One of Australia’s wealthiest individuals recently sparked global outrage after suggesting that unemployment should increase to remind workers of their place. Tim Gurner, a property mogul and gym owner, made the comments during a property summit last week, claiming that the Covid-19 pandemic had worsened employees’ work ethics and attitudes.

Gurner’s comments have attracted over 23 million views and strong criticism online, with many accusing him of being out of touch with reality. He proposed that Australia’s current unemployment rate of 3.7% should rise by 40-50%, resulting in over 200,000 people losing their jobs. However, he later apologised for his remarks, admitting that they were insensitive to employees, tradespeople, and families across Australia who are affected by cost of living pressures and job losses.

Backlash

We have witnessed a strong backlash against Mr Gurner’s comments on the changing nature of work. Many companies are currently struggling with their staff on issues such as remote work and pay, and this has led to shifting attitudes towards employment. As a result, hashtags like “quiet quitting” and “lazy-girl jobs” have emerged on social media, highlighting the desire for a better work-life balance.

Mr Gurner’s earlier comments, which were shared by the Australian Financial Review (AFR), drew widespread criticism on social media platforms like X (formerly Twitter), TikTok and LinkedIn. They were also condemned by Australian MPs from across the political spectrum. Labor MP Jerome Laxale described them as “comments you’d associate with a cartoon supervillain,” while Liberal MP Keith Wolahan said they “could not be more out of touch.” Mr Wolahan added that “the loss of a job is not a number. It sees people on the streets and dependent upon food banks.”

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US lawmaker Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also criticised Mr Gurner, pointing out that major CEOs have increased their own pay to the point where the ratio of CEO-to-worker pay is now at some of the highest levels ever recorded.

Despite the backlash, some individuals like Minerals Council of Australia chairman Andrew Michelmore have defended Mr Gurner’s comments. Mr Michelmore argued that “employees have got used to earning the same amount of money but not putting in the same hours.”

Mr Gurner is the CEO and founder of Gurner Group and has an estimated net worth of A$929 million (£479m; $598m). He has previously made controversial comments about young home buyers, criticising their spending habits. In 2017, he claimed that when he was saving for his first home, he “wasn’t buying smashed avocado for $19 and four coffees at $4 each.” However, it was later revealed that in London at the time, buyers would have needed to forego 24,499 avocado toasts.

Overall, Mr Gurner’s comments have sparked a heated debate about the changing nature of work and the attitudes towards it. The backlash against his comments highlights the growing desire for a better work-life balance and fair pay.