The State of Capitalism in Australia
The State of Capitalism in Australia

Australia has always been known as an ever-growing country with rapid economic development but have you ever tried to think who exactly runs this vast nation? Well, whenever we look at any politically stable country, we simply assume it is being run by the politicians elected by the people of that country. Likewise, it wouldn’t be wrong to assume that the workings of Australia are managed by all the powerful people like politicians, police, judges as well as top public servants.

Even though these people seem to be at the top of the hierarchy yet there are a lot of decisions that are not taken by them, like how will the wealth of the society be invested? How and where will the natural resources be used? How many people will be employed? What jobs will they do and how much they will be paid? All these decisions are taken by none other than the ‘Capitalist Class’. Now you must be wondering who exactly these people are, right? The capitalist class contains all those people who are the managers and owners of large public and private enterprises. In short, these people hold the economic power in the capitalist society. 

Who has the Wealth and Power in Australia? 

“The harder you work, the luckier you get”, this quote is absolutely true and accepted by everyone! The good thing about Australia is that there are no legal barriers to enter the ‘Capitalist Class’, it all depends on your hard work. At the same time, we cannot overlook the fact that Australia is not completely an ‘egalitarian’ nation. To some extent, inequalities of various sorts have been in existence in this nation since the time of the dispossession of the Indigenous people by convict labor. Though anyone can enter the capitalist class yet there is no guarantee for how long they will stay in this class. This shows another aspect of Australia and that is, there are no such formally designed categories here as it depends on people themselves to enter or exit the capitalist society. One of the easiest ways to enter the capitalist class is to be born to wealthy parents as entering the capitalist society could be challenging for the people who born into a working-class family. 

As per the 2002 Australian Stock Exchange Survey, it was proved that Australia is becoming a ‘shareholder democracy’ as more than half of the Australian adults owned shares either directly or indirectly. Yet we cannot pass by the fact that 42 percent of direct shareholders owned shares less than $10,000 as the shares were meant for saving for retirement for them. Neither the income generated by the shares was enough to live on nor could they own enough shares to exercise control over an individual company.  

Who is More Powerful at the Australian Workplaces?

The place where we can witness the power of capitalist society at its best is the Australian workplaces. All the decisions related to the fundamental policies, employment, and investment strategies are taken by top managers and owners. Other than them, lower managers also play important role in managing the other issue of details. On one hand, the people at the top hierarchy derive the surplus value through the workers, and on the other, workers manage to get more income and improved work conditions by working hard. This breakdown of jobs into distinct specialized activities is one of the crucial features of the capitalist society. Most of the time, productivity is boosted by reducing the skills and consequently lowering wage costs. Let’s take an example of programming companies, in these companies the software is developed by hierarchies of programmers in which the most highly routine tasks are performed by the workers at the lowest ranks. 

Is Australia a Ruling Class?

It is believed that the Australian capital is usually dominated by overseas investment especially investment by the USA, however, this is not the complete truth. Let us explain how, the accumulated foreign investment in Australia was $906 billion in June 2003 which was 24 percent of total investments. On the other hand, the amount of Australian investment overseas was $463 billion which was over half the level of overseas investment here. It is also necessary to understand that foreign investment should not be equated with foreign control. The direct investment in Australia covers only around one-quarter of foreign investment that too only stakes in Australian companies of 10 percent or more or the local branches of multinational corporation grant a significant control to their owners. 

So, this becomes quite evident that the Australian economy is in no way subordinate to foreign capital.


Written By
Amelia Smith in Society
20 Feb 2021