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Busting myths we take for granted

By Malcolm King - posted Friday, 10 October 2014


ABS unemployment methodology is accurate

Only Blind Freddy and possibly Cheech and Chong, believe the ABS unemployment methodology bears any resemblance to reality. According to the ABS, not only must you not be in employment, but you can't have done even one hourof paid work in the four weeks prior to the survey. You must have applied for something in the previous four weeks - and you must be available to start immediately. That narrows down the field.

The ABS estimate does not take into account people who have been employed for a few hours of part-time work per week but would like to work more hours. To the ABS, these folk are happily 'employed'. The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) estimates that by taking into account the hidden unemployed – people who have given up looking - and 'underemployment' the real level of joblessness is approximately double that given by the ABS.

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If the government wants an accurate feel of the nation's economic pulse, these people must be included in any measure of the jobless.

Figure 1: The ABS and Roy Morgan unemployment rates

The Morgan Poll asks five straightforward questions. Those surveyed are asked "Are you now in paid employment" – If No: "Are you self-employed or a consultant" and if Yes: "Do you work full-time or part-time?" If still No: "Are you now looking for a paid job?" and "A full-time job for 35 hours a week (or more) – or a part-time job". Those in part-time employment are also asked: "Are you now looking for a full-time job or additional hours?"

The ABS's "endorsed international standards" are rubbish and have been ever since they were modified in the 1980s. By then it was obvious that the low unemployment years of the post war years had come to an end, and there were two things that could be done about it: we could either have had a good hard look at why advanced market economies were leaving so many people without a job; or we could define the problem away. We defined the problem away.

It gets worse. Keating removed (the volatile and mostly climbing) house prices as a variable in determining the CPI and replaced it with (far steadier) "imputed rent on owner occupier homes". He misrepresented living standards and misstated that people were better off than they really were. The charade continues today.

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Real Estate agents have specialist sales knowledge

Real estate agents have held onto their power by convincing punters that because of their 'secret knowledge', only they can get the best possible price. Absolute rubbish.

Consumers can now buy and sell properties online at a fraction of the cost of an agent by using websites such as PropertyNow. These sites act like a virtual real estate agent. Depending on how many bells and whistles you're prepared to pay for, they help arrange professional photographs, arrange a for-sale board at the front of your house and provide you with general over-the-phone advice when negotiating with buyers. Such sweeping changes have empowered sellers, buyers and landlords like never before.

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About the Author

Malcolm King works in generational workforce change. He was an associate director at DEEWR Labour Market Strategy in Canberra and the senior communications strategist at Carnegie Mellon University. He also runs a professional writing business called Republic.

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