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10 October 2014
by Malcolm King

Busting myths we take for granted

ABS unemployment methodology is accurate

Only Blind Freddy and possibly Cheech and Chong, believe the ABS unemployment methodology bears any resemblance to reality. According to the ABS, not only must you not be in employment, but you can't have done even one hourof paid work in the four weeks prior to the survey. You must have applied for something in the previous four weeks - and you must be available to start immediately. That narrows down the field.

The ABS estimate does not take into account people who have been employed for a few hours of part-time work per week but would like to work more hours. To the ABS, these folk are happily 'employed'. The Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) estimates that by taking into account the hidden unemployed – people who have given up looking - and 'underemployment' the real level of joblessness is approximately double that given by the ABS.

If the government wants an accurate feel of the nation's economic pulse, these people must be included in any measure of the jobless.

The Morgan Poll asks five straightforward questions. Those surveyed are asked "Are you now in paid employment" – If No: "Are you self-employed or a consultant" and if Yes: "Do you work full-time or part-time?" If still No: "Are you now looking for a paid job?" and "A full-time job for 35 hours a week (or more) – or a part-time job". Those in part-time employment are also asked: "Are you now looking for a full-time job or additional hours?"

The ABS's "endorsed international standards" are rubbish and have been ever since they were modified in the 1980s. By then it was obvious that the low unemployment years of the post war years had come to an end, and there were two things that could be done about it: we could either have had a good hard look at why advanced market economies were leaving so many people without a job; or we could define the problem away. We defined the problem away.

It gets worse. Keating removed (the volatile and mostly climbing) house prices as a variable in determining the CPI and replaced it with (far steadier) "imputed rent on owner occupier homes". He misrepresented living standards and misstated that people were better off than they really were. The charade continues today.

Real Estate agents have specialist sales knowledge
Real estate agents have held onto their power by convincing punters that because of their 'secret knowledge', only they can get the best possible price. Absolute rubbish.

Consumers can now buy and sell properties online at a fraction of the cost of an agent by using websites such as PropertyNow. These sites act like a virtual real estate agent. Depending on how many bells and whistles you're prepared to pay for, they help arrange professional photographs, arrange a for-sale board at the front of your house and provide you with general over-the-phone advice when negotiating with buyers. Such sweeping changes have empowered sellers, buyers and landlords like never before.

Investors can now do their own research and get a reasonably accurate home valuation from a variety of sources. Some of it's freely available on the web, including suburb and street profiles and median house prices. Some comes at a small cost – between $30 and $300 depending on the level of valuation information you're after – from players such as RPData, Australian Property Monitors and onthehouse.com.au.

Many people have also learnt that marketing your home isn't really that hard. Hundreds of thousands of properties are listed for sale or lease through the portals www.realestate.com.au and domain.com.au and some consumers are using Facebook and Twitter to sell their homes.

It's easy to buy a domain name such unleyhouse.com.au, set up a WordPress blog, make YouTube videos and put up photos telling potential buyers everything they needed to know about your home. Remember, you can give the buyer something an agent can't: a vivid account of what it's like to live in the property and neighbourhood. So goodbye LJ Hooker, Ray White and Elders.

As real estate agents are always jovial about the prospects of selling your home, I'll leave this section with a joke.
Why was the real estate agent so excited when he completed a jigsaw puzzle in only 9 weeks? Because on the box it said 8-12 Years.

Recruiting agencies are indispensible
Australian employers are following their US and UK counterparts and giving recruitment agencies the boot. Recruitment agencies have been making anywhere from 10-30 per cent of a candidate's annual salary. What for? For checking out a couple of databases, placing a $400 advert on Seek and short-listing candidates. The industry is wracked with over charging, incompetency and devious practices. One of the most devious practices is the automation of the selection process where scanners and algorithms exclude candidates on preset criteria.

Private recruiters are the bottom feeders of organizational life but with the rise of Linkedin and other social media networks, you can now get in touch with hirers directly within an organisation.

In the good old days, the biggest perceived asset of recruiters was their 'little black books' - their network of contacts. As technology evolved, the black books were replaced by large candidate databases. A big database could not be replicated easily by a client. It was a big factor in justifying crazy-high fees.

Every new LinkedIn user, every new connection you make and every company you follow, all erodes the traditional value of external recruiters. LinkedIn's primary objective is to connect talent with opportunity at massive scale. That was recruiter's job. Welcome them to Newstart.

The media is still in the news business
Anyone who has worked as a reporter over the last 30 years knows that newspapers and TV reporting has changed completely from the 1970s. Today newsrooms are the straight men for the entertainment industry. The values of the news are the values of vaudeville. If you're trying to find out what's going on in the world, then the news isn't the first place to look. Look online.

Journalism is a craft; a set of trade skills. It's the daily search and compilation of varied aspects of a subject arranged and presented – not to the reporter's own judgment of right or wrong - but for the consideration of others. I was trained and worked as a reporter and it has served me very well. Yet journalism today hardly merits the range of privileges we accord the fourth estate. Much of it today is just plain rubbish.

Two kinds of journalism look certain to endure. The debased populism of the tabloids, which feed readers on a patronising diet of calculated political fabrication, fear mongering and pap. It's an abusive relationship based on the daily betrayal of trust.

The other 'journalism' has limited commercial worth but enormous political purpose. This the type espoused by Fox News, which has created a parallel universe that determines its own agenda, facts and logic according to its own bellicose political mission.