Social and economic forces are changing the nature of work. The WRC has extensive experience in conducting research into how the organisation and performance of work is changing the lives of workers, and in identifying the implications for government, employers, workers and their organisations.
There are powerful equity as well as economic motivations for increasing workforce participation and providing pathways into work for people who are disadvantaged in the open labour market. Social exclusion can be defined as the interconnection and presence of employment deprivation (unemployment and non-participation in the labour market), economic deprivation (poverty) and socio-cultural deprivation (social isolation). Social Inclusion aims at building an understanding of disadvantage based on people's ability to participate in society, rather than simply financial measures such as the level of income or expenditure.
Increasingly policy makers and practitioners are aware of the connections between work and health and work and wellbeing. The relationship between work and health/well-being is multifaceted, involving interaction at a system level (health service systems and labour standards; workforce development); worker level (occupational health and safety research) and individual well-being level (health outcomes of work).
Strong demand for skilled labour across the Australian economy, especially in the resources, health and community services sectors, have fuelled growing interest in improving approaches to workforce planning. The WRC argues there are two broad approaches to skills planning workforce planning and planning for workforce development. The first concerns making projections about specific labour requirements at some specified time in the future, whilst the second involves understanding the forces driving change and gathering data on how to engage with these.
How employment is regulated is an important issue, both for individual workers who rely on paid work to make a living and for the social and economic wellbeing of the society in which they live. Labour standards regulate the behaviour of workers, their representatives (i.e. trade unions), employers and their representatives (i.e. employer associations). Australia has employment rules and institutions that are complex and truly distinctive. Notably, the processes used to resolve workplace disputes and the network of industrial awards that continue to set minimum standards for a large number of Australian workers. The WRC has had a long standing interest in conducting research into the changing form of labour standards in Australia and the impact these have at workplace level. The WRC has a unique capacity to analyse workplace agreements and other industrial instruments and we continue to draw on our own historical agreements database.
Productivity growth is regarded by most governments as the prerequisite to improved living standards. While views diverge on the matter of how best to boost productivity, it is generally accepted that enhancing productivity is necessary for improved economic performance. There are many determinants of productivity, including the health and skills of the workforce, the capacity to innovate in a knowledge economy, and how those factors are maximised through economic and other policies. However, these macro factors alone appear not to account for the relative economic performance. Consequently there has been an increasing interest in the role of the individual enterprise in shaping national productivity.