Travelling the 'Work-First' Road to Welfare Reform
Just Policy - A Journal of Australian Social Policy, Vol. 44, pp. 12-22, 2007
26 Pages Posted: 3 Jan 2008
This paper examines the radical sectoral shift effected by the Government's 2005/6 welfare-to-work reforms. For the affected group - sole parents (and parenting payment partnered recipients), the partially disabled, and the long-term unemployed - these reforms will be shown to have transformed 'social security policy' into a form of 'labour policy' (or more accurately 'labour-market policy'). They also alter the lines of responsibility for, and the content of welfare for these groups, other than those in 'protected' categories (such as disabled people unable to work for more than 15 hours) or those covered by the temporary 'transitional' measures (such as people in receipt of payments when the reforms were announced). It is suggested that for most people of workforce age (including transitional categories), social security is now effectively an individual-responsibility-gateway into labourmarket exposure (or delayed exposure in the case of transitional Parenting Payment recipients). For these groups, the primary role of social security payments is to impose a set of conditions (backed by a strong compliance regime) which serves to oblige people to accept any job, of almost any duration or terms, which the labourmarket generates.
It is argued that genuine welfare reform requires that attention return to the social rights of welfare recipients (their 'social rights of citizenship') and the community's reciprocal social responsibilities to ensure that collective state (or governmental) action is taken to ameliorate the risks of participating in an (increasingly deregulated) labour market.
Keywords: Neoliberal Welfare, Welfare Reform, Work-first
JEL Classification: K10, K31, H53, I31, I38
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation