While neoliberalism is -- correctly -- the villain du jour, one of its unalloyed successes has been in getting people into jobs. Unemployment has not been above 6.5% since 2002; it was above 6.5% for nearly all of the 1990s and most of the 1980s. Underutilisation is higher now than in the 1970s, true -- but it's still below the level it was at for most of the 1990s. The reason this achievement is particularly impressive is because far more Australians work now than in the pre-neoliberal era. In 1978, when the ABS first began publishing its current employment series, the employment:population ratio was around 57% in trend terms. In 2004, it went past 60%. It reached well above 62% in 2011 before falling back, but it has been above 61% for most of this year.
That's because vastly more women are now in the workforce. In the 1970s, less than 40% of women worked in paid employment. That figure reached 50% in the late 1990s; this year, for the fist time, the proportion of women exceeded 56%. So not merely is unemployment lower now in previous decades, but it reflects the fact that the economy is employing a much higher proportion of the population than it used to, especially women. In terms of both economic growth and economic empowerment of women, this is a good thing.