Calculating the Protective Strength of Labour Law

To what extent does labour law protect workers? How does Australian labour law compare to the labour law of our regional neighbours? How has this changed over time? Preliminary findings from a study involving Anthony O’Donnell from La Trobe Law School and colleagues from Melbourne, Monash, Oxford and Victoria (Wellington) Universities are being presented this week at the Labour Law Research Network Biennial CComponference in Amsterdam.

The study scored the protective strength of labour law in Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia and China with reference to 36 variables covering individual employment rights, labour standards, collective representation and industrial action, enforcement powers and social security. In all four countries there has been an increase in the formal protective strength of labour law measured across the period 1970-2014.

This increase has been only slight in the cases of Australia and New Zealand, while it has been more marked in the cases of Indonesia and China. In both Australia and New Zealand the development of labour protection over this time has been marked by some periods of rather abrupt decline, followed by periods of recovery, in the protective strength of the law. Indonesia and China have both indicated steady overall growth in the protective strength of labour law, albeit with the regulation in Indonesia beginning from a higher point than China at the outset, and maintaining that pattern across the whole period. In the case of both countries the steady growth in the law’s strength is reflected in across-the-board increases (sometimes pronounced) in most areas of labour protection. 

A more detailed analysis of the data is being prepared for publication.

Marc Trabsky