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The Fair Work Commission’s 2021 Annual Wage Review is occurring in the context of the most uncertain economic outlook Australia has experienced in decades, and following a federal budget that projects weak wage growth across the economy for at least the next four years.
After the biggest economic shock in a century, economic activity is picking up, and the main government support programs, such as JobKeeper and the JobSeeker Coronavirus supplement, have been withdrawn. Unemployment is down, but 60 per cent of the jobs created in the last six months are casual, while less than a quarter are full-time. Underemployment and job insecurity remain a significant problem for the Australian labour force, as they were before the pandemic.
As this report demonstrates, it is imperative that low- and middle-income households receive adequate wage increases to compensate for years of wage stagnation and months of lost income: imperative not only for working Australians and their families, but critical to the task of lifting consumer confidence and spending needed to boost the revenues of small and medium enterprises across the nation.
Bringing together data from before and since the pandemic on wage growth trends, company profits, asset prices, consumer spending, the cost of living and consumer prices, and household living standards, this report outlines the case for a significant increase in the minimum wage, which will flow through to higher take-home pay for the more than 2 million Australian workers who rely on award wages.