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MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA 27 December 2006 – Stuffed to the brim with Christmas turkey, today we return to normal duties. One of the benefits of hosting the Christmas lunch is the ability to graze on food all day without asking whether you can have some or not.

The second, in similar style, is that you can top up your wine glass as often as you like without seeming rude. And third, well, you don’t have to go anywhere. You can do as your correspondent did on Christmas night, after bidding everyone a fond farewell, it was an evening spent asleep on the couch until about 2am. Only then did yours truly awake to climb the stairs to bed.

And then, the beauty of Christmas in Australia is the ability to not have to work on Boxing Day either. Much better to be ensconced in front of the Test cricket from the Melbourne Cricket Ground, watching Warnie claim his 700th rather than be doing something productive for the economy.

Today, unfortunately, it is almost back to business as usual. We managed to avoid the frenzy of the Boxing Day sales. We are certain that there are many bargains to be enjoyed at the ‘sales’, but wonder whether they are impressive enough to risk personal injury or to have your face plastered across the news bulletins announcing “the best turnout in 10 years”, according to ABC News.

Or, as the ABC also reports, “Shoppers flock to Hobart sales.” Can it be any coincidence that the Markets and Money’s own Dan Denning was in town for the event? Maybe the fresh Tasmanian air has done something to him. We eagerly await his return to see.

Getting to the point, we noted two news items from the Australian Associated Press (AAP) that seemed to contradict each other, or at the very least begin to signal an undercurrent of something. We are not quite sure how that ‘undercurrent’ will manifest itself but it is interesting none the less.

The AAP reported that “Financial concern keeps Aussies in jobs.” This is even more interesting when one has been brainwashed with the idea of a national jobs and skills shortage. The survey from the recruitment agency Talent2 – from a small sample – suggested that 20% of those surveyed were unhappy in their current jobs but were fearful of changing due to “increasing credit card debt, three interest rate rises in 2006 and day-to-day living expenses such as petrol prices.”

The survey also revealed that many Australians were “bored in their jobs” as “their jobs held few challenges and their duties were too routine.”

Despite this, the AAP also reported “Record crowds at Boxing Day sales.” They quoted Margy Osmond chief executive of the Australian National Retailers Association who said, “A lot of people who you thought would’ve been affected by interest rates aren’t, and they’ve got a lot of money to spend particularly in the 18 to 34-year-old bracket.”

So perhaps we can make a brief and cursory summary of the Australian employment situation. There are significantly more jobs available than those people that are looking for work. The workforce is less inclined to be mobile as they would prefer the ‘devil they know.’ Many employees are bored with their jobs, believing they are underutilised.

The public are prepared to keep on spending in the belief that although they are bored and dissatisfied they are safe where they are. They may feel that the labour shortage will make it less likely that their boss will fire them, or that they are so efficient at their work that they don’t have to put in that much effort.

Maybe an unintended consequence of the Howard government’s industrial relations reform is that it is sapping potential workers from the available pool. Again, it could be that many would prefer to stay where they are rather than take a risk in a more skilled role where they may find themselves on comparatively less favourable terms or fail and find themselves out of a job.

How this will all pan out is anyone’s guess.

Kris Sayce

Kris Sayce, dubbed the ‘Jeremy Clarkson of Australian finance’, began as a London finance broker specialising in small-cap stock analysis on London’s Alternative Investment Market (AIM). Kris then spent several years at one of Australia's leading wealth management firms. A fully accredited advisor in shares, options, warrants and foreign-exchange investments, Kris was instrumental in helping to establish the Australian version of the Markets and Money e-newsletter in 2005.
He is currently the Publisher, Investment Director and Editor in Chief of Australia's most outspoken financial news service — Money Morning.

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