Is it time for work to change?

20 January 2022

The summer holidays are over and people are logging back on – but is it time that we had a rethink about the world of work? To welcome the new working year, the Policy Forum team looks back on what we learned from our incredible 2021 Policy Forum Pod mini-series on work.

With the days of post-lunch holiday naps and hours by the pool sadly now in the rearview mirror, many Australians are heading back to the office – or at least logging back on – to start the new working year. But instead of accepting that 2022 will be more of the same, many experts are saying it’s time for us to shake-up the world of work.

Can changing how we work and why solve some of the big challenges we face? And could having a greater appreciation of the inequities that are often perpetuated through work actually see us caring more – for ourselves, our friends and families and for our environment?

Policy Forum Pod hosts Sharon Bessell and Arnagretta Hunter sought to find out in a series of extraordinary conversations in 2021. With the show on holidays in January, we hope the episodes below get you thinking, inspire you, and provide you with ample summer listening until we return to the studio.

Work with James Suzman

What lessons can we learn from the way work has evolved throughout history? To kick off our mini-series, we spoke to someone who literally wrote the book on the subject. Dr James Suzman, anthropologist and author of Work: A history of how we spend our time, joined us to discuss how contemporary society’s understanding of economics is changing the way we work, live, and relate to our natural environment. Listen here.

What we value with Marilyn Waring

Gross domestic product (GDP) is often held up as the key metric of national economic performance, despite decades of criticism over the extractive, gendered model it represents. So how can policymakers better understand the value of what GDP excludes, such as the natural environment and unpaid work? How can Australia and New Zealand have a more inclusive conversation about economics? And will time become the baseline for a new economic paradigm? In our second episode in the mini-series, public policy scholar, environmentalist, and former New Zealand parliamentarian Dame Marilyn Waring joined us for an incredible conversation about what we value and why. Listen here.

Ensuring decent work and social protection for all

What does decent work for all look like – and how far are governments around the world from achieving that? Is economic growth the path to achieving this or is it time to decouple growth and decent work? And what global efforts are underway to uphold the right to social security and social protection? In the third episode, Shahra Razavi from the International Labour Organization joined us to discuss the importance of universal social protection and how policymakers can do more to ensure people have access to decent work. Listen here.

The value of the commons with Guy Standing

Do policymakers need to stop worshipping the ‘false god’ of economic growth? Are changes in the world of work leading to disenfranchisement and the creation of a new underclass? And what are the prospects of a universal basic income being introduced in a number of countries in the coming years? Professor Guy Standing, author of The Precariat: The New Dangerous Class, returned to the show to discuss these questions and more for the fourth instalment in the series. Listen here.

Protecting Australians at work with Michele O’Neil

What are some of the major challenges facing Australian workers in terms of their access to fair pay and decent conditions? How can policymakers ensure people are safe at work as the impacts of climate change become more pronounced? And what action can be taken to ensure people are safe and valued at work, both through the COVID-19 crisis and beyond? In the penultimate episode mini-series, we spoke to President of the Australian Council of Trade Unions Michele O’Neil about workers’ rights and how to build a fairer, more equitable world of work. Listen here.

Time for work to change

Why does society still imagine work as distinct from everyday life? How can policymakers rethink how time is allocated to address gender inequity and improve population health? And can we create a world of work that generates a surplus of things that people really need – of education, culture, care and love? In the final episode of our Policy Forum Pod mini-series on work, Professor Lyndall Strazdins and Dr John Falzon join us to discuss time inequity and how to reimagine the world of work to create a happier and more sustainable society. Listen here.

What issues would you like to see covered on Policy Forum Pod in 2022? Leave us a comment below or share your thoughts via Twitter or join our Facebook group. You can subscribe to the show on AcastApple PodcastsSpotifyStitcherSubscribe on Androidor wherever you get your podcasts.

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