Published: November 27, 2015 – 12:00AM
There’s much that’s troubling about the United States of America. Gun laws, for instance. Obesity, too, although Australia’s not far behind. To the list you can also add unaffordable healthcare and, of course, the Kardashians. But despite America’s flaws, there’s substantially more to love about the nation, especially the heart-warming Thanksgiving holiday celebrated nationally this week.
It’s an annual tradition lasting more than 150 years – double that if you include its inception back in the 1600s when British settlers held a massive feast to thank God for a bountiful harvest. Nowadays, Thanksgiving prompts many Americans to reflect on all that they’re thankful for – a practice I’m going to engage in today in the context of employment in Australia.
I’m thankful, for instance, that I live in a country where unemployment is lower than almost any other place on the planet. Even if you exclude the developing world, we still do better than Canada, France, New Zealand, Britain and the US. And significantly better if you include other Western nations such as Greece and Spain where a quarter of the population still cannot get a job. Joblessness is a brutal experience but I’d rather it happen to me here than almost anywhere else.
And let’s say that, after spending time in the unemployment queue, the best job I could find was one that paid only the minimum wage. I’m really thankful it’d be a minimum wage determined by an Australian commissioner, since ours is more generous than any other in the OECD. We pay nearly 13 per cent more than Ireland, 52 per cent more than the US, and 844 per cent more than Mexico.
While I’m at work, I’m extremely thankful there’s a lower chance of being injured because workplaces here are governed by robust occupational health and safety laws. People working elsewhere aren’t as fortunate. Our rate of workplace accidents is half that of Canada and Portugal, and almost a third of what Spanish employees endure. In terms of fatalities, our rate is 3.2 deaths for every 100,000 workers. In the US it’s 5.2, in Canada it’s 6.4, in Morocco it’s 47.8.
I’m also thankful that my colleagues are more likely to love their work, to feel connected to their employer and to be innovative, all of which are encapsulated by the term “engagement”. Levels of engagement are 50 per cent higher here than in Canada, and 2½ times greater than they are in France, the Netherlands, South Africa and Indonesia. Things get really bad in places like China (we’re 400 per cent more engaged) and Croatia (800 per cent).
I’m thankful, too, that Australia is an incredibly fertile ground for the launch and growth of new businesses. Sydney, for example, ranks 16th on the list of the world’s most start-up-friendly cities. That ranking is determined not only by the performance of start-ups but also by the funding they attract and the talent they employ. In regards to the annual growth in seed funding, we’re second in the world – ahead of London, New York, Tel Aviv, Singapore, Paris and Silicon Valley.
Let’s also take a look at productivity. The measure preferred by the OECD is the amount of GDP generated by every hour we work. Using that model, we’re more productive than Britain and the European Union. In comparison with our friends across the Tasman, our productivity is almost 50 per cent higher.
So, are any of my comments a reason to become complacent? No. And have I cherry-picked only the most favourable statistics to tell a good story? Yep. But, hey, it’s Thanksgiving. Let’s just leave it at that. For now.
What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving?