And yet more ETS polling

As reported in most detail at Pollytics blog, Nielsen asked a series of climate change questions in its survey over the weekend.

As in a June Nielsen poll and September Newspoll, about two-thirds of November Nielsen respondents supported the general idea of an ETS. However, when asked about the ‘specific Emissions Trading Scheme agreed between the Government and the Opposition Leadership’ a ‘don’t know enough’ option scored a massive 72%.

Only 51% of respondents think that the ETS will have a positive effect on the environment, suggesting that at least 15% support the ETS despite it having no positive effects on the environment (a not ridiculous position, if their logic is that while the Australian ETS will have negligible positive effects it will contribute to a global effort that may be effective). 45% think that the ETS will have a negative effect on the economy, while 22% think that it will have a positive effect.

On tactics, 44% of those favouring an ETS and 61% of those opposing it think Australia should wait until after the Copenhagen conference before settling on an ETS. Continue reading “And yet more ETS polling”

What about the children?

Last week’s Senate report on same-sex marriage usefully summarises many of the arguments for and against.

Some of the arguments presented by gay marriage opponents concerned children. The Australian Christian Lobby put it this way:

It [gay marriage] discards the significance of marriage as an important social good held by a shared community as a public commitment to family and the raising of children.

But it really isn’t clear that the ACL’s position against gay marriage is consistent with their concern with children. The 2005 Private Lives survey found that 4% of gay men and 16% of lesbians currently live with children. So the ACL’s position seems to simultaneously that marriage is important as a public commitment to raising children and that the children who are going to be living in gay households anyway should be denied that public commitment.

One unexplored issue in the Senate report is whether gay marriage would substantially increase the number of children in gay households. Continue reading “What about the children?”

Should students specialise early or late?

The National Bureau of Economic Research has recently released an interesting paper on early subject specialisation at university (similar looking ungated papers here).

Author Ofer Malamud takes advantage of differences between English and Scottish higher education to examine an interesting natural experiment in early versus late specialisation. In England, students generally choose a specialised field of study on admission to university. In Scotland, however, they choose a specialisation after two years of more general subject choice. However, graduates of both university systems enter a common UK employment market.

Malamud finds that Scottish graduates are more likely to work in occupations related to their course specialisation than English graduates. He theorises that the Scots use their early years to discover their talents and interests, and therefore make better choices of specialisation. The English, by contrast, may complete the specialisation they started, but because some chose the wrong field they are more likey to look for work in other areas.

Though the findings are interesting, I don’t think there are any major public policy implications. Continue reading “Should students specialise early or late?”

How well are law graduates doing?

Commenter Gluggy is presenting a very negative view of employment outcomes of law graduates. I don’t have unemployment figures (though given low overall graduate unemployment it is hard to imagine law graduates are an exception), but I do have some 2006 census data. I’ll look at male graduates, as they are more career-oriented.

Occupations of male law graduates 2006


Among male law graduates, by their late twenties a majority have legal jobs. The figure for those aged 20-24 is artificially low, as another 14% had jobs in the ABS category that includes articled clerks. Except in that youngest group, they equal or exceed the overall average percentage of graduates in managerial or professional jobs of around 75%.* Continue reading “How well are law graduates doing?”

Graduate unemployment and over-qualification goes up

The latest issue of ABS Education and Work, out today, shows that we are charging towards Julia Gillard’s target of 40% of 25-34 year olds having a university qualification by 2025. Only last May, the government’s higher education policy document said:

The current attainment rate for bachelor degrees for 25 to 34 year olds stands at around 32 per cent, and under current policy settings this is likely to rise only slightly, to around 34 per cent by 2025.

But Education and Work says that we had reached 34% (34.6%, to be precise) as those words were being published. There could be some sampling error involved, but the combined effects of more educated younger cohorts aging, continued mature-age education, and a large migration program heavily biased in favour of graduates means that a reasonably strong growth rate was always likely. If government forecasters using 2008 data can’t predict what will happen in 2009, what hope have they of being right about 2025?

Education and Work also brings bad news for the argument that we are very short of graduates and must produce lots more. Last year, 26.3% of graduates with jobs were working in occupations that did not require a degree. This year, it has gone up to 27.4%. Graduate unemployment has gone up from 2.1% to 3.4%. Admittedly, 2008-09 was not a good period for the labour market overall. But if the boom years up to 2008 couldn’t do much to utilise our graduates better, it suggests our policymakers should be cautious about promoting a large expansion in university enrolment.

Paternalism vs liberalism

The Australia Institute‘s proposal in Something for Nothing to regulate working hours according to their version of a balanced good life highlights some differences between paternalism and liberalism.

Paternalists are confident that they know what way of living is best for each individual. Having found a few studies identifying harmful health or social effects of long hours at work, authors Richard Denniss and Josh Fear assume that all over-work must be bad and therefore should be regulated.

Liberals, by contrast, typically believe that there are many different ways of living a good life. Liberals are less likely to miss the other meanings and goals of work, and more likely to tolerate people making their own choices about life priorities. If somebody thinks that their job is more rewarding that going home at 5pm, there is no reason for the state to second-guess that judgment.

Paternalists tend to doubt the capacity of people to improve their own lives. Continue reading “Paternalism vs liberalism”

An overly-commodified view of work

Rather oddly for the anti-commodification think-tank the Australia Institute, their latest paper, Something for Nothing – Unpaid Overtime in Australia, takes an over-commodified view of paid work.

Authors Richard Denniss and Josh Fear seem baffled by unpaid overtime. ‘It is not immediately obvious,’ they say, ‘why people would choose to work additional hours when they could earn just as much by working less…’. They offer some speculation on worker-employer power balances, social pressure from colleagues, and work addiction.

But their own survey shows that only 12% of people who regularly work unpaid overtime think their jobs would be at risk if they did not work extra hours, and only 9% think that their colleagues would disapprove. By far the largest number, nearly two-thirds, say ‘the work would not get done’.

People working in a political think-tank, of all places, should have realised that many workers have commitments to their job that goes beyond the money they are paid and indeed their particular employer. Continue reading “An overly-commodified view of work”

Another nail in federalism’s coffin

Another cut in the death by a thousand cuts of Australian federalism is barely news these days, but it is still worth noting Friday’s agreement by all states except Victoria and Western Australia to refer powers to the Commonwealth for a national vocational education regulator.

The Ministerial Council for Tertiary Education and Employment also agreed to establish the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency announced in the May 2009 Budget. Its governance arrangements are to be discussed at a future MCTEE meeting, but expect another referral of powers.

In 2005 I published a CIS paper opposing further centralisation of education power in Canberra. My reasons related to Commonwealth incompetence, threats to academic freedom, and the usual federal arguments to do with spreading risk and learning from policy experiments. I’d use some different examples if I was writing that paper today, but the arguments still apply.

More racism at government schools

According to the public school lobby, government schools promote ethnic tolerance. But according to a new report on racism and its effects among young Australians, three-quarters of students at government schools in the survey had experienced racism, and that after statistical analysis:

students who attend a catholic school are 1.7 times LESS likely to report experiences of racism than students attending government schools.

Admittedly there were only a few Catholic schools in the survey and we aren’t told anything about the ethnic composition of those schools. Though overall NESB Australians make identical school sector choices as English-speaking Australians, that doesn’t tell us much about any individual school.

However I can think of a couple of plausible reasons why the broad finding might be right. The first is that while the public school lobby focuses on religion as a potential ‘divisive’ force, major religions such as Christianity and Islam are multi-ethnic and so religious identity cuts across ethnic identity. By making a common religious identity more salient, kids at religious schools may focus less on ethnic tribal affiliations.

The second reason is that private schools tend to have stronger discipline, which should reduce racial incidents. Behaviour is much easier to change than attitudes, and so students at schools which police anti-social behaviour effectively are less likely to experience racism even if underlying attitudes are similar to those at other schools.

Reasons for opposing the ETS

Roy Morgan Research has asked its global warming question again, and found that the proportion of the electorate Australians believing that climate change concerns are exaggerated is up again, from 27% to 30%. Disapproval of the ETS is up from 24% to 31%.

The Pollytics blog analysis of these results shows that it seems to be largely driven by partisan effects, with Labor voters becoming less likely to believe that concerns are exaggerated and Coalition voters more likely to believe that concerns are exaggerated (surprisingly, Green voters are also showing increased scepticism; if this is real it is perhaps a reminder that about a third of Green voters appear to be low-ideology, not-rusted-on, supporters).

Roy Morgan also asked an open question about why voters disapproved of the legislation. I’ve tried to organise them into categories, and find that those giving sceptical reasons are 9% of the sample (or just under a third of ETS opponents), those thinking the ETS is futile are 8.5% of the sample, those thinking it costs to much are 8% of the sample, those offering tactical reasons are 6.5% of the sample, those offering cynical reasons (eg distribution of credits is unfair) are 1.5% of the sample, as are those saying the public doesn’t know enough.

So there are several broad reasons for opposing the ETS, with none dominant.