Capitalism and Wage Exploitation in the Digital Age
Capitalism is characterised by a division of labour and privatisation (Fuchs 2014), and the capitalist acts as a ruthless exploiter – holds a power to use workers as a means of production (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy 2003). In capitalist countries such as Australia, wage exploitation cases of multinational corporations,7-Eleven, Caltex, Pizza Hut and Domino Pizza (Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia 2017), and other companies (Australian Associated Press 2019; Ferguson 2019; McCauley 2019) have been revealed. Due to technological change, skilled workers are affected as they can be replaced by a very-low skills worker with smart software (Hicks 2013) to reduce labour costs, and that their pay becomes negotiable or even underpaid. Fair Work Ombudsman (FWO), ‘an Australianindependent agency created by the Fair Work Act 2009 on 1 July 2009’ (Fair Work Ombudsman 2015, p.11),has been conducting wages audit many restaurants since 2015 and found ‘879 individual errors were recorded from 615 businesses and 17% of the errors were related to weekend penalty rates’ (Fair Work Ombudsman 2015, p.7). Although the FWO aims to promote and educate workers on their work rights so as to raise their voice and not to be exploited, Henderson (2018) found that workers mainly international students in Australia are willing to accept underpayment due to high living costs and gain local work experience in the new country. Australian Unions (n.d.) indicates that the current law makes wage theft easily occurred, and the penaltyis too light thus businesses want to change their business model.The Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) recently proposed any intentional, reckless or dishonest underpayments should attract upto five years’ jail or $10 million fines for corporations which the latter is inline with the maximum penalty under consumer law (Marin-Gusman 2019). Perhaps, this higher penalty would be effective remedies.
Keywords: Capitalism, wage exploitation, underpayment, digital age, Australia.