So, by now you would have heard The Honourable Joe Hockey’s advice about cracking into the real estate market. On a first glance, it makes sense really. Think about it people. Get a good, well paying job, buy a house, buy another house, invest, get a bigger house, buy a boat, take that well deserved holiday to Europe, upgrade the flat screen, pay the school fees.
But the problem with this simple, off-the-cuff advice, is that it does’t actually take into account the reality of the wider Australian community. Using myself as an example, I’ll show how this is unrealistic.
I’m 29 (for a few more weeks) and I am several thousands of dollars in debt, because I am obtaining an education. If one wants a good job, one must have a good education. I keep meaning to check how much I owe, but due to the bureaucracy involved, checking is easier said than done. This table indicates a degree will cost between 6-10 grand per year. If you want a degree that will set you up in a career which pays well, then you can expect to have a HECS debt on the larger scale.
So, I’m 29 and approximately 15 grand in the red. Once I finish uni, I’ll get a good job, pay back the government then I’m ready to take on the real estate market. Except, the first time I graduated from uni, I couldn’t find a job. I was a fresh graduate, just itching to pay off my HECS debt and the Liberal National Gov’t of Queensland sacked a large portion of the public service, flooding the job market with people who were educated and experienced. Not to mention, the public service is where I was hoping to work considering my education. So no job equals no house.
And then, there’s this illusion of merit. My research looks at women in the workforce and if people were hired and fired based solely on their abilities I wouldn’t have a thesis, nor would there be entire academic departments across the world devoted to the concept of merit based appointments. In Marian Simms’s 1981 work, she outlined how women are concentrated in the pink collar ghetto and earn 22 per cent less than men. Recent work from the Workplace Gender Equality Agency indicates very little has changed and women are still in over-represented in low paid, feminized occupations and earn 19.9 per cent less than men. My point: getting a ‘good job’ is easier said than done. My research looks at women in the workforce and is an example of how women are under-represented in the workforce. My research also takes into account the implications of class and ethnicity. Using Mr. Hockey’s workplace as an example, it doesn’t take a genius to see the pattern of middle-aged, upper-middle class, white, able-bodied men who run the show.
What does all this edumatction and HECS stuff mean? It means, that getting a good job, isn’t just about knuckling down for a few years at the beginning, and then spending the rest of you life on a linear career trajectory. Once you start carving up the stats and peeling back the layers a very different story appears, and it is clear that house ownership or a stable career is not as easy as Mr. Hockey indicates. This one-liner reeks of privilege and is one privileged myth of many. Somehow, Mr. Hockey has forgotten that he received a free education from the Gov’t and the job market is ever-changing.
Bottom line. This one-liner sums up the danger of the Liberal message. That anything is achievable if you work hard enough. However this philosophy doesn’t account for the ingrained cultural practices or systematic hierarchical structures which keep the poor people poor and the rich people rich. Privilege is alive and well in Australia.