Oz Blog News Commentary

More evidence that the far-right in politics and industry are determined to drive working class Australians into generational poverty?

October 4, 2017 - 00:15 -- Admin

The Sydney Morning HeraldWage fraud, wage freezes, cuts to penalty rates and companies scrapping enterprise agreements will reduce the retirement savings of millions of workers by $100 billion by the time they retire, a report has found.The report, the Consequences of Wage Suppression for Australia's Superannuation System by the Australia Institute's Centre for Future Work, says the government will pick up more than one third of the cost, equivalent to $37 billion in lost taxes due to lower super contributions and higher age pension payouts.It estimates that three million people, or one in four workers, have experienced some form of wage suppression, which will adversely impact their super payout.The author of the report, Jim Stanford, describes wage suppression as an economic "time bomb". He says while individual families are grappling with the immediate impact of wage cuts, the long-term impact when they retire is yet to play out.[THE CONSEQUENCES OF WAGE SUPPRESSION FOR SUPERANNUATION, p.9]Centre for Future Work at the Australia Institute, Jim Stanford, Ph.D., The Consequences of Wage Suppression for Australia’s Superannuation System, September 2017, excerpt from Summary:Wages and salaries in Australia’s labour market are exhibiting their weakest growth in the history of the relevant statistics. Hourly wages are growing at less than 2 percent per year, and real wages (adjusted for consumer price inflation) are stagnant or falling. The unprecedented stagnation of wages reflects many factors, including chronic weakness in labour demand and the erosion of traditional wage-setting institutions (such as minimum wages and collective bargaining). But it also reflects, for millions of Australian workers, the aggressive efforts by employers (both private- and public- sector) to deliberately suppress wages below normal levels. These wage-suppression strategies take many forms: from the imposition of temporary wage freezes, to the unilateral termination of enterprise agreements, to the outright theft of wages through below-minimum payments. These pro-active measures to suppress labour incomes, breaking the normal link between labour incomes and labour productivity (which continues to grow at over 1 percent per year1), impose great harm on affected workers, their families, government budgets, and Australia’s macroeconomic performance. There is another important consequence of these wage suppression strategies that is often not sufficiently understood by workers, employers, policy-makers and regulators: their flow-through impact on Australia’s retirement income system. When workers’ wages are unduly suppressed, then the normal flow of employer contributions into their superannuation accounts is also constrained. They will have smaller superannuation balances when they retire, and will consequently experience a lasting reduction in post-retirement incomes. Moreover, governments will share a significant portion of the resulting damage: they will collect less in taxes on superannuation contributions and investment income, and will pay out more in means-tested Age Pension benefits (since workers’ superannuation incomes will be smaller). These significant, lasting consequences from wage-suppression strategies should be documented and considered. They provide a powerful motive for all stakeholders to challenge employers’ wage-cutting initiatives. They also should be of direct concern to superannuation trustees and administrators – since the capacity of the superannuation capacity of the superannuation system to provide decent, secure retirement incomes for its members is being undermined by this growing pattern of wage suppression. This report presents results from several quantitative simulations of the impact of wage suppression on superannuation entitlements of affected workers, their long-run retirement incomes, and corresponding fiscal effects on government. The report considers several specific scenarios, corresponding to different instances of pro-active wage suppression strategies that have been experienced by Australian workers in recent years. It traces through the impact of those policies on workers’ wages, superannuation accumulations, and retirement incomes. The simulations also describe the spill-over impacts on government (arising from reduced taxes collected on superannuation contributions and investment income, and increased Age Pension payouts). The simulations confirm that: * Wage suppression undermines superannuation accumulations by automatically reducing employer contributions. Moreover, the damage is compounded over time due to the subsequent loss of investment income. * Even temporary wage restraint measures (like temporary wage freezes) have lasting negative impacts on superannuation balances, by altering the trajectory of a worker’s wages for the rest of their career. * The most dramatic instances of wage suppression – the termination of enterprise agreements by employers, and resulting large wage reductions as workers are placed back on minimum award conditions – can reduce the superannuation balance of a retiring worker by as much as $270,000. * More modest wage suppressing policies (such as temporary nominal wage freezes, producing real wage reductions that are then sustained through a worker’s remaining years of service) reduce retirement superannuation balances by $30,000 or more. * Government bears a share of the resulting losses, through both reduced tax collections before affected workers retire, and increased Age Pension payouts after they retire. In the worst-case scenarios, governments can experience fiscal losses of over $50,000 per worker (in real 2017 dollar terms). * Millions of Australians have been confronted with one or more of these forms of wage suppression from their employers, so the aggregate impacts across the economy are enormous. Based on plausible estimates of the number of workers confronted with each form of wage suppression, the aggregate loss of superannuation balances on retirement (if the pattern of wage suppression is maintained) could ultimately exceed $100 billion (in real 2017 dollars) by the time affected workers retire, and the aggregate fiscal cost to government could reach $37 billion (in real 2017 dollars)………..1 A recent Department of Finance research paper on productivity trends confirms that labour productivity continues to grow at typical historical rates – advancing at an annual average rate of 1.8 percent over the last five years alone. See Simon Campbell and Harry Withers, “Australian Productivity Trends and the Effect of Structural Change, “ August 28 2017, PublicationsAndMedia/Publications/2017/ Australian-productivity-trends-and-the-effect-of-structuralchange[THE CONSEQUENCES OF WAGE SUPPRESSION FOR SUPERANNUATION, p.10]