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The Task:

Write an academic essay on the following:

What has been the impact of neoliberalism on Australian employment relations? You may refer to case studies of Australian organisations to provide examples and to display knowledge of the concepts.



Impact of neoliberalism on employee relations

Scholars define employee relations as the efforts placed by organizations to manage the relationship between employees and employers. Having good employee associations ensures that employees receive consistent and fair treatment hence increasing their loyalty and commitment in their work. On the other hand, neoliberalism refers to a policy and ideology model which emphasizes the importance of open market competition.  In the current world, there exist numerous culture’s needs, expectations and beliefs in the workplace. Labor relations are also changes due to these changes in the market. Employment relations act as the most important things that determine the performance of organizations. It is essential to have a glimpse at some of the theories on employment relations because they can help managers to make better policies at the workplace. Through these theories, workers can also learn how to maintain equal and fair working environment besides ensuring that the company hears their cries.  The essay will apply the right theoretical arguments and current articles to support the main topic. The piece also contains information about the impact of neoliberalism on employee relations in Australia.


Impact of neoliberalism on Australian employment relations

Policies recently developed by the Australian government are greatly prejudiced by neoliberalism, and this hinders the implementation of employment associated laws such as international disability policies. Within human rights and neoliberal assumptions to social privileges, it is evident that employees with disabilities experience different challenges at the workplace. According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), many countries are experiencing difficulties in social policies of the development in high unemployment, aging population, slower economic activities, and income support plans (Mendes 2017, p. 146). Australia has tried to solve these challenges through the user program, policies and legislative changes. But the physically challenged have not received any benefit from these changes because marginalization and discrimination remain a problem to them while seeking for employment.

Harris, Owen, Fisher, and Gould (2014, p. 2) suggest that the aged and the disabled in Australia do not receive the right treatment at work. Harris, Owen, Fisher, and Gould (2014, p. 2) further argues that even these people get employed, they live close to poverty because they receive low remuneration and are mistreated. The international community has suggested that the disabled should be allowed to participate in the making of policies in the workplace. However, neoliberalism influences policy tactics in Australia, and this affects the implementation of laws (Centeno, and Cohen 2012, p. 340). Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission [HREOC] suggest that people with disabilities should be given more salaries because of the numerous financial constraints due to their impairments. Other scholars also state that work stoppages and union memberships have declined in Australia because of the increased strikes. Neoliberalism is one of the things which have contributed to the increase in the job turnover and reduction of union membership in Australia and even in other countries such as New Zealand.

Peetz and Bailey (2011, pp.62) state that the strikes which have taken place in Australia have reduced the work attendance in the country. The government has also refused to take part in negotiations aimed at changing the workplace policies. Australia has adopted neoliberalism and unions have gone to the streets to maintain their existence. Wallace and Pease (2011, p. 134) demonstrate that neoliberalism refers to the ideas which support the adherence to perfect market assumptions and slightest state intervention which promotes the wellbeing of the capital. In Australia, these ideas are described as economic fundamentalism and economic liberalism. The policies made by the governments have many impacts on the union and even the disabled. These reforms by the government erode the disability rights according to CRPB because they emphasize on the individual change in behaviors over broader political economic and social-cultural restructuring of attitudinal and institutional barriers.


The Australian government has tried to develop laws like the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) to protect the disabled against discrimination. The act helped to changes in transportation and telecommunications, but it never achieved the desired outcomes in employment. Due to neoliberalism, there is a gap which exists between the rights practiced and the privileges which have been implemented in the system (Asquith 2010, p. 260). The United Nations states that Australia needs to develop laws which can change how the disabled and other people are treated at work. Australia has signed international agreements to protect and promote the rights so that employees can be protected. The government, therefore, have to change abolish or modify the existing regulations, practices, customs, and laws that lead to unfair treatment at the workplace. CRPB demands changes in the rights through the implementation of effective and comprehensive legislation.

According to Cooper (2010, p. 263) neoliberalism has a significant influence on the communal right trajectory in all OECD countries. Australia has always wanted to achieve equal, and full labor participation in the workplace but some factors hinder its dreams. The government came up with an act known as “Welfare to Work Act” to improve labor relations (Owen, and Harris 2012, p. 3). The law focused on two neoliberal strategies including the reduction of welfare dependency and reducing the number of defendant people. Under the bill, the government would reduce welfare dependency through increasing the participation of employment levels. The government would restrict eligibility to slow the number of individuals who received salary maintenance benefits.

According to Shields et al., (2015, p. 20) neoliberalism aims at reducing government participation by developing policies by elevating the responsibilities of workers. It achieved by allowing workers to meet their needs through active participation in the labor market. These policies have an ideological inclination for individual control over the state expenditure which develops to effectively respond to various political and social challenges besides economic instability (Harris, Owen, Fisher, and Gould, 2014, p. 3). According to Macaulay, (2018, p. 155) employee relations are fundamental in any country because they contribute to the growth of an economy. The government, therefore, started supporting neoliberalism policies when there was tremendous growth in capital and reduced taxation for much upper class and wealthier middle-class citizens. The support had power differentials because the poor participated rhetorically. The policy stigmatized the marginalized, and some could not engage in the paid labor due to lack of additional economic assistance.  

The rights developed by Australia are therefore inadequate and cannot help in addressing the marginalization or discrimination of people in the working environment. Different social agencies and non-governmental agencies have come up to respond to the changes in neoliberal policies by assisting people to get access to paid labor. But these agencies cannot achieve their objectives because of the scarce resources at their disposal. Neoliberalism in Australia has led to the reduction of support from the state by the agencies. In countries like Britain, disability training programs are mostly by non-governmental organizations. Harris, Owen, and Gould, (2012, p. 825) noted that disabled people had limited choices in employment due to neoliberalism in the United Kingdom. It is therefore essential to address these structural barriers to reduce the level of inequality in the workplace. Different scholars have suggested that the policies made at the workplace have a significant impact on workers and employees.

Neoliberalism, therefore, leads to changes in the working environment because it does not include an emphasis on the well-being of workers. Instead, neoliberalism focuses on the existence of the free market. These reforms, therefore, disadvantage some workers especially those with disabilities. Neoliberalism also creates differences in power because they do not focus on human rights. Instead, thy focus on the economy and this creates a class of disempowered individuals. Neoliberal reforms, therefore, created disproportionality and structural violence which affects the vulnerable employees hence restraining their access to their rights. Research has been done on the impacts of neoliberalism on employee relations, and many concepts have been developed to explain this phenomenon.


Theoretical models

Harris et al. (2014, p. 5) researched the participation of marginalized people in the presence of neoliberal reforms. Harris et al. (2014, p. 5) examine if neoliberal reforms on labor relations support human rights. The theoretical model applied in this paper can help in answering questions on whether the marginalized can implement reforms which are consistent with the international rights and whether the affected stakeholders can help in changing these rights. The research in this paper involved the use of different methods including the use of focus groups, face-to-face interviews and literature reviews. The article used different approaches because the use of various techniques helps to improve the research design.

The researchers selected different people including those with disabilities and are employed or receive benefits. Those who were designated are people who are motivated to get engaged and have a high engagement at the workplace (Williams 2013, p. 622). The stakeholders in this research involved policymakers who work in the state, employment recruiters, employment service givers, and many others.

According to the research, many workers like the idea of employment welfare but only when it is backed with the necessary support. Most people supposed that changes in policies could help to increase the participation rates. The research shows that the state can help in changing labor relations by assisting people to get employed (Sakellariou, and Rotarou 2017, p. 199).  The marginalized can receive assistance in the form of job skills, training, and application. It was also noted that financial disincentives in employment can pay extra costs and differences in the workplace for people who are marginalized. Paying the disabled well means that they will not require additional support from the company. These people agreed that signing CRPB was an essential step by the Australian government but also argued that some changes are necessary at the national level. Some challenges such as lack of proper technology, accessible transport and equipment’s which can help in policy implementation reduce the rights of workers.

Some workers suggested that the government can streamline case management to help the disabled to fit well in the work environment. These suggestions had a broad scope including the seeking of employment, completion, and application of forms for job skills and training. Policymakers argued that supporting workers is vital in boosting their performance. Some people stated that the people who are underprivileged or disabled should be paid and treated equally at the workplace (Soldatic, and Meekosha 2012, p. 10). Different policymakers suggested that Marxist theory should be applied in the workplace environment. According to Marxist, society should be classless, and all workers should receive equal treatment from their employees. Policymakers supported the disabled saying that they should be given the same responsibilities and rights just like those who are not disabled. Treating people equally can help in increasing their motivation, and this improves job performance.

The government should take responsibility for ensuring that workers receive equal treatment. Australia is a country which has very few disabled people who are working meaning that they are not given equal opportunities (Robinson, and Plimmer 2015, p. 1). They should, therefore, be trained and employed to fit the job market just like the other people. Employment relations are critical to look at because they focus on the welfare of employees. Companies with good relationships between employers and employees increase the satisfaction of workers hence elevating their performance. The government should, therefore, commit itself to international rights such as CRPB if they help in changing local policies at the national level.

There are different theories which can help to explain more about workplace relations. One of the arguments is the mobilization theory coined by Kelly. According to this theory, collectivism of workers is effective and but it cannot serve as an anachronistic tool of responding to workplace injustices. According to Kelly, mobilization of workers take place when there is an injustice or grievance attributed to the employer leaders framing their problems compellingly, and confidence that collectivism will help (Baird, and Williamson 2010, p. 355). The theory applies Marxist concepts which suggested that workers should collectively work towards achieving their rights in the workplace. Kelly’s opinion indicates that civil society should play a significant role in the mobilization of workers.

Another theory known as strategic HRM is based on the utilitarian approach suggests that the human resource managers should be in the frontline to help workers in achieving semi-autonomous teams, auto-management, worker autonomy, and participation of workers to enhance the sharing of data between the management and workers (Baccaro, and Howell 2011, p. 522). The theory can be supported by other methods such as the resource-based assumption and the contingency theory which suggest that skill requirement, industry characteristics, and organization capabilities as well as resources matter towards the achievement of company goals. According to this theory, it is essential to treat workers equally so that they can work towards the attainment of the company’s goals. The theory suggests that remuneration is a crucial determinant of workers output.

Other theories on employment relations suggest that structural changes should be dealt with in different ways to accommodate all people. For instance, some unions in Australia changed how they bargain towards welfare issues so that they could cater for the increased number of women in the employment market (Bratton, and Gold 2017, p. 5). Other unions in Australia should, therefore, collaborate to develop rights which can enhance equality in the workplace. Some countries such as Denmark have established collective bargaining and trade unions to mobilize balance at the workplace while other countries such as the United States developed legal enactment and civil right unions to achieve equality (Brown, Goodman, and Yasukawa 2010, p. 170). Coming up with alternative strategies to represent and mobilize workers can, therefore, improve labor relations by creating equality.  

About these theories, emphasizing on neoliberal approaches on efficiency, competition, and results to drive policy reforms, service effectiveness lost attention on equal access, effectiveness, and rights for people. Implementation of rules will require communication and discussions with the affected people to prevent the creation of tensions (Tapia, Ibsen, and Kochan 2015, p. 157). Most people would like to get good employment policies, and the focus on neoliberalism instead of the people’s rights may lead to conflicts. Development of trade unions in Australia can also help the country to achieve equal opportunities because unions have a significant influence on the decisions made by the state.



In conclusion, it is essential for employers to integrate the disabled people in the employment market but it will require the commitment of resources by the state. These resources can help in the implementation of rights which can assist in developing the practices and capacity to facilitate, support and facilitate employment and training or education programs. Individuals cannot change the policies on their own meaning that they will have to collaborate through the use of trade unions. The essay has provided a lot of data on the administrative and funding requirements for employers which are backed-up neoliberal assumptions instead of individual rights. The article also gives information on why it is important to have accessible communication and information to help in empowering the disabled people. According to this paper, I would recommend the Australian government to focus on adequate information and discussion on the changes in policies for the disabled. The government should communicate on the changes in guidelines to ensure that everyone understands their importance. The government should focus on dogmas, and legislation which can provide more responsive and accessible services to the disabled.



Asquith, N., 2010. Positive ageing, neoliberalism and Australian sociology. Journal of Sociology, 45(3), pp.255-269.

 Baccaro, L. and Howell, C., 2011. A common neoliberal trajectory: The transformation of industrial relations in advanced capitalism. Politics & Society, 39(4), pp.521-563.

Baird, M. and Williamson, S., 2010. Women, work and industrial relations in 2009. Journal of Industrial Relations, 52(3), pp.355-369.

Bratton, J. and Gold, J., 2017. Human resource management: theory and practice. Palgrave.

Brown, T., Goodman, J. and Yasukawa, K., 2010. Academic casualization in Australia: Class divisions in the university. Journal of Industrial Relations, 52(2), pp.169-182.

Centeno, M.A. and Cohen, J.N., 2012. The arc of neoliberalism. Annual Review of Sociology, 38, pp.317-340.

Cooper, R., 2010. The ‘new’industrial relations and international economic crisis: Australia in 2009. Journal of Industrial Relations, 52(3), pp.261-274.

Harris, S.P., Owen, R., Fisher, K.R. and Gould, R., 2014. Human rights and neoliberalism in Australian welfare to work policy: experiences and perceptions of people with disabilities and disability stakeholders. Disability Studies Quarterly, 34(4).

Macaulay, S., 2018. Non-contractual relations in business: A preliminary study. In The Law and Society Canon (pp. 155-167). Routledge.

Mendes, P., 2017. Australia’s welfare wars: The players, the politics and the ideologies. Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work, 29(2), pp.145-148.

Owen, R. and Harris, S.P., 2012. 'No Rights without Responsibilities': Disability Rights and Neoliberal Reform under New Labour. Disability Studies Quarterly, 32(3).

Peetz, D. and Bailey, J., 2011. Neoliberal evolution and union responses in Australia. International Handbook on Labour Unions: Responses to Neo-liberalism, pp.62-81.

Sakellariou, D. and Rotarou, E.S., 2017. The effects of neoliberal policies on access to healthcare for people with disabilities. International journal for equity in health, 16(1), p.199.

Parker Harris, S., Owen, R. and Gould, R., 2012. Parity of participation in liberal welfare states: Human rights, neoliberalism, disability and employment. Disability & Society, 27(6), pp.823-836.

Shields, J., Brown, M., Kaine, S., Dolle-Samuel, C., North-Samardzic, A., McLean, P., Johns, R., O'Leary, P., Robinson, J. and Plimmer, G., 2015. Managing employee performance & reward: Concepts, practices, strategies. Cambridge University Press.

Soldatic, K. and Meekosha, H., 2012. The place of disgust: disability, class and gender in spaces of workfare. Societies, 2(3), pp.139-156.

Soldatic, K., 2018. Disability and Neoliberal State Formations: The Case of Australia. Routledge.

Tapia, M., Ibsen, C.L. and Kochan, T.A., 2015. Mapping the frontier of theory in industrial relations: the contested role of worker representation. Socio-Economic Review, 13(1), pp.157-184.

Wallace, J. and Pease, B., 2011. Neoliberalism and Australian social work: Accommodation or resistance?. Journal of social work, 11(2), pp.132-142.

Williams, C.L., 2013. The glass escalator, revisited: Gender inequality in neoliberal times, SWS feminist lecturer. Gender & Society, 27(5), pp.609-629.









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