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Australian pay cuts prompt tax reform call

Ahead of International Workers Day, Oxfam analysis reveals Australian workers suffered a 4.6 per cent real-term pay cut in 2022, resulting in an average loss of AUD $4,163 and almost ten unpaid workdays due to inflation outpacing wages. 

The total loss to workers in Australia amounted to AUD $58 billion, while the minimum wage increased 1.3 per cent below inflation. Oxfam urges the Australian government to implement a systemic increase in taxation of the super-rich, including a wealth and windfalls tax on corporations to address the root cause of poverty and inequality.

Globally, top-paid CEOs in four countries enjoyed a 9 per cent pay hike, while workers’ wages fell 3.19 per cent. On average, workers worked six days for free due to wage stagnation. Women and girls performed 4.6 trillion hours of unpaid care work annually. Shareholders received a record payout of USD $1.56 trillion in 2022, a 10 per cent increase from 2021.

According to Oxfam’s recent analysis, one billion workers in 50 countries experienced a pay cut in 2022, with an average loss of USD $685 in real wages, resulting in a collective loss of $746 billion compared to if wages had kept up with inflation. This has led to a situation where workers are struggling to make ends meet.

In addition to this, women and girls are putting in at least 380 billion hours of unpaid care work every month. This burden is forcing many women workers to reduce their paid hours or even drop out of the workforce altogether. Moreover, they continue to face gender-based discrimination, harassment, and less pay for equal work as compared to men.

“Years of austerity and attacks on trade unions have widened the gap between the richest and the rest of us. On a day meant to celebrate the working class, this glaring inequality is both shocking and sadly unsurprising,” said Oxfam International’s interim Executive Director Amitabh Behar. “While corporate bosses are telling us we need to keep wages down, they’re giving themselves and their shareholders massive payouts. Most people are working longer for less and can’t keep up with the cost of living.”

Oxfam’s analysis of corporate and survey data for 2022 found that the top-paid executives in India, the US, and the UK received significant pay raises while workers struggled. For instance, 150 of the top-paid executives in India received an average of $1 million, a real-term pay rise of 2 per cent since 2021.

On the other hand, the highest-paid CEOs in the US made $24 million on average, a real-term pay hike of 15 per cent from the previous year. Meanwhile, in the UK, the 100 best-paid CEOs were paid $5 million on average in 2022, and received a 4.4 per cent real-term pay hike.

“Workers are tired of being treated like sacrificial lambs every time a crisis hits,” said Mr Behar. “Governments should stop relying only on interest rate hikes and austerity that we know hurts ordinary people, particularly those living in poverty.

Instead, they should introduce windfall taxes on excessive corporate profits. They must also ensure minimum wages keep up with inflation and that everyone has the right to unionize, strike and bargain collectively.”

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Yajush Gupta

Yajush Gupta

Yajush is a journalist at Dynamic Business. He previously worked with Reuters as a business correspondent and holds a postgrad degree in print journalism.

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