Oxfam calls for tax reform as analysis shows Australian workers took 4.6% pay cut in 2022

Campaigns and Advocacy, Economic Justice, Media Releases article written on the 01 May 2023

Workers in Australia took a 4.6% real term pay cut in 2022, losing on average AUD $4,163 and working almost 10 days effectively unpaid because wages did not keep up with inflation, reveals new analysis from Oxfam ahead of International Workers Day.  

The total losses for workers in Australia was AUD $58 billion, while the increase to the minimum wage was 1.3% below inflation. 

Oxfam is calling on the Australian government to scrap the stage three tax cuts, and to instead implement a systemic and wide-ranging increase in taxation of the super-rich, including a wealth tax and a windfalls tax on corporations to tackle growing inequality, the root cause of poverty in Australia and globally. 

Meanwhile, globally, the top-paid CEOs across four countries enjoyed a 9% pay hike last year, while workers’ wages fell 3.19% during the same period. The global analysis also revealed:  

  • Workers on average worked six days ‘for free’ last year because their wages lagged behind inflation. 
  • Women and girls are putting in 4.6 trillion hours of unpaid care work every year.
  • Shareholders saw record payouts of USD$1.56 trillion in 2022, a 10% real-term increase compared to 2021. 

The figures, adjusted for inflation, are based on the latest data from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and government statistics agencies.  

One billion workers in 50 countries took an average pay cut of USD$685 in 2022, a collective loss of $746 billion in real wages, compared to if wages had kept up with inflation. 

Women and girls are putting in at least 380 billion hours of unpaid care work every month. Women workers often have to work reduced paid hours or drop out of the workforce altogether because of their unpaid care workload. They also continue to face gender-based discrimination, harassment, and less pay for work of equal value as men.  

“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. 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. 

“The only rise workers have seen is that of unpaid care work, with women shouldering the responsibility,” Mr Behar said. “This incredibly hard and valuable work is done for free at home and in the community.” 

Big business chiefs however are thriving. Oxfam’s analysis of corporate and survey data for 2022 found that: 

  • 150 of the top-paid executives in India received $1 million on average last year, a real-term pay rise of 2% since 2021. A single Indian executive makes in just four hours more than an average worker earns in a year.
  • 100 of the highest-paid CEOs in the US made $24 million on average in 2022, a real-term pay hike of 15% from the previous year. The average worker in the US would have to work for 413 years to match what a top-paid CEO makes in 12 months. 50% of women of colour in the US make less than $15 an hour.
  • The UK’s 100 best-paid CEOs were paid $5 million on average in 2022, and received a 4.4% real-term pay hike. They earn 140 times more than the average worker in the UK.

Exorbitant shareholder payouts benefited the richest in society, exacerbating already high levels of inequality. In the US, for example, the richest 1% hold 54% of shares held by US households.  

“Workers are tired of being treated like sacrificial lambs every time a crisis hits. Neoliberal logic blames inflation on everyone except profiteering corporations. 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 unionise, strike and bargain collectively,” said Mr Behar. 

For interviews, contact Lucy Brown on 0478 190 099/ lucyb@oxfam.org.au