Issue No. 64 - April/May 2012
Future looks ‘ruthlessly small’
by Professor Richard Blandy
I discovered 25 years ago, as a result of being Director of the National Institute of Labour Studies Incorporated – a research business that was part of Flinders University – that operating a small business is a dynamic, fulfilling and demanding activity.
It is a wonderful commentary on the optimism and vitality of our fellow countrymen and women that so many are willing to become principals of small businesses. About 300,000 businesses start up in Australia every year (and almost the same number call it quits).
Very hard work faces them for a start. On average, full-time business principals work about 50 hours a week, with about 5% working more than 75 hours a week. They cannot afford to be surrounded by slackers, either. People working in small businesses generally work longer hours and earn less than people working in large businesses, the public sector and the trade unions.
Calculations made using data on the Council of Small Business in Australia website show that the median Australian small business operator earns about $39,000 a year, far less than the average politician, public servant or trade union official. Lower pay and longer hours of work in small businesses reflect, at the margin, the personal advantages that people see in working in small businesses, where they can count as a person, rather than simply being a cog in a production machine.
Australian evidence from the HILDA survey finds that the well-being benefits from self-employment are seen as outweighing the financial costs.
Every member of a small business comes into razor sharp focus to his and her fellow workers – both as a human being and as a contributor to the group’s collective survival and prosperity. The only way forward in a small busi...