Cutting penalty rates has contributed to a reduction in consumer spending while failing to create any extra jobs or give workers more hours, according to recent research.
These outcomes are the opposite of what the Turnbull government and employers claimed would happen when the Fair Work Commission cut penalty rates in the retail, hospitality, fast food and pharmacy sectors last year.
Fair Work justified its decision in March by arguing a gradual reduction in penalty rates would result in “more trading hours, an expansion in the level of services offered and an increase in overall hours worked,” Fairfax Media reported.
However, a survey of 1351 workers by the University of Wollongong and Macquarie University found there has been no short-term increase in average weekly hours worked by employees.
University of Wollongong lecturer Martin O’Brien said some workers actually experienced a drop in the number of penalty rate hours they worked in the first two months after they were reduced.
Dr O’Brien concluded that up to 15 per cent of all retail workers who were employed on Sundays worked 9 per cent fewer hours between June and July, while hospitality workers experienced no change to their hours.
“This finding is in stark contrast to the hypothesised outcome,” he said.
Meanwhile, reductions in Sunday and public holiday penalty rates have been linked to the lowest increase in consumer spending since the global financial crisis.
Analysis by the McKell Institute found “some correlation” between the reduction in consumer spending in the September quarter and the penalty rate cuts that began to be implemented from July 1.
The 0.1 per cent rise in consumer spending in the September quarter was the lowest increase since the global financial crisis, The Australian reported.
“While strong business investment is evident, there is clear evidence that household consumption is weakening,’’ the discussion paper by the institute said.
“Most evident is a reduction in consumer spending in Quarter 3, 2017 – the first quarter since penalty rate reductions have been in place, suggesting the reduction in take-home pay for workers has reduced their capacity to spend.”
Opposition workplace relations spokesman Brendan O’Connor said Malcolm Turnbull should retract his claim that cuts to penalty rates will create “hundreds of thousands of jobs”.
“The only impact reducing penalty rates will have is a pay cut for some of the lowest paid,’’ he said.