Community & Environment

 
 


Peoples' livelihoods are being crushed by capitalism's economic crisis

Max O.

Capitalist production has placed enormous pressure on ordinary peoples' lives to the extent that we are again seeing the immiseration of the working class.

Corporations are ceaselessly escalating their exploitation of workers who are pressed to do more in less time. But their wages and livelihoods don't reflect the increased demands made on them. In fact the phenomenon of the working poor, whose size is ever increasing, has become common place this century.

More and more of the value they create, what Marxists call Surplus-Value, goes to the boss class.

Life is a battle when it comes to work, housing, transport, health and education. These needs are the five fundamental pillars to our day to day existence. Trying to maintain these pillars of life has become a misery for workers who are increasingly sliding into poverty.

Australia's slump continues
Capitalism's frequent economic crises come about due to its inbuilt tendency for the rate of profit to fall, which causes a withholding of investment by investors who prefer to divert their capital to speculative activity, amassing ficticious capital that adds to the pressures for a crisis of devalorisation. This combined with over-production creates a disruption in the circuits of capital:

Stage 1. The capitalist's money purchases commodities, this first stage of circulation is shown as Money to Commodities or M — C.

Stage 2. Capital goes through the process of production, resulting in commodities of greater value or P...C1

Stage 3. The capitalist goes back to the market and sells commodities for money; the final circulation stage or C1 — M1.

Karl Marx's formula for the circuit of money-capital is: M — C ... P ... C1 — M1, the dots indicate that the process of circulation is interrupted, and C1 and M1 designate that C and M have increased by Surplus-Value.

Australia continues to suffer a damaging four-year slump in corporate investment. Expenditure by business on new machinery, equipment and buildings has slid 2.1% compared to the previous three months to February this year. This was a twofold contraction than was predicted by bourgeois economists and a fourth straight quarter decline since 2016.

 
•    New capital expenditure fell overall from about $42 billion a quarter in 2012 to $27 billion per quarter in 2016, a drop of 36%.
•    Mining investment nose-dived almost 60% since its high in 2012, and is projected to fall by another 27% in 2016-17; and there has been no rise in non-mining investment.
•    Australia's dependence on foreign investment looks ominous; annual foreign direct investment inflows halved, to less than $30 billion, between 2013 and 2015.
•    Roy Morgan polling surveys show unemployment and under-employment now affects more than 2.4 million workers, or nearly 18% of the workforce: 1.3 million are jobless and 1.1 million are under-employed.
•    Wages figures continue to show record low growth with average weekly earnings rising just 1.6% in 2016, just slightly above the consumer price index rise of 1.5%. Reserve Bank delusion of a higher wages growth to boost the economy hasn't come to pass. 

Work
Capital relentlessly seeks to discipline labour-time so that workers do the job as quickly and as cheaply as possible. The 9-5 work day is now a by-gone era. Smart technology has blurred the boundaries between work and home; now businesses can command their workers 24/7.

Research commissioned by The Australia Institute (TAI) reported that more than half of all workers said that their employers insisted they work unpaid hours or work at home outside of normal hours. 

Australian workers delivered $128 billion in unpaid overtime annually and are cajoled by employers not to take their entitled annual leave.

Housing
Demographia early this year reported that Australian housing has become one of the most unaffordable in the world; soaring housing costs have priced millions of young workers out of the market. In an international survey of 51 assessed Australian housing markets, 33 were considered largely unaffordable.

Mortgage repayments often outstrip the wages of those who do purchase a house.  Rental costs have also continued to climb, consuming about a third of the median household income - the median weekly rent for a Sydney apartment is over $500.

Mobile apps are now available for people to use to bid for rental accommodation - a measure to push up rental prices. Although 1.3 million households received welfare payments and the $130 fortnightly Commonwealth Rental Assistance supplement in 2016, they still suffer rental stress.

Transport
Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) 2013 data reported that the average weekly commuting time for full time workers in Australia's largest cities increased by almost 20% from 2002 to 2011, to five hours and 45 minutes a week. In Brisbane public transport fares that cost $3.40 in 2008 had risen to $6.20 by 2012. Data shows that in the outer city suburbs, fares go up and incomes fall.

Health
Recent annual Medicare statistics revealed that half of those suffering from chronic health conditions skipped treatment because of the high costs on “out of pocket” expenses incurred by patients. The national average out-of-pocket expenses for Medicare services increased from $3.95 in 1984–85 to $54.60 in 2014–15.

The Liberal-National government attempted to slash health funding in its 2014–15 budget by around $1.8 billion over four years, and $57 billion over a decade. In effect Australia’s publicly-funded Medicare insurance scheme is a “two-tier” healthcare system - excellent for the rich, lousy for the poor.

Education
Governments had three objectives in implementing NAPLAN (National Assessment Program—Literacy and Numeracy) in schools.

The first was to excuse education spending cuts and prepare the ground for future austerity measures; the second is to socially sort students into winners who go to university and losers who become low wage work fodder; third is to attack teachers’ working conditions and enforce retrograde teaching practices, such as “initiatives proven to boost student results.”

The Turnbull government abandoned the scheduled “Gonski” school funding for 2017 and 2018. The Gonski funding model, introduced by the former Labor government, was to fund schools on a needs basis. After winning office the Liberal-National government abandoned much of the planned funding, amounting to around $4 billion.

Build a people's 5 pillars movement
Ordinary people are focussed on their immediate needs to survive from day to day. Therefore to combat capital's exploitive intensification of workers and its austerity budget cuts that target workers' social welfare, ways need to be found to coalesce unions, unemployed, homeless, community support groups etc. into a fighting movement. 

The common denominator for these groups are the 5 pillars of livelihood - work, housing, transport, health and education - to mobilise and campaign around, so as to challenge capital and show another way of running society is possible.

 

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