Ideas@TheCentre – The Centre for Independent Studies


Ideas@TheCentre brings you ammunition for conversations around the table.  3 short articles from CIS researchers emailed every Friday on the issues of the week.

Of work, single mothers and men

03 March 2017 | Ideas@TheCentre

kay h ideasOver the past 50 years the United States has, like Australia and other modern economies, experienced a dramatic rise in the percentage of single mother families.

During the same period the number of manufacturing jobs in those countries has plummeted, a development that may well be contributing to the rise of populism in the West.

Experts, most notably the sociologist William Julius Wilson, have speculated that there is a significant connection between the two trends, though firm proof has been elusive.

When Work Disappears: Manufacturing and the Falling Marriage-Market Value of Men, a new paper from David Autor, one of America’s leading labor economists, appears to find strong, if not definitive evidence, that Wilson was right: manufacturing jobs disappeared. The authors concentrate on the trade shocks cause by outsourcing to China — which led more women to decide to go it alone.

Autor and his colleagues compare local labour markets where those shocks were especially powerful with similar less affected areas.  The shocks were associated with lower wages and more distress for men under 40.  Perhaps more surprisingly, those areas saw a decrease in fertility but a rise in single mother families and child poverty.

Autor’s paper has plenty of other findings of interest to policy makers.  To take just two examples, there is a close correlation between trade shocks and substance abuse and incarceration among young men, and though trade shocks affect earnings for both women and men, men lose ground relative to women, making them less “marriageable.”

The authors avoid any claim that manufacturing decline is “the sole or primary driver of these trends.” They are right to do so. Non-marital births, particularly among blacks and Hispanics, were reaching record highs in the United States long before manufacturers began to move their factories to China.

And it’s unlikely that outsourcing can account for the rise in “multi-partner fertility,” that is parents who have children with multiple partners. By further destabilizing children’s lives, it’s a related and arguably bigger problem than single mother households per se.  It also suggests something more than economics is needed to explain the disappearance of stable families among lower income populations.

None of that stopped Fox News from headlining their article on the study: “Trump’s Jobs Plan Could Lead to a Marriage Boom.” I wouldn’t count on it.

Noted American scholar and commentator Kay Hymowitz is the CIS 2017 Max Hartwell Scholar-in-Residence.

Book in to hear Kay in person at her only Sydney event on Thursday 16 March Trump Voters and Greyhound Bans: Meet the Real ‘Deplorables’ of the US and OZ. Kay will be joined by Warren Mundine for what will no doubt be a lively discussion.

Know goal before setting Indigenous procurement targets

Sara Hudson

03 March 2017 | Ideas@TheCentre


REFAP Aboriginal business Indigenous successThe furore that erupted in the past week over the federal government’s Indigenous Procurement Policy (IPP) could have been prevented if the government had been clearer about the objectives they were hoping to achieve. Is the policy designed to support majority Indigenous business ownership and control, or increase the number of Indigenous employees working in businesses?

Minister for Indigenous Affairs, Nigel Scullion, responded to criticism of the IPP in a letter to The Australian, arguing that: “…the policy is a small business policy” not an employment policy.

However, if the statistics in The Australian are anything to go by, the policy is clearly providing greater benefits to larger, more established Indigenous businesses, than to small and medium sized ones.

Moreover, while Scullion claims the IPP is not an employment policy, he also uses the argument that Indigenous businesses are “100 times more likely to employ first Australians than non-Indigenous businesses” as an example of the indirect merits of the policy.

Some of the unintended consequences of the IPP were apparent over a year ago, when I first wrote about ‘black cladding’ businesses — a practice whereby non-Indigenous businesses partner with Indigenous ones to win federal contracts, but the Indigenous business partner has no real say or control in the running of the company.

One of the reasons black cladding is occurring is because of a shortage in the supply and capacity of Indigenous businesses to meet the demands of the government’s procurement policy.

However, instead of increasing oversight of the procurement policy to ensure the legitimacy of the businesses partnerships, or amending the policy to provide incentives for non-Indigenous business partners to support building the capabilities and capacity of their Indigenous business partners, the government moved the 3% target forward from 2020 to now, compounding the supply problem.

If the government is serious about supporting the Indigenous business sector, it needs to ensure the original intent of the IPP is upheld and that the contracts are going to legitimate Indigenous businesses — or at the very least being used to develop the capacity of the sector through knowledge sharing and skill development.

Religious freedom is a tricky thing

Robert Forsyth

03 March 2017 | Ideas@TheCentre

Religious liberty freedomTwo weeks have passed since the controversy over Hurstville Boy’s Campus of Georges River College agreeing to a protocol allowing Muslim students not to shake hands with women.

A proper understanding of religious freedom suggests the school did the right thing and its critics are mistaken.

Freedom of religion is not just the freedom to believe but also, in the words of Article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR),the freedom “to manifest [ …] religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.” In this case, if there is a way to accommodate the manifestation of the religious views of the young men, why shouldn’t it be done?

The views in question may be strange even to mainstream Islam. But religious freedom never depended on the reasonableness of the religion involved. Nor is it any good to assert that giving in at this point is the thin edge of a ‘sharia’ wedge. Religious freedom is not absolute. It is, as the ICCPR asserts, subject to such limitations that are “necessary to protect public safety, order, health or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.” No sharia.

But is it sexist? Maybe, but in itself that is not a reason to deny religious freedom. And having an agreed protocol manages the risk of misunderstanding and substitutes another gesture of respect.

Government schools are essentially secular institutions, but they are not secularist imposing an Australian version of a French hard line laïcité — a core concept in France’s constitution, Article 1 of which states that the country is a secular one.

The School need not be criticised, but like any religion, Islam certainly can be. The right to religious freedom is not the right to be free from criticism or even ridicule. Something often goes wrong when Islam is discussed. The left forget their abhorrence of sexism, and others can lose their passion for freedom.