The Development of Human Resource Management Across Nations
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The Development of Human Resource Management Across Nations

Unity and Diversity

Edited by Bruce E. Kaufman

This volume contains country studies of the historical development of human resource management (HRM) in seventeen different nations. The nations span all regions of the world and each chapter is written by a national expert. Primary attention is given to HRM developments in industry, but university research and teaching are also covered. Human resource management is defined broadly to include industrial relations and each chapter places the historical development of HRM in a broad political, social, and economic context.
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Chapter 3: Human resource management in Australia: historical development and contemporary tensions

Christopher Wright


As is the case in other advanced liberal-market economies, human resource management (HRM) in Australia has become an accepted ‘managerial profession’ with its own professional association and credentialism evident in specific education, training and professional networks (Armstrong 1986; Michelson and Kramar 2003). This chapter explores the origins and historical development of HRM in Australian workplaces throughout the twentieth century through to the present day. Despite its distance from the centres of economic activity in the United States and Europe, and its comparatively small economic footprint, Australia has played an important role in the historical development of HRM. This is a southern hemisphere, settler economy highly dependent on the export of resources, so one might suppose the predominant state of employee management to be relatively informal and derivative, and indeed this general summation is accurate for a significant component of the Australian economy. However, the history of HRM in Australia also reveals surprising levels of local innovation and global influence. Australia was after all the birthplace of the ‘father’ of human relations, Elton Mayo (Trahair 1984), and as this chapter reveals played a central role in the ongoing global spread of new management ideas and practices. The chapter reveals a complex picture of rapid changes in the practice of employment and personnel administration, work organisation, and industrial relations and collective bargaining.

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