Case study

Social policy during the coronavirus recession: a fairytale with an unhappy ending?

A case study of Victoria, Australia
COVID-19 Economic depressions Welfare recipients Disease management Economic stimulus Public health Social issues Victoria

This paper is about the social policy response to the coronavirus recession in Australia, during the period from the beginning of March to the end of October 2020. It is best understood as a preliminary study, owing to the lack of detailed data that enable us to explore gender, ethnic and other lines of social division. The researchers use Victoria as a case study because it has borne the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic in Australia as a result of a second wave of infections that occurred there in the second half of 2020.

In addition, Victoria is Australia’s second largest state by population and gross state product, so what happens there is of importance to Australia as a whole. Whereas the rest of the country managed to keep infections very low after the first wave — most states and territories reduced their caseloads to near zero — Victoria experienced a second wave that took hold in July.

The authors begin by summarising the impact of the coronavirus on Victoria, and the scale of the Victorian government’s harsh lockdown. They demonstrate that the coronavirus recession was indeed severe and did indeed leave an uneven pattern of costs felt most harshly in Melbourne and the large outer suburban multicultural suburbs.

In part two, they turn their attention to Federal and State Government social policy responses. The pace, scale and breadth of the innovations are highlighted, as indeed is the way that the two tiers of government managed to work in tandem to ensure most of the vulnerable populations were supported.

In part three, the authors turn their attention to various measures of the impact of these social policy innovations, from where the money went by local government areas, to poverty rates by locality.

In part four, they discuss the implications of their findings in the context of broader debates about social policy. In the conclusion, they draw attention to the policy implications that come out of the preceding analysis.

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