly opposed to [the] existence [of part-time work, due to] its concern to defend jobs with 'breadwinner' conditions.
    (p 107)

    [The] Australian trade union movement should follow the lead of their European counterparts who have been campaigning to raise the status of part-time work.
    [If] part-time work attracted proportionate pay and benefit levels and could be converted back [to full-time] on request, then it would not only vastly improve the working lives of many women, but might also become a more attractive proposition for some men [— allowing them] to play a bigger part in the care of their young children, thereby further [enhancing] women's quality of life.
    (p 108)


    Migrants and 'Dirty Work'


    At the end of the Second World War Australia'a population stood at over seven million …
    [The] vast majority [were from] Britain or Ireland [and about 98%] spoke English as their first language. …

    [By 1986] an estimated 3.2 million Australian residents had been born overseas.
    Britain and Ireland continued to provide the largest numbers, but there were were [also] major migrations [from] Italy (380,000), Greece (220,000), Yugoslavia (184,000), Germany (142,000), an the Netherlands (166,000), Poland (104,000) and the Lebanon (61,000).
    As a result, the Australian workforce is now one of the most ethnically and linguistically diverse in the world. …
    (p 110)

    By 1974 there were almost two million migrant workers in France [and] 2.3 million in Germany, or over eight and a half per cent of the working population.
    In Switzerland, migrant workers made up almost a quarter of the working population.
    In total, about fifteen million [migrant labourers] moved into the affluent Western European countries [during] the post-war period.
    French migrant workers came mostly from North Africa … Portugal and Spain.
    German migrant workers … from Turkey, Yugoslavia … Italy [and] Greece.
    [From a] global perspective, the southern European migrants who came to Australia … were part of a … general wave of emigration from those regions.

    [It] is often suggested that Australian immigration [differed in that] it explicitly promoted permanent family settlement.
    In the 1950s and 1960s migrants were expected abandon their cultural origins as far as possible, and to 'assimilate'.
    Since the 1970s there has been increased acceptance of … that Australia is a multicultural society …
    (p 111)

    [Non-British migrants were generally expected to relinquish their original citizenship in order to] become full Australian citizens.
    {[Nevertheless,] significant numbers returned home eventually [—] about thirty per cent of British, Italian and Maltese, nearly forty per cent of Dutch and German, and between twenty and twenty-five per cent of Greeks and Yugoslavs …}
    In Western Europe, by contrast [such] migrants were denied the right to citizenship … restricted to certain jobs [and often quartered] in barracks-like [accommodations] for single men.
    These euphemistically titled 'guest workers' would [remit most of their wages to] their home countries.
    While most Australian migrants [had] greater political rights than their [European] counterparts … they still ended up doing … similar kinds or work, and … living in men's 'barracks' in towns like Whyalla. …

    Not surprisingly Britain was the first target of the new Department of Immigration, but it failed to provide new settlers in anywhere near the desired quantities.
    As a result, Arthur Calwell, Australia's first Minister for Immigration, began to recruit migrants from … refugee camps in Europe [—] people who had lost their homes in Eastern Europe during the Second World War.
    These 'displaced persons' were required to work for two years as directed by the Department of Immigration …
    [Many] found themselves in remote regions doing work that Australians [would not — eg providing] over half of the workforce for the … Snowy Mountains hydro-electric scheme …
    (p 112)

    It was this wave of migrants who … broke the barrier to non-British immigration on a large scale.
    … Australian workers had [firmly opposed all previous] attempts by employers to bring in large number of foreign workers.
    The unions and the ALP were well aware [of] the employers' interest in unskilled Asian migration [on the basis] that such workers [would] be used to undermine … Australia's unionized workers, and [drive down] wages.
    The White Australia policy, one of the central planks of the Labor Party's platform from the time of Federation, was designed to [block] such immigration.
    [Minister] Calwell had to [give assurances] that these migrants would be paid at … award rates, and would not be used to break strikes.
    [He also emphasized] the difference between these new Eastern European migrants and the [Asians] traditionally most feared by the Australian labour movement. …
    Arthur Calwell:
    [Many] were red-headed and blue eyed.
    There were also a number of natural platinum blondes of both sexes.
    The men were handsome and the women beautiful.
    It was not hard to sell emmigration to the Australian people once the press published photographs of [the group known as the 'Balts'].
    (Robert Birrell and Tanya Birrell, An Issue of People: Population and Australian Society, 2nd Ed, 1987, p 46)
    Behind this publicity for blonde migrants the government was in fact already recruiting among people with brown and even black hair.
    During the 1950s, migrants began to arrive [from Greece, Italy,] the Lebanon, Spain, Syria and many other countries.
    (p 113, emphasis added)

    [During] the years of the 'long boom' … English-speaking workers [successfully moved] out of the least desirable production jobs into the new office jobs … and the growing number of service sector jobs in retailing, education and health.
    The jobs that were left vacant for [the recently arrived being] the least desirable, the worst paid and the most dirty, [repetitive,] heavy and dangerous. …
    [As in] France and Germany … immigrant jobs have been characterized by bad conditions, long hours, heavy effort and shift work.
    (p 116)

    The migrant workers themselves do not seem to have been content with these conditions for every long …
    In some cases their eagerness to escape meant that employers lost very high proportions of their workforce each year.
    [But, as] long as there were [enough] new arrivals to take their place, employers could avoid having to improve working conditions. …
    (p 117)

    [Difficulties arose, however,] when there was a labour shortage … and at these times BHP and other major migrant employers campaigned strongly to have their supply of 'factory fodder' increased.
    (p 118)

    It has been estimated that somewhere between 40-60,000 women, most of whom are non-English-speaking migrants, are engaged in clothing outwork …
    As recently as 1986 they were often getting less than the equivalent of $3 per hour …
    In 1987, following a sustained campaign by the Clothing and Allied Trades Union, the Arbitration Commission brought these clothing outworkers under the award which covers [textile workers] in factories …
    (p 120)

    One of the central reasons for the acceptance of the mass immigration policies of the post-war years has undoubtedly been the experience of full employment and unprecedented economic growth.
    However [migrant] workers might well have used to undercut local wage rates, and to weaken local union structures, as happened in the United States at the beginning of [the 20th] century, where [unions were weak] and no national system of job regulation existed.
    In Australia, by contrast, workers are highly unionized, and this is encouraged by the arbitration system.
    The arbitration system has in turn established legally enforceable minimum wages … with the result that migrants could not easily be used to undercut the [wages] of unionized Australian born workers.
    (p 121)

    [Economic recession] has been accompanied by the appearance of overt hostility to Asian migrants in particular, fuelled by extremist organizations like National Action and a small number of high-profile social commentators like Professor Geoffrey Blainey and Bruce Ruston.
    There is little doubt that these most recent and easily identifiable communities of migrants have been made a scapegoat for the economic difficulties which have beset Australia since the mid 1970s. …
    In France … an extreme right-wing party has been attracting substantial [support on a platform ] of forcibly repatriating migrant workers who came from North Africa.
    (p 122)

    In Germany there has been growing hostility towards the Turkish immigrant population, while in Britain the West Indian and Asian Communities have been the target of continued aggression. …
    (p 123)


    Technological Change


    [In a] capitalist economic system [each business sells its products or services] in competition with similar enterprises.
    Firms invest in technological change in order to secure [competitive advantage by increasing productivity,] and thereby cutting costs … or by improving their product.
    [No] enterprise can refuse to innovate and hope to stay in business for long. …
    [For this reason,] the nature and direction of technological change will be overwhelmingly determined by considerations of profit [— there being little or no incentive to take into account the] social, physical and environmental implications. …
    (p 126)

    It has been estimated … that the first generation of word processors displaced 20,000 typists in Sydney alone.
    (p 128)

    [Capitalism ensures that firms] which fail to find the funds for reinvestment or expansion face extinction in the longer run. …
    However [profit-maximizing] is not simply a question of finding technical improvements which lead to greater efficiency.
    It is equally a question of finding new methods of controlling the labour force [such] that it works as fast as possible [at least] cost.
    [The de-skilling and fragmentation of tasks on a mechanized assembly line the speed of which is determined by management achieves both these objectives.]
    [The] introduction of [capital intensive equipment also increases] pressure for round-the-clock shift work. …
    Employers cannot afford to have large investments standing idle and earning nothing.
    (p 132, emphasis added)

    In the 1880s, the giant manufacturer of reaping machinery in Chicago, McCormick's, introduced new moulding machines at an estimated cost of $500,000.
    [This, however, was not done] to achieve greater efficiency [but in] in order to defeat the National Union of Iron Molders
    Langdon Winner:
    The new machines, manned by unskilled labourers, actually produced inferior castings at a higher cost than the earlier process.
    After three years of use … the machines were abandoned [by which time] they had served their purpose — the destruction of the union. …
    (Do Artefacts Have Politics, The Whale and Reactor, University of Chicago Press, 1986, p 24)
    (p 133)

    'Luddite' has come to mean backward, anti-modern, and anti-progress.
    Yet the Luddites were in fact highly skilled and aware individuals who were not opposed to new technology as such.
    What they sought to prevent was the destruction of their status and livelihood, and in this their fears were perfectly well founded.
    Industrial 'progress' was achieved in ways that [demanded major sacrifices by] many workers.
    From this perspective, Luddism was an attempt to ensure that the [burden of] costs and [distribution of the] benefits of [introducing] such technologies were [apportioned fairly.]
    p 136)

    In 1974 Volvo constructed an entire new plant which abolished the assembly line altogether.
    Instead, Trolleys that can be stopped move the cars around from one work team to another.
    A Team of about 15-20 workers then works on it for 20-25 minutes before passing it on to the next one.
    The teams are not hierarchical, and workers can pace themselves and talk to each other.
    The rate of labour turnover and absenteeism fell and productivity rose.
    (p 141)


    Australia and the World Economy


    The difference between the value of a country's exports and the cost of its imports is known as the 'balance of trade' …
    [During] the 1980s Australia's balance deteriorated steadily.
    [As a result Australia's imports had to be increasingly financed by overseas borrowing.]
    (p 148)

    In the 1985-86 financial year, Australia's payments overseas for imports and interest on its overseas borrowing exceeded … overseas earnings by $14.5 billion (a record 'current account deficit').
    Between 1985 and [1988] Australia's foreign debt … rose from $68.5 billion to … $121.2 billion, with an annual interest bill of $8.1 billion. …

    Life [other] advanced economies … Australia has high personal income levels and extensive manufacturing and service sectors.
    Unlike other nations, however, it is strikingly lacking in firms which are competitive enough or large enough to … export consumer [or high technology] goods … or manufacturing equipment …

    Like many underdeveloped economies, Australia relies almost totally on the export of primary goods — both agricultural and mineral.
    (p 149)

    In 1921 the Australian government set up a Tariff Board to oversee the protection of Australian producers, hoping to encourage [diversification] and greater self-sufficiency.
    [These barriers] encouraged the growth of foreign-owned manufacturing …
    [Overseas firms obtained] access to Australia's growing domestic market during the 1950s and 1960s [by establishing] local subsidiaries which could then produce goods with the advantage of tariff protection. …
    [Foreign] ownership is highest in motor vehicles (100%), oil refining (90%), basic chemicals (78%), brown coal and petroleum (84%), black coal (59%) and iron ore (47%).
    Australia now has the highest level of foreign ownership and control of all [developed countries] except Canada.
    (p 150)

    [Despite stimulating economic growth, tariff protection] had serious effects on the [efficiency,] productivity and competitiveness of manufacturing, whether locally or foreign-owned. …
    Sheltered from overseas competition and without any corresponding [need] to undertake modernization or expansion, much of Australian industry developed in a haphazard and fragmented fashion — becoming [progressively] less competitive … with overseas companies over time.
    As a result Australian exports remained overwhelmingly agricultural and mineral …
    (p 151)

    [Firms] have attempted to reduce their operating costs by locating production in countries with very low wage rates …
    [Where] the production process can be split into separate states [the] unskilled, labour-intensive elements … can be relocated abroad.
    In the clothing industry, for example, the skilled work or cutting out patterns can be kept in the home country while the unskilled and time-consuming work of sewing … can be transferred to a low-wage economy.
    (p 154)

    Not only is [foreign] labour, especially female labour, cheap and plentiful, but it is unlikely to be unionized. …
    Multinationals … are also often able to avoid … costly environmental [and health] regulations …
    (p 155)

    [Between] 1971 and 1983, 1.5 million or more women workers in the clothing and textile industries of Europe and the United States lost their jobs, while two or more million women in the Third World found jobs in the same industries.
    In Australia 46,000 jobs were lost between 1973 and 1980, while imports of these products increased rapidly.
    (p 156)

    While we are constantly being exhorted by manufacturers and politicians to accept the inevitable pressures of an increasingly [competitive international] world market, there are … examples to suggest that Australia need not give in to the dictates of 'market forces'.
    [Many] major economic success stories [since 1945 have] involved high levels of government intervention aimed at counteracting the option of the free market.

    Sweden … is a high-wage economy with a domestic market only half the size of Australia's, yet it has
    • one of the highest standards of living in the world
    • one of the lowest unemployment levels, and
    • manages to export cars, telephone systems, dishwashers, ball-bearings and many other [value-added] goods.
    (p 159)

    It [also] has one of the most highly regulated industrial relations systems in the West, with over eighty per cent of … employees belonging to trade unions.

    [South Korea's] industrial success was achieved through the deliberate exclusion of foreign investment, and government promotion of particular kinds of industrial investment — as well as the repression trade unionism and civil liberties. …
    [Similarly, the] Japanese motor-car industry would never have developed without the active encouragement and assistance of the state [along with] the deliberate exclusion of foreign investment.
    (p 160)

    In both [of these] countries the state … intervened to protect local industry [without] simply relying on [tariffs to] protect inefficient industries …
    [Instead,] the state [promoted] patterns of investment aimed at establishing large-scale export industries.
    In both countries techniques of labour control [were] adopted that would be … considered unacceptable [in Australia, nonetheless, it is] clear that low wages were not a prerequisite for the successful development of high technology industry. …

    The problem is to identify areas in which investment should be concentrated — areas with the potential for significant growth, in which Australia has the relevant technological capacity and labour skills.
    So far Australia has relied on market forces to [allocate] investment.
    [Yet Sweden and Japan have demonstrated] that investment [can] be actively channelled [with measures such] as tax incentives and controls. …

    There are problems which require active state intervention —
    • increased regulation of … multinational corporations [and]
    • state promotion of manufacturing that is … economically, socially and environmentally desirable.
    [The] owners of international corporate capital might have have Australia [pegged] as a nation of farmers, miners and tour operators, but there are good reasons for … believing that more diversified, autonomous economy [is possible].
    (p 161)

No comments:

Post a Comment