Is Australia a workers' paradise?

Joe Hockey has described SPC Ardmona as a “union shop” in rejecting its bid for funding. The Government is clearly angling for a review of industrial relations. So how do Australians compare with workers elsewhere?

Joe Hockey has described SPC Ardmona as a “union shop” in rejecting its bid for funding. Along with calls for a Royal Commission into construction, the Government is clearly angling for a review of industrial relations.

We’ve always called ourselves the lucky country, but in terms of hours spent at work how do we compare with other developed nations? Keep in mind there are 8760 hours in a year.


(Click to enlarge)

Broken down by week, Australians on average work around 33 hours. This is in stark contrast to Germany - a country with strong industrial relations laws – where the average employee puts in around 27 hours per week.

What about the Australian manufacturing worker? It appears the image of the high-cost labour force is true. Australian wages in manufacturing have far outpaced productivity gains; only Japan has performed worse.


(Source: The Conference Board)

Of course, Australia's 20 years of unbroken economic growth has protected us somewhat against our poor productivity performance. However, the lion share of that money hasn't been pouring into workers' pockets, instead, Australia workers earn far less of the GDP pie than their foreign counterparts, and that figure is falling - as it is worldwide.


In terms of workplace conditions, is Australia really the lucky country after all?