Three types of blog posts I’m sick of writing, and I’m sure you’re sick of reading, are generic defences of the Fair Work Act, angry screeds against predictable partisanship from The Australian, and basic summaries of labour force data. Yet every time I swear to myself that I’m going to take a break from each of these genres, someone writes something that gets me sufficiently riled up that I feel compelled to respond. John Black’s piece in yesterday’s Oz, titled ‘Workers at the mercy of a jittery economy‘, ticked all the boxes. He uses a highly selective and skewed bundle of labour force data to try to make the case that the Fair Work Act is the cause of rising unemployment. Here’s my response.
The campaign by The Australian newspaper against the Fair Work Act has had a few phases. I’d like to go through a few of their key claims and evaluate them against recent data.
Economists usually think that people’s revealed preferences (what they do) are more important than their stated preferences (what they say they’ll do). With that in mind, let’s consider George Calombaris’ claim that the minimum wages he has to pay his staff on Sundays make it uneconomical to open his restaurant(s). Is it true? Well, he claims that it is uneconomical to open on Sundays, yet he nevertheless opens on Sundays. Why would he do that if it were true that his costs exceeded his revenue?