Some interesting comparisons of life-chances

The good news is that there are many skilled Asians happily working in Australia, although only the very high income businessmen (newly arrived) and the medicos (who have been around for a while) are comparatively well off. The rest are relatively income-poor and status-denied but hope-rich for their children. Regretfully, there is already evidence that some of these children are being seduced by the Aussie ‘she’ll be all right, mate’ attitude to hard work, even to dropping out of university courses offering a high-income career.

Rewards for skill in Malaysia/Singapore are high. But they have to earn these rewards. For example, relatives of mine (both teachers) can afford an overseas trip each year; they could not afford that if they worked in Australia. The offset is that, there, they need to produce desired results. In Australia they would not be judged on outcomes – not yet, anyway.

… … The Australian worker is able to acquire a good home much more cheaply. Labour costs in the two countries overseas are low, especially if one is looking for skilled tradespeople. That is, there is a very wide spread of income there that would not be tolerated in Australia. Those on the bottom of the economic pile there are paid so little, even with overfull employment. I saw Indonesians living in prefabricated huts, together with their families, on a building site in Kuala Lumpur. Their living standards and quality of life, by Australian standards, were abysmally low.

The white-collar skilled in Singapore and Malaysia, however, receive a relative fortune and their lifestyle reflects it. And the very skilled live like princes.

Australia, however, is learning fast. Directors and other chiefs of business enterprises are rewarding themselves in the US and Malaysian styles; their shareholders do not seem to have much say. Their success in raising their remuneration is based on what it would cost to attract a foreigner – a very clever argument. This argument was also used by Australian public servants to boost senior executive service wages, i.e. they could receive these high wages in the private sector (we were all too polite to ask how many of them would risk or survive the decision-making required in the private sector).

Then, because of a previously-engineered link between the bottom rung of the executive ranks of the public service and the member of parliament, the latter now receives an executive-level wage too – and he does not need my qualifications for his job, or to produce anything either. A good job, if you can manipulate the pre-selection process in your electorate. This is democracy – one has to accept what bobs up to the surface … …

… … The smug Australian is coming to learn not to sneer at reported corruption overseas. He is reminded, almost daily, at the high levels of corruption in this country: by ‘mates’ being looked after by government, by ‘mates’ getting plum jobs, by open corruption at all levels, including the police. The worst kind of corruption is the industrial brigandage by some unions, whose leaders are apparently paid at the same level as directors of major companies.

… … In the national capital, independent subcontractors are required to join the building union; the government sanctions this abrogation of the usual divide between an employee and an independent service provider. There is also talk of money paid to unions at different levels – some into the official ‘kitty’, some into pockets. Employers play ball, because government has done little to stamp out this corruption.

(Politics, industrial relations, and corrupt practices are surely moveable feasts. Current public enquiries are highlighting more recent practices in Australia than referred to in the above extracts from ‘Destiny Will Out.’ What will be the outcomes?

A cross-comparison of life-chances in Australia and Malaysia/Singapore suggests that Australia is the place to be if you are relatively unskilled. We collect immigrants as if there will be a shortage in the offing. But there is no evidence of any planning of a desirable population, needed infrastructure, the quality of school leavers, or the skills required of university graduates. Do our universities (obviously not all) and private training colleges turn out graduates like the factories of old, which produced goods of great variety without quality control?

Ah, the beauty of market forces, and the wisdom of foreign investors, including those non-residents investing in residential property in Australia against the law.)