Should we retire later?

I’m working on a longish piece on how to pay for the global financial crisis, and it seems like a good idea to deal with some side issues separately. One of the standard post-crisis responses of governments, i has been to increase the age at which people become eligible for public old age pensions. This change is likely to flow through to other policies, for example by shaping the presumptions around the tax treatment of private retirement income.

I want to step away from these financial positions and ask the question: does it make sense, in general, for people to retire at older ages than in the past? For those who want the “shorter” version, my answer, on balance, is “Yes, at least in Australia”.

There are two main factors that should influence the age at which we retire. First, improving productivity means that any given standard of living can be achieved with less work, and we would expect at least some of this benefit to take the form of an increase in leisure, including more years spent in retirement. Second, and going in the opposite direction, we are living longer and (because of higher education levels and increased difficulty of entry to the workforce) starting work later[1]. So, with a fixed retirement age, the number of years out of the workforce is increasing, while the number in the workforce is decreasing.

At least in the Australian context, the second of these factors is dominant. In the last 30 years, the expectancy of remaining life at 60 has risen from 18 years to 24. I’ll guess that average age of entry to the workforce has also risen by about 5 years, say from 17 to 22. That implies a “typical” 1980 life course for full-time workers retiring at 65 of 48 years with 30 years pre- and post-work. The comparable figures now are 43 and 41. So, a proportion of the productivity growth in this period has been used to reduce the proportion of lifetime years spent at work, from over 60 per cent to just over 50 per cent.

By contrast, at least for full-time workers, there has been no reduction in annual hours of work. Official full-time conditions were fixed in the early 1980s at 38 hours/week with four weeks annual leave + public holidays and some long-service leave. That hasn’t changed, but there was a big increase during the 1990s in people working longer hours, and that’s been . Given that prime-age adults also have responsibility for children, this doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Those who think employment conditions reflect voluntary bargaining might argue that this apparently unsatisfactory outcome must reflect the preferences of workers and employers. I don’t buy this, at least as far as workers are concerned. But even if it were true, preferences are affected by policy settings such as pension ages. Leaving the pension age unchanged when life expectancy changes pushes people to work harder since their required savings increase. This is, on the face of it, a bad outcome. So, it makes sense for public policy to encourage later retirement, and discourage ultra-long working hours.

fn1. This assumes that time spent at school/uni should not be regarded as “work”. There are some complex issues here I’ll try to discuss more.

300 thoughts on “Should we retire later?

  1. @Michael of Summer Hill
    thanks Michael – I remember when they got broken up in the 80s – it was seen as very sad at the time as they were one of the few companies to do hightech research in Australia. Australia has a very good value for money tradition in tech innovation on the govt side – mainly through CSIRO, who themselves have been under prologed attack (from the political wing of govt) for the last couple of decades. But CSIRO for example is the birthplace of computer music.

  2. @Donald Oats
    My thoughts exactly Donald. The circus we are seeing from the mining companies and the blatantly self interested use of the media to push a low tax agenda for themselves and to avoid their responsibilities in Australia while happily digging and shifting the super profits straight out of the country – and at the same time launching a barage of ads prophesying doom and gloom if they get the RSPT is all lies.

    But the insidious facts behind this sort of use of power (power they get from making so much profit now) is that it is being used to cower and bully the government we elected.

    So who is running the country??. If Rudd backs down on this Ill know who is running the country. Large profitable private sector firms – and they are not running the country objectively or impartially for us, but for themselves to asset strip, reap super profits from and remove with few objections, little regulation and little tax given back. Just plan greed. Nothing more.

    The Miners are also spreading the BS and getting a lot of free help from a certain media magnate who we all know.

  3. @Alice

    Political advertising only has resonance what is speaks to people about issues that trouble them. The public is free to ignore it.

    A suggestion that the voters can be easily duped undermines the democratic legitimacy of the public policies you want. Were the voters duped into supporting them too?

    Critics of political advertising are raging against competitiveness in political races. They prefer more genteel affairs where incumbents do not face tough contests.

    Political races tend to be tough when the incumbent is becoming unpopular.

    Lurid anecdotes notwithstanding, studies of legislative behaviour indicate that the most important determinants of an incumbent’s voting record are constituent interests, party, and personal ideology. Surprisingly, recent studies indicate that special-interest donations to parties have had little impact on elections.

    Parties often vote in accordance with the interests of their contributors, but this is because contributors choose to give money to like-minded parties. Parties and candidates that win elections often spend more than their opponents, but this is because popularity among voters causes them to be popular among contributors.

    In a democracy, politicians have a strong incentive to know the will of the majority.

    The most successful politicians are those who can rouse a majority to action.

    For this purpose, nothing works better than scapegoating some disfavoured minority interest.

    Minorities protect themselves by organising and pleading their case to the public and their representatives. To do so effectively in a large democracy is financially expensive.

  4. Alice, if the Labour Movement rallied in support of Labor’s Resources Rent Tax then the 3000 or so who attended the greedy miners rally will look like a pimple on my back side.

  5. @Michael of Summer Hill

    Isn’t that Rudd biggest problem?

    In his rise up the greasy pole, Rudd forgot to build personal support and networks within his own party. He then treated the rank-and file party and parliamentary caucus with contempt when in power.

    When his popularity faded, he had no personal loyalties to call upon, and a few have score to settle with Rudd.

  6. @Jim Rose
    Jim Rose – you say “The most successful politicians are those who can rouse a majority to action.”

    The most successful politicians these days in the United states need a huge bounty of donations to run a campaign. When was the last time a postman could get on a box and start rousing a mjority to action in a central public park Jim Rose. Oh no – our days of real democracy in the Domain are gone. Money pays for campaigns now and no money – no rousing.

    Id rather see the free market kept well away from elections and the influence of donations kept well away from governments and political parties. We know that things like developer donations here, buys political influence and pro developer decisions but its much worse than that – try two politicians a few years ago (and Im sure it goes on every year) at NSW State Labor – actually approaching developers to ask them if they wanted the site of a major public education institution on Sydneys North Shore ie touting for the sale of a major public asset. It doesnt stop there – schools, parks, public places, tafes, community spaces have been razed one after the other by NSW State Labor.

    The way we get the push and shove and dishonesty out of politics JM Rose is not to give up on good governance completely and abandon elections to the “free market”, but by making the electoral campaigning process fully publicly funded would be an important first step. Id gladly pay more taxes for that one important step.

    I do not want to see Australia end up like the United States where elections are a circus and a farce funded mostly by the rich as a sideshow.

  7. @Jim Rose
    There is nothing wrong per se with Rudd that isnt ten times magnified than Tony Abbott who stabbed his way “up the greasy pole” as you so eleoquently express it JR, who noisly fought and argued to bring workchoices to the Australian people (and was fevrently pro Iraq) and is pro large business and hang eneryone else and doesnt have a clue what to say, let alone a policy, since his master was kicked out.
    The only really honest man in politics is Bob Brown these days.

  8. The miners and other business sectors, have from time to time, tried to mislead the public in order to gain public support on some issue affecting the pertinent business sector. Whether the public falls for it or not, the principle of not telling the truth when trying to get their way is one that should be stamped out vigorously. But where are the media? Are they trying to correct the record so that the public is able to gauge the issue in an objective manner? Or are they a) siding with the business interest and attacking the government; or, b) throwing fuel on the fire and egging the farcical argy bargy between government and the business interest?

    Whatever we think of democracy, it doesn’t function entirely on individual voters objectively weighing the policy offerings, that’s for sure. So, talk of the public being duped, or of the public seeing through a mendacious campaign is missing the point of democracy entirely. At an individual level voters present a spectrum of biases, misapprehensions and circumstances, as well as genetic endowments or disabilities. At the level of society, democracry is a levelling process, one in which the individual voter believes that their vote counted as one vote. It helps to stop fights.

    The manner in which the miners have almost saturated the airwaves and online sites with suspect claims about the resource rent tax is a demonstration of how a powerful lobby may seek to change the voters’ intentions. The use of a mix of correct and incorrect “facts” certainly points to a belief that this money (on ads) is well spent. The use of individual think tanks to pierce the public opinion on issues as diverse as the ozone hole (not caused by Du Pont’s CFCs according to their ads), tobacco and health impacts (science not certain, addiction not demonstrated, etc), and human-induced climate changes (again, science not certain, and a plethora of other claims), shows very clearly that these business groups believe this type of campaign is effective in spreading doubt on the policy changes desired by the democratically elected governments. People have choices but they also have biological limits in discerning the real options available to them. These limits provide the window through which a manipulative campaign can crowd out the real options at hand, leaving the person with the perception of a smaller set of choices than is actually the case.

  9. @Alice

    BTW, Obama promised to accept public funding in the 2008 presidential race.

    Obama broke that promise when he discovered he could raise much more from private donations. This forgoing of public funding for the presidential race was the first time this had ever occurred.

    Obama raised several hundred million dollars compared to McCain’s $84.1 million in public funding. McCain could not raise or spend any additional funds after his party’s nominating convention, except to cover legal and accounting expenses.

    Does this campaign war chest disparity undermine the democratic legitimacy of Osama’s victory? I certainly do not think so. You must!

    P.S. As part of your campaign to bring back the good old days, you have to campaign for the return of double-digit price inflation as per 1973 to the early 1991 in Australia. How does that help the working class? Powerless as you claim their wages are at the grabbing hands of the bosses.

    How can your demand for the return of 18% mortgage interest rates be in the interests of ordinary workers and their families?

    P.P.S the Greens win seats without the need for any real electoral spending. They spend on campaigning just to avoid looking as though they take their mostly prickly middle class voters for granted.

    P.P.P.S. Ralph Nader spent little on his 2000 U.S. presidential run for the green party. He siphoned enough votes away from Gore to delver the electoral votes of several states and hence the presidency to Bush. Nader received 97,000 votes in Florida.

  10. @Donald Oats
    there is a day goes past at the moment when you dont open the Murdoch news and find an article slagging off Rudd badly. I am so over it. It is such blanatntly pro conservative political news reporting. I knew Murdoch would give him a honeymoon period when Australians voted for Rudd massively but then I knew Murdochs media would turn on him and if you think its bad now…which it is…just wait till the lead into the election. We are going to see an Abbott flag waving headline story every day…despite workchoices, despite his extremism, despite his idiocy.
    If voters fall for it…they deserve what they get but they will have to wait years to throw the him out. By then Abbott is likely to bring back workchoices “even more vicious” mark 2.

    Until Australians learn see through the Murdoch press and the vision he has of cheap labour with no power and a private sector empire that runs governments (rather than the other way around) they deserve everything they get.

  11. @Jim Rose
    JR this comment really takes the cake..

    “P.S. As part of your campaign to bring back the good old days, you have to campaign for the return of double-digit price inflation as per 1973 to the early 1991 in Australia.”

    What a lot of nonsense. It wasnt until the US launched a major war when they were close to full employment and until after they started down the neo lib privatisation road (actually late 1960s) and after the oil shock that we got that inflation – and so did many other countries.No that wasnt the “good old days” JR – it was the start, the very start of the bad days of blowing up this monstrous bubble of encoraging the politics of gree and inequality, of stripping rights away from labour, of smashing unions to oblivion, of pushing the middle classes down the ladder and pushing the lower classes down further – whilst the rich have indulged in a bubble bath of disgusting and truly apalling blatant excess.

    Your visions of your consumption driven, debt driven, materialistic and shallow (electrical gadget imports are so much cheaper) “brave new world” are so much worse than the real good old days and you dont even know it JR. Thats sad.

  12. Today I took a drive to Macquarie uni – its a glistening showpiece to the new private university system. Great shiny new towers of private companies springing up all over the campus – every bit of public land being sold off to private companies. You cant even see the uni, hidden as it is now behind “Cochlear” or “Siemens” or whoever else. The uni full of full fee paying foreign students. The car parks turned over to a bidding system – user pays – pay more and your spot can sit empty while you take a sabbatical from either your senior academic job or your even more senior management job and my bet is within two or three years the students and majority of staff will have to park outside the campus or walk miles because they cant afford to park there.

    Yes – its now a shiny showpiece to neoliberalism. Macquarie Uni – User Pays – Pay up.

  13. Alice, talking about bulldust I’m buggered if I know what we are celebrating tomorrow for according to historical records the Queen & Duke are European descendents of the House of Wettin (alias Windsor), Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, & Gotha (alias Windsor) and/or Battenberg (alias Mountbatten) families and God knows what else. Have a good day.

  14. First of all, flexible exchange rate regimes provide insulation from overseas inflation.

    Australia elected to have your good old days icon – a pegged exchange rate regime – which meant that Australia eventually imported massive U.S. induced inflation starting from 1965 under LBJ.

    The Great Inflation in the the 1970s and the 1980s occurred because policymakers refused to accept that inflation was a monetary phenomenon.

    These policymakers viewed inflation as resulting from factors beyond their control, not as a consequence of their prior monetary policy decisions, and relied in non-monetary control devices such as fiscal contractions and income policies.

    This hypothesis helps explain why, unlike Canada, the UK and the USA, for example, Australia and New Zealand continued to suffer high inflation through all of the 1980s. The delayed disinflation in Australia and New Zealand until 1990 reflected the continuing weight given among policymakers to non-monetary explanations of inflation.

    The USA missed the privatisation boat even under Reagan. Can you name any U.S. privatizations?

    P.S. are your good old days the Menzies years?!! Going back to the 1960s longingly has these risks.

  15. Are the top universities in the USA publicly owned?

    Wasn’t it a private university that pioneered three semesters in a year in Australia?

    That private university, because it had to make a profit, had to pay attention to what students wanted rather than the holiday plans of staff.

    A leading cost to students is the time lost if the university was not open all year. This is a problem for part-timers in particular. Many of these part-time students are ordinary workers trying to better themselves.

    Three semesters a year increased the ability of students to manage their time better, pace themselves, take time-off when they need it, and catch-up on missed courses for whatever reason.

    Why didn’t public universities think of this first??

    P.S. your disdain for all things foreign would make you a welcome buyer for Pauline Hanson’s home. Your state elected a one nation senator. One nation got nowhere in my home state despite proportionate representation in the senate and the state parliament.

  16. @Jim Rose
    I think you draw a long bow on this Jim Rose – universites are not only engaged in teaching students. In fact the top US unis devote far less academic time /money to teaching than unis in Australia. The bums on seats, unis are only for teaching, students know best, mentality that now dominates the Aus unis is a disaster in terms of quality research outputs and quality teaching outputs as well.
    Which is not to say that teaching didn’t need improvement, but there is an important difference between edutainment and higher ed teaching if (and only if) you want to position higher ed as a method to advance your country as an innovator or as a producer of higher order thinking/products.
    My view is that such a view has no place within Australia, and I have had that opinion confirmed by a number of very senior academics at the last uni I worked for – they saw unis as strictly for the production of consumer goods where bums on seats and monetary returns were the only items of value to the university. And they were very upfront about that. Of course that was one of the fake Dawkins unis.
    re three terms – I think everyone thought of that long long ago – it was rejected as it cut into research time and it cut into student time in the days when students worked over summer but not during semester. One of the reason courses are so dumbed down now (and yes they are dumbed down) is that half the students work more or less full time but demand that they can pass a full load.

  17. Crikey John, according to Professor Flint, Joe Hockey is not speaking up on behalf of the Federal Opposition when he ‘talks with the republican movement about potential changes to Australia’s constitution’. This brings into question as to what is going on within the rabble of Shadow Cabinet, is Hockey trying to entice Turnbull into a new leadership spill?

  18. @gregh

    U.S. universities compete. They must offer value or they will lose enrolments.

    There are comprehensive annual ratings systems for the quality of universities and of the individual departments of each university to inform student choice.

    In private higher education, the quest is to be as good as you can because their tuition fees are four to six times the average fee for students enrolled at state universities. The best facilities, the best faculty and strong sports teams are provided. All universities — public and private — are in a bidding war for faculty members with reputations.

    Dissatisfied students always have the option of going elsewhere or going to state universities that charge much lower prices for residents of their state.

    University fees are going up in the USA because the education that universities offer is becoming increasingly valuable. In the 21st century, a degree level education is considered to be a key to financial security in the new knowledge-based economy.

    In any kind of economic transaction, it seldom makes sense to charge prices so high that very few people can afford to pay them.

  19. @Jim Rose

    Gregh – not only that – at least four Sydney unis are defacto and real immigration processing centres. The unis know who. The department of immigration knows which university’s facilities it is using for ielts testing of immigration applicants on weekends and furthermore the students who are actually students on campus (rather than immigration applicants) know they will be passed with very little effort and perhaps no study at all. When unis are competing for foreign students – the market ensures no institution will accept low pass rates however they get it and its not by teaching excellence when the students already know not much is asked of responses.

    Come now Jim Rose – you think competition and de-regulation produces excellence? It also produces lots of lies and lots of institutions who previously had good reputations have been only to willing in the past ten years to drop their….pants…and their standards for a private dollar.

    Its already here – the great education rip off. Staff know it and students now know it and in fact some students are blatantly taking the mickey – they are not there for the education. They are paying a lot of money for the piece of paper and the immigration status it gives them. Unis are in it (and anything else) for the money foreign students are bringing them (and to hell with locals – they dont want them taking up the space), not the education now.

  20. @gregh
    Oh and if Jim Rose – the measure of a university’s value it places on the quality of education is so high – why do middle level managers get paid more than middle level academics and increasingly this is the case. Universities are full of officer positions on very high salaries whilst academics salaries are, at teaching level, pretty tragic.

  21. sorry Gregh above post should have been directed at our “everything is wonderful in America” friend Jim Rose (coloured glasses?)

  22. @Alice

    Your anti-immigration sentiment is typical of the Left and the greens.

    Economic nationalism brings together sneering elitists and old-fashioned bigots such as Hanson. Both Hanson and the Greens and the left-over-Left want to:

    • Restrict foreign investment
    • Increase trade protection
    • Oppose the WTO process
    • Re-regulate the financial sector
    • Restore targeted industry assistance
    • Restrict privatization
    • Regulate labour market
    • Reduce immigration

    Economic nationalism gets much of its power from appealing to patriotic feeling and to various fears and insecurities.

    Economic nationalism assumes a level of competence, knowledge and guaranteed honesty in public officials which seems highly inappropriate and without empirical foundation.

    Given the uniformly low regard for political parties, bureaucrats, and red-tape and a more than passing penchant for conspiracy theories of Hanson, the Greens and the Left, this sudden burst of optimism about the motivation and capability of political parties and bureaucrats and the invulnerability of the political process to special interest capture is rather surprising

  23. @Alice

    BTW, if academics are under-paid, why can the universities increase their recruitment standards despite so called crapping pay?

    A lecturing job these requires a PhD and preferable from a top overseas university.

    Baby-boomer lecturers nearing retirement today are likely to have much inferior educational qualifications to their junior colleagues in their 20s and 30s.

  24. @Jim Rose
    You say
    “Your anti-immigration sentiment is typical of the Left and the greens.”

    That is a blatant lie. I am not against immigration at all and I wont be lied about. An apology is due.

    I am against the university system moving to user pays and flooding the campuses with foreign students over Australian students who face strict entry criteria just to make a buck and that is what is happening. I am against foreign students using our university system, not to learn but to emigrate. Education sweat shops only the sweating isnt happening and the students know it and its a rapidly spiralling race to the bottom by our major unis. I refuse to lie about what is happening to our unis. Eaten from within by their own greed. Crashing down the ladder to mediocrity not rising to excellence.

    You twist and distort but you will not face the fact that the “excellence” of the private university system doesnt exist in the way Australian universities are grovelling in the foreign student export market. In a short 15 years standards have been eaten from within by greed. Ask anyone who works with the students. Even the students know it. They demand easy passes and they get it. They demand multiple repeat subjects and they get it. They demand not to spend a lot of time in a three hour exam writing barely anything and they get it and still pass. So next time they write even less, do even less and still pass. The lecturers, tutors and markers learn too. They learn that if the pass rate is too low they get cautioned and / or lose their job.

    I dont suppose it would worry you that universities are taking a lot of money from students many of whom dont really care if they learn. I dont beleive some are really there for education at all, or maybe they are just spoilt, rich and lazy or maybe they never had the ability to start with.
    But they do have the money.

    Excellence doesnt even exist in private universities here. Notre Dame just shut down its economics department so students cant even learn about the economic philosophies you and I are here arguing about. Its ordinary stupidity. Its also reducing spaces and making it harder for Australian students to get access to unis. Mrs Mother of every kid trying to get in knows about it in this country. I wont lie about it either. We have sold our universities to the education export market and they are actually losing excellence rapidly.

    You object to anything but a user pays uni Jim Rose. You wouldnt even know what the philosophy of public tertiary or any public education was even about. Its about not excluding those children who may come from less fortunate backgrounds from reaching their potential. Yet its more than that. Its about a nation tapping into the full potential and innovation of our youth, not excluding some because they cant afford it – and promoting elitism and exclusion.

    So dont accuse me of being ‘anti immigration’ when you seek an even greater exclusion from your ‘special and cosy’ society Jim Rose – you reveal the ugly resentment of the ‘haves’ at having to contribute your taxes to support the ‘have nots’ even if it is good for the nation. You promote any economic policy that supports your own self interest and indeed have made a “god” out of the phrase “self interest” except we, like monkeys, happen to be social animals.

    Your accusation of “economic nationalism” had nothing whatsoever to do with the discussion at hand of public v private universities (the rapidly growing trend to user pays unis)…but then Ive come to expect these sort of accusations from you. There is nothing at all wrong btw with being concerned about the economic health of the nation….oh I suppose you think the global economy is now one big nation do you, so we needed worry about what happens here.

    Anywhere else it would be slander. I dont think Im going to bother with you. Another verbal sophist peddling a barrow full of it..

  25. Universities are rapidly becoming yet another example of how privatisation is wrecking our knowledge infrastructure.
    Failure of policy and failure of government.

  26. @Alice

    Your combination of left wing and right wing populism must mark you out as an Independent Tory.

    As to the greens and immigration, to quote from their website:

    “The Australian Greens want:
    7. an immigration program that is predominantly based on family reunions and other special humanitarian criteria as defined by international human rights Conventions. …
    33. support skilled migration programs that do not drain critical skills from other countries and do not substitute for training or undermine wages and conditions in Australia.”

    If immigration is predominantly limited to family reunions and other special humanitarian criteria, there is not much else left over for skills and for significant net migration.

  27. Jim Rose

    The Greens position is very interesting.

    It appears to me that migration from the Third World is not democratic. Only some strata in Third World countries are able to access this on a privately funded basis.

    When Australia subsidised education for Third World nations, it was found that these opportunities were mostly absorbed by the Third World upper classes. Even today, a disproportionate of Chinese students in Australia come from the Chinese rich and the families of PLA officers.

    So it seems that market driven immigration actually increases the gulf between the global rich and the global poor.

  28. @Jim Rose
    Jim Rose note greens policy very acceptable – immigration that does not “substitute for training in Australia” – so why are full fee paying students in our unis taking up so much more space and there is blatantly less Australians in every classroom. In fact Id go so far as to say locals are significantly in the minority and their entry requirements more onerous at undergrad first year level in most business / commerce degrees in the four major Sydney unis.
    Anyone who suggests otherwise is lying through their back teeth.

    As for this comment Jim Rose
    “Your combination of left wing and right wing populism must mark you out as an Independent Tory.”

    You keep getting into trouble by making assumptions which try to pidgeonhole people like this. People dont come in boxes with labels.

  29. @Alice
    Alice if it wasn’t for the full fee paying foreign students we wouldn’t have many places for Australians. The foreigners are subsidising the Australians. And entry requirements are low for Australians – you’d have to do pretty badly at school not to get some sort of place.

  30. @gregh
    Gregh – you are quite wrong – entry requirements have gone up for Australians and so have class sizes. I wouldnt mind the unis taking all these foreign full fee paying students but there hasnt been a proportionate investment in extra seats or in academic staff which means local students are being displaced.

    I do not agree with a semi private public system…and getting more private than public these days. Its corrosive to the values of public education and its implicit inclusiveness.

  31. @gregh
    Gregh – you said it yourself at 15 “The bums on seats, unis are only for teaching, students know best, mentality that now dominates the Aus unis is a disaster in terms of quality research outputs and quality teaching outputs as well.”

    Its also a diaster for local students who are now crammed in like so many sheep and damned if their tutor even gets to know who they are let alone are available for consultation when they are likely to be a casual anyway.

    Its a disaster for Australian students and foreign students.

  32. @Alice

    practice what you preach when you say “People dont come in boxes with labels.”

    you have thrown more than a few labels my way and at anyone who you disagree with.

  33. “Its corrosive to the values of public education and its implicit inclusiveness.”

    University isn’t meant to be “inclusive”. It used to be for an academic elite, now moderately less so, but still something a majority don’t have access to.

  34. Jim Rose :@Alice
    BTW, if academics are under-paid, why can the universities increase their recruitment standards despite so called crapping pay?
    A lecturing job these requires a PhD and preferable from a top overseas university.
    Baby-boomer lecturers nearing retirement today are likely to have much inferior educational qualifications to their junior colleagues in their 20s and 30s.

    Please substantiate your assertions with detailed statistics. Your assertions do not correspond to my observations.

    Your assertion implies identical circumstances and standards across all academic disciplines. This does not correspond to my observations. Please provide detailed statistics to support your claim.

  35. @Alice
    i think the current system stinks – no doubt about it – but why do you think academic standards for entry have gone up? At UQ it’s an OP of 11 to get into Arts, environmental science, multimedia design and science. An OP of 11 is an average student at highschool – someone on Cs at best. And if you don’t want to go to one of the best Unis like UQ(St Lucia) you can get into the Ipswich campus with an OP of 16 – students with that sort of OP may be struggling to write well formed sentences and will most likely be unable to formulate paragraphs and reason coherently in an essay or report form.
    The current trend is to shift university away from higher ed and into a continuation of school. With no replacement or the higher ed component. Whilst those whose ideology derives from the industrial revolution may see that as a positive the medium term consequences are dismal for the culture and economy.

  36. @gregh
    oops “With no replacement or the higher ed component.” should be “With no replacement OF the higher ed component.”

    and I’d like to clarify that I have no problem with university as a continuation of school – but dropping higher ed as an elite academic activity is a mistake

  37. @gregh
    Not in Sydney Gregh. I know the country unis are much easier to get into – because they dont get the foreign demand which circles back tmy original point that locals are indeed being displaced…to country unis. I actually dont think thats a bad thing. The decline in standards, teaching experiences of students – crowding – impersonal approach is not as evident in country unis and IMHO I think they offer a far better learning experience for students now – if they can afford to go to one. The students wont get part time work in country towns though.

  38. @gregh
    Tell me about it Gregh “students with that sort of OP may be struggling to write well formed sentences and will most likely be unable to formulate paragraphs and reason coherently in an essay or report form.”
    Ive just marked a bundle of primarily foreign potential new entrants at a Sydney campus from their private college. I would like to run a survey on the exam and measure how many leave the exam early and exactly how early because for the life of me, I cannot see how so many can sit in a three hour exam and produce so little?. What exactly are they doing in the exam time? Looking out the window? What is going through their minds? Its incomprehensible to me. They surely couldnt be just sitting there for the whole time?

  39. @Ernestine Gross

    When I was an under-graduate, a number of my lecturers did not have a PhD and now they all have PhD at my old department.

    I said “likely to have”. Likely means things like more often than not. Not as you claim “identical circumstances and standards across all academic disciplines.”

    Seen a LOT of ads for lecturing positions that do not require a PhD even at dawkins universities?

    Would you want to have your PhD examination panel made up of any people who did not have a PhD?

  40. @Alice

    Last time I looked, Australian public universities you were carping about were publicly owned.

    Even if they are running themselves as commercial enterprises, should not the many motivational, consumer accountability and public transparency benefits that make you a champion of public ownership and renationalisations ensure that the public universities deliver top-notch services keenly aware of the needs of their students and their dual mandate of research?

  41. @Jim Rose
    JR – name one other profession that requires people to self fund their own education over many years before they can get a job as a bottom level lecturer and all because they dont have a phd.
    The requirement for phds before you get any security of employment is a barrier to entry oto young bright graduates who would like an academic career but find the going too tough living on casual teaching income and periodic research contracts (living gig to gig) and paying rent and trying to find the time to study their own phd. The system sucks. It is deterring early career development and entrenching the benefits to the mostly senior males in many departments, who with the help of supportive wives, got theirs, live well, retire, come back and double dip.
    Of all people JR – here you are championing the benefits of the piece of phd paper without knowing much about the system at all it would appear.

    Furthermore Jim Rose – you trip up on your ideology. I thought you didnt like regulation? the Phd requirement for employment in unis is importing some pretty dodgy phds from some pretty dodgy unis overseas and doing nothing at all for its own bright young graduates at all. It is an onerous entry barrier which protects a hierarchical and primarily male environment. The uni academic career promotion / tenure system is fundamentally chauvinist.
    Wwe only have this requirement for phds for all academic employment positions of any permanent / part time nature now – because of US accreditation like AUQA.

    What it has done to Australian universities is much like Standard and poors did to measuring risk. Its all BS.

  42. @Jim Rose
    JR those lovely but meaningless words you drop like “consumer accountability”, “transparency”, “top notch” “motivational”

    heard all this tripe ascribed to commercial enterprise before.. but you need to know it aint happening in unis commercial enterprises.

    Maybe you think we should get Alan Bond back to take care of our unis.

    The commercial enterprise in our unis is going more like this JR, “consumer neglect”, “hidden agendas – like land and other dealings”, “dropped notches” and “demotivational”.

    I dont know why you even think commercial enterprise gets it so right all the time. Plenty of evidence to the contrary.

  43. @Alice

    For young domestic students last enrolled in NZ tertiary education in 2003, median annual three-year post-study earnings were:

    • 51 percent higher for those with a bachelor’s degree compared with those with a upper-secondary level equivalent certificate
    • 30 percent higher for those with a bachelor’s degree compared with those with a diploma.
    • 16 percent higher for those with a master’s degree compared with those with a bachelor’s.
    • 46 percent higher for those with a doctorate compared with those with a bachelor’s!!!!!!!!!!!

    Those PhD graduates can pay for their own drinks when they console their sorrows.

    see Scott, D (2009). What do students earn after their tertiary education? Wellington: Statistics New Zealand.

  44. @Alice

    why would a public body such as a university be unable to do anything other than serve the public well?

    public ownership, warts and all, guarantees better outcomes than private ownership, warts and all, in your world.

    of course, the establishment of successful full fee paying private universities back even when public universities were giving away their services for free does not say much for the quality of the public provision of higher education.

  45. @Jim Rose
    Pray tell – what do these stats say Jim? that academic salaries are crappy and most people cant wait to leave. In fact a lot leave before they get their phd but for those who slugged away at it for years eating their fingernails and worrying about their next casual gig at uni…

    why shouldnt they be worth more – they sacrificed a lot of time for that and are rare individuals ..but the great shame of it is, its no thanks to the universities that they actually got their phd at all ..because Id like to see the stats on those who enrol compared to number who complete…

    The Australian uni system, as it is now, specialises in burning its own output.

    Im so glad to hear that PHD graduates can earn more in the private sector. Many deserve it.

  46. @Jim Rose
    You ask me

    “why would a public body such as a university be unable to do anything other than serve the public well?

    public ownership, warts and all, guarantees better outcomes than private ownership, warts and all, in your world.”

    Aha – the crux of the matter Jim Rose.

    Because our once public universities have beeen insidiously corrupted by commercialisation.

    Because our once public universities are now half commercial (more in some) and are more engaged in chasing the almighty dollar than in research, teaching quality, student experience, supporting and developing academic staff, promoting academic freedom or serving the public well.

  47. “are more engaged in chasing the almighty dollar than in research, teaching quality, student experience, supporting and developing academic staff, promoting academic freedom or serving the public well.”

    While I can identify many problems with our current tertiary education setup, this line strikes me as strange. Why don’t you ask yourself how unis chase the “almighty dollar”. Might it just maybe perhaps have something to do with providing good education to those who pay for it?

  48. Our once very respectable and very well thought of Australian universities simply are not what they used to be.

    They have lost the plot. Many are outdone by Tafe courses. They are vocational. They dont produce great works. They produce a profusion of research soundbites but few great works. No one has the time or institutional support for that. Academics have managers with checkboxes of paper counts to meet in time for their next years employment contract review. They dont write good books anymore and many dont write well. They do sloppy paperbacks for textbooks and change two sentences to get a new edition out.

    Someone resuscitate Samuelson. Many good academics have said “stuff it” and left. The writing is on the wall. Managerialism, politics (the wrong neoliberal kind) and the beancounters are dictating all in unis (and paying themselves more than academics).

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