Flat White

The lowest public service wage increase on record? This calls for a celebration

21 February 2020

11:02 AM

21 February 2020

11:02 AM

Yesterday, the Australian bemoaned weak public sector wage growth, suggesting public sector wages are in the doldrums and public servants are enduring the weakest wage growth on record. 

Leaving the emotive language to one side, public sector wage growth during 2019 was 2.2 per cent (seasonally adjusted) in a year where inflation was 1.8 per cent. 

One wonders how these little poppets will survive the adversity of weak wage growth despite the soft sweet cushioning of job security and 15 per cent superannuation. Maybe the private sector can pass the hat around for these poor souls. 

As you can imagine, my heart weeps. 

But here is the kicker – private sector wage growth during was also 2.2 per cent (seasonally adjusted). In addition to that, the 2018/2019 financial year saw 10,747 companies go into external administration and unemployment has increased, as has underemployment and hours worked. There is no doubt there are fewer jobs going around, and those people who still have jobs, are anxious to hold onto them. 

It has always sat uncomfortably with me that the people who tip into consolidated revenue are more exposed to economic vagaries (with fewer perks) than those who suck the life out of it. Such is the distinction between productivity driven capitalism and cost churning bureaucracy. We could always peg public sector wage growth to private sector wage growth – that might motivate government departments to produce policies which stimulate economic growth rather than smother it. 

In any event, the economy is cyclical. It just is. The fact this is the lowest public service wage increase since records commenced in 1997 should be something, you’d think, someone with a bit of perspective would celebrate.  

Yet, here we are: the unaccountable ungrateful, the accountable unappreciated, and the media trying to create a story where there isn’t one. What a mess. 

Caroline Di Russo is a lawyer, businesswomen and unrepentant nerd. 

Illustration: Decca.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

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