Living standards under WorkChoices

According to the Newspoll on WorkChoices, a third of workers think that it will make them personally worse off. But another question from the same Newspoll, reported by The Australian yesterday, suggests that this is not spilling over into general perceptions of how people think their living standards are trending.

In response to the question

Do you believe your standard of living in the next six months will improve, stay the same, or get worse?

17% of respondents thought it would get worse. It’s not exactly the same sample – only people with jobs were asked about WorkChoices’ personal effects. But though in the total sample 47% thought that WorkChoices would be bad for the economy, it confirms that WorkChoices has not triggered any substantial degree of pessimism about their own living standards. Though 17% thinking their living standards will decline is higher than the 12% recorded in December 2004, that was lowest level Newspoll has yet found. In the more than twenty years Newspoll has been asking this question, only half a dozen times has the public been less pessimistic than now, and most of those polls were in the two years from June 2003 to June 2005. And the 17% of pessimistic respondents in the December 2006 poll is lower than the 21% found in the June 2006 poll.

As The Australian’s report noted, the main reason for the decline over the last 6 months is that Labor supporters are less pessimistic. There is a long history of partisan pessimism in response to this question. Supporters of the Opposition party tend to be more negative than supporters of the government (though presumably partly because people who think their living standards are declining are less likely to support the government). That’s still true here, but there has been a significant change since June last year – Coalition living standards pessimists went up from 12% to 14%, but Labor living standards pessimists went down from 31% to 19%. Though an election is more than six months away, perhaps the positive start to the Rudd/Gillard leadership has Labor supporters feeling better about the world.