||Issue No. 223||04 June 2004|
Last Year’s Model
Interview: The New Democrat
Bad Boss: The Ugly Australian
Unions: Free Spirits and Slaves
Industrial: National Focus
History: A Class Act
International: Across the Ditch
Economics: Home Truths
Review: No Time Like Tomorrow
Poetry: Silent Note
The Locker Room
Last Year’s Model
Personal wealth is at an unprecedented high; property ownership is through the roof, consumer sales are booming; all assisted by an economy that is keeping both inflation and interest rates at a modest level.
But something doesn't add up. When asked, more and more workers say they feel stressed from overwork and given the option, say would forgo a pay rise for improved conditions or more time with their family.
To an economist, whose worldview is based on the premise that individuals chase wealth to maximise happiness, this is most irrational behaviour.
As Clive Hamilton points out in this month's Soapbox, it could well be that it is the economic model - not the humans - that has got it wrong.
Hamilton looks at the seduction of the marketeers and the fools gold of consumerism and finds more and more people opting to 'downsize' - that is forgo high-flier careers and big incomes, for more modest balanced lifestyles.
It's a new factor that the pointy-heads can't fit into their graphs - the yearning for a life less harried, where you can work, rest and play, all in a 24 hour time frame.
For trade unions, this shift raises some interesting issues, particularly around enterprise and award negotiations.
Many are already recognising that time is as important an asset as a pay cheque - construction unions, for instance, recently based negotiations around a claim for a 36-hour week which would translate to a guaranteed seven long-weekends per year.
But the challenge is beyond reducing formal hours, in many industries the very nature of work has changed and real work needs to be done in reviewing job design.
In many jobs, one is expected to be 'on-call' 24-07, mobile phones, pagers and emails are all expected to be answered; how have we moved our ideas of a working day to deal with these pressures?
There is a growing awareness of the need for flexible leave entitlements - such as between provisions for maternity, paternity and careers leave; but what of the period after the 'big event'? There are debates to be run around work-based child-care and maybe even aged care, as some hospitals are now providing for nurses.
These issues are difficult to deal with within the traditional work relationship because they are so difficult to quantify in dollar terms - not just the costs but the benefits.
And until we develop a new economic model that can put a value on goodwill, peace of mind and happiness we will continue to struggle to make sense of a world going mad.
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