Australian Way of Life

Talking Class Divides Australians

Written by
25 June 2021

A small but influential ‘Talking class’ has undermined Australia’s egalitarian society by using the institutions they run as vehicles to promote their interests at the expense of ‘Doers’ – mainstream Australians who build and make, according to a new report released today by the Institute of Public Affairs.

“Australia’s society and economy have been captured by a small but growing Talking class who have remade Australia in their image,” said Cian Hussey, Research Fellow at the IPA.

“The Talking class can be found at the commanding heights of our economy, culture, and politics. Through their positions in big business, unions, parliament, and the bureaucracies, they shape culture and public policy to favour their own interests at the expense of mainstream Australians,” said Mr Hussey.

The report, The Two Australias: The Talkers versus the Doers, demonstrates how Australia is becoming divided culturally, economically, and politically by the rise of a Talking class who are shaping the future of Australia around their interests at the expense of the Doers. The research report adapts and extends a framework developed in the United States through utilising data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. “Talkers” are those who are not directly employed in production, who oversee companies or organisations at a high level, or who literally talk for a living. “Doers” are those who are directly or closely involved in the production of goods and service.

The report estimates that the share of the workforce employed as Doers declined from 85% in 1986 to 78% in 2020, and while in 1986 there were 5.5 Doers for every Talker, today there are only 3.6.

“Doers are Australians who are embedded in reality because they build, create, and construct real things. Talkers are given to ideological obsessions because they are removed from practical,” said Mr Hussey.

“There are too many Chief Diversity Officers and not enough miners, farmers, builders, and tradies,” said Mr Hussey.

The report develops an empirical model to measure the relationship between the share of Doers in the workforce and productivity growth. It finds that the optimal share of Doers in the workforce has historically been 81.5%. Australia reached this share in 2000 before it declined further. According to the model, increases in the share of Talkers are associated with increases in productivity growth up to a certain point, after which productivity growth stagnates and then declines.

The model estimates that this decline has cost Australians $428 billion in forgone economic output since the year 2000. For comparison, this is roughly double the build and maintenance costs of the Future Submarine Program’s new fleet of submarines.

Download the report.

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Cian Hussey

Cian Hussey is an Adjunct Fellow at the Institute of Public Affairs

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