Australia: inequality and prosperity and their impacts in a radical welfare state

30 March 2013

Over the last 30 years or so the Australian economy has been subject to wide-ranging reforms. These reforms include reducing high protective tariffs on imported goods and removing some non-tariff barriers, floating the Australian dollar, deregulating the financial services sector, deregulating the labour market, increasing efficiency between the federal and state branches of government, privatizing government-owned industries, and reforming the tax system. The social security system has also been subject to considerable reform – some periods saw retrenchment of social security support, while others saw increased targeting and generosity to the poor, or retrenchment for some groups and improvement for favoured categories.

Accompanying these changes, and partly as a result of some of them, unemployment increased significantly in different periods. Some family changes reinforced these negative trends, and Australia developed an extremely high concentration of joblessness in households with no adults in paid employment. While overall employment has grown strongly in the second half of this period, this has been accompanied by a growth in part-time employment and casual work.

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