Economy

Why white-collar job fears shouldn’t hurt spring property season

Engel Schmidl /

As we enter the traditionally busy spring selling season, the likelihood and extent of a property market recovery remains extremely hard to call, with white-collar job anxiety one of the factors in a complex jigsaw puzzle that includes interest rate expectations, house price concerns, the impact of changes to government handout schemes, and investor appetite.

While the national unemployment rate remains low by international standards – sitting just above 5% – the perception remains that the mining sector is supporting the high rate of employment, with even RBA governor Glenn Stevens noting in his post-cash rate decision statement yesterday that jobs are being shed in some industries.

At the same time there were perhaps some raised eyebrows – though not from those enjoying their morning tea and scones – when March 2012 mortgage delinquency figures from Fitch Ratings showed the prestige suburbs on Sydney’s north shore and their counterparts in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne remained among the best-performing locations in Australia.

Surprise, surprise, the rich continue to manage to pay their mortgages, and talk of a white-collar recession appears as unlikely as Lleyton Hewitt winning another grand slam.

A new international report compiled by Swiss-based UNI Global Union Finance, which counts around 20 million affiliated members, provides some insights into the white-collar job picture and suggests that the Australian banking sector has cut relatively few jobs compared to the industrial-size job cuts at other international banks since the GFC.

The figures are based on information submitted to UNI Global Union Finance from representative finance sector unions in 21 countries and show that since the beginning of the financial crisis, more than 300,360 jobs have been lost in the finance sector in 18 countries (UK, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Belgium, Romania, Moldavia, Greece, Ireland, Australia, India and the US).

Australia has accounted for less than 3% of these job cuts, with the Finance Sector Union (FSU) reporting that Australian banks have shed around 10,000 jobs since 2007, with nearly two-thirds (6,200) shipped offshore.

The biggest job cutters have been Westpac and ANZ, which have cut a combined nearly 2,000 jobs, with Westpac sending nearly half of its 1,021 positions cut offshore.

Furthermore, according to the FSU figures supplied to the report, there are no more large-scale job cut programs on the cards in Australia.

A figure of 10,000 jobs lost is certainly not a small one, but it is when compared with what has happened in countries with comparable first-world banking systems like the US, UK and Switzerland.

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