Australian property developer Tim Gurner sparked backlash after remarking during the Financial Review Property Summit on Tuesday that “we need to see pain in the economy.”
“People decided they didn’t really want to work so much anymore through COVID and that has had a massive issue on productivity,” Gurner said, adding that employees have been “paid a lot to do not too much in the last few years.”
“We need to see that change,” Gurner added. “We need to see unemployment rise. Unemployment has to jump 40, 50% in my view. We need to see pain in the economy. We need to remind people that they work for the employer, not the other way around.”
He argued that “hurting the economy” would change the dynamic where employees feel the employer is lucky to have them.
“And we’re seeing it … people are definitely laying people off and we’re starting to see less arrogance in the employment market and that has to continue,” Gurner said.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) responded to the clip of Gurner on Tuesday, writing: “Reminder that major CEOs have skyrocketed their own pay so much that the ratio of CEO-to-worker pay is now at some of the highest levels *ever* recorded.”
Ocasio-Cortez was far from the lone voice online putting Gurner’s comments on blast.
“‘We need to see pain in the economy’ says the billionaire who can afford a lavish lifestyle no matter how much it costs,” one user on X replied, receiving nearly 15,000 likes.
“I can’t even express adequately how infuriating this clip is,” commented someone else.
Dr. Steve Robson, president of the Australian Medical Association, labeled Gurner’s comments “breathtakingly irresponsible.”
“Unemployment is associated with a range of adverse health outcomes including suicide,” he said. “I say this with some confidence having studied suicide and unemployment.”
Film writer Todd Spence chimed in, saying: “Dude acts like we didn’t barely survive Covid layoffs just 3 YEARS AGO.”
In Australia, unemployment in July was 3.6% per the Australian Bureau of Labor Statistics—down from a pandemic-era high in July 2020 of 7.5%. (For comparison, the unemployment rate in the U.S. was 3.8% in the month of August, and a pandemic-era high of 14.7% in April 2020).
Gurner—who previously went viral for suggesting millennials stop buying avocado toast in order to afford houses—has a net worth of $912 million AUD as of 2023, according to the Financial Review. That’s the equivalent of roughly $587 million USD.
“Can’t believe Avocado Toast Mogul still gets to talk about the economy,” concluded one social media user on Tuesday.
Days later, Gurner issued an apology, calling his remarks “deeply insensitive.”
“I made some remarks about unemployment and productivity in Australia that I deeply regret and were wrong,” Gurner said. “There are clearly important conversations to have in this environment of high inflation, pricing pressures on housing and rentals due to a lack of supply, and other cost-of-living issues.”