In the recent Anti-Poverty Week we discovered, believe it or not, poverty has been falling.

How many Australians do you know who are THIS poor?

The proportion of Australians in poverty increased from 11.9 per cent in 2003 to 14.5 per cent in 2007, but then declined to 12.3 per cent by 2010, according to the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) publication Poverty in Australia.

If this sounds a bit fishy to you, you would be right. Common sense suggests that poverty should decrease when the economy is strong (as it was from 2003 to 2007), and increase when the economy gets weaker (as it did from 2007 to 2010).

However, common sense doesn’t apply when it comes to poverty. The problem lies with the way ACOSS (and other poverty researchers) arbitrarily define the “poverty line” - as an income below 50 per cent of the median income.

But the median income (and hence the poverty line) shifts up and down as the economy booms or slumps. As growth slowed down, the median income fell, depressing the poverty line, and magically reducing the number of “poor” people below it. But in reality, nothing much changed.

Most poverty in Australia is also transitory. The 2.2 million people under the poverty line this month are not the same as those last month. People fall sick and their income falls below the poverty line, but then these people recover and go back to work. Women take time off work to have a baby but go back to work later. Students may have incomes below the poverty line, but not after they graduate and start working.

The incomes of people who are between jobs may fall temporarily until they get back on their feet (about two-thirds of people on Newstart Allowance are on the payment for less than a year before returning to work).

Arguing for reducing poverty by giving “the poor” more money is difficult when the people who make up “the poor” keep changing.

This preoccupation with relieving the symptoms of poverty through government handouts diverts attention from the real cause of poverty - the lack of paid work. The ACOSS figures show that more than 80 per cent of people under the poverty line do not have a full-time job, and more than 50 per cent aren’t in the workforce at all.

Households with at least one adult in full-time work rarely fall below the line.

This means there are two ways to reduce “poverty”: increase the value of welfare benefits faster than the value of wages, or move substantial numbers of people off welfare and into full-time jobs. Anti-poverty campaigners invariably emphasise the first option and neglect the second, but the first actually undermines the second.

Ross Gittins reviewed the latest ACOSS poverty research and concluded that the dole should be increased to raise the incomes of the unemployed beyond the poverty line. ACOSS too want more generous benefits.

What this would mean in practice is that people who don’t work and whose incomes are below the poverty line would have their incomes raised by more than people in low-paid jobs whose incomes are just above the poverty line.

Not only would this be unfair but it is also counterproductive, resulting in more people on welfare than before. Massaging poverty numbers by increasing welfare benefits makes the real poverty problem worse, for the main cause of poverty is joblessness, and people will be less inclined to take jobs as benefits become more generous.

In the United Kingdom (in an echo of Hawke’s famous promise to Australia in the 1980s) the Blair government promised to end child poverty. The way it went about it was to increase benefits. As a result, many families moved from just below the arbitrary poverty line to just above it, but the effective result of this huge splurge in public spending was that very little in their lives really changed.

The government in Britain has learned from this mistake. It now wants to broaden the poverty targets so policy solutions don’t focus exclusively on giving people more money. Instead, policy will focus on tackling the causes of poverty - things like truancy rates, drug and alcohol dependency, and chronic intergenerational unemployment.

Anti-poverty campaigners in Australia should learn from this. It’s easy to tweak the poverty numbers by increasing welfare spending, but such a policy is likely to prove self-defeating because it increases dependency and misses the principal cause of poverty, which is joblessness, not low benefits.

Peter Saunders is a Senior Fellow and Andrew Baker is a Policy Analyst at The Centre for Independent Studies.

Comments on this post close at 8pm AEST.

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    • Mahhrat says:

      06:50am | 29/10/12

      This is one area where I feel conservative fiscal policy has an argument going for it - the ability to provide the freedom for small businesses to be created and to grow.

      Where it falls down, of course, is the lack of protection for those businesses from the larger, established “Hardly Normals” of the world, who simply buy or franchise successful small businessmen.

      The solution is to protect those who take the risk.

    • potter says:

      08:44am | 29/10/12

      “conservative fiscal policy has an argument going for it - the ability to provide the freedom for small businesses to be created and to grow.”

      Please explain?

    • andye says:

      09:10am | 29/10/12

      @Mahhrat - Only if you think that personal tax cuts for the wealthy stimulate jobs.

      If people were genuinely serious about jobs they would vote down the company tax rate.

    • Mahhrat says:

      09:33am | 29/10/12

      @Potter:  I understand a conservative fiscal policy is one that minimises the impost of bureaucracy on the creation of new businesses.

      The article today about the new requirements for compliance by NFPs is an example of “progressive” fiscal policy - it’s technically “right”, but it can become so cumbersome that it’s not done, because the cost of compliance often becomes less than the cost of a fine if you’re actually caught out doing the wrong thing.

      Taxi Drivers, for example, are an example of where conservative fiscal policy would be more beneficial.  Why should they claim the GST?  They earn less than $75k a year in most cases, yet they have to declare it.  That can be an awful lot of work for a guy and his cab - I know, because I did it.  To achieve full compliance too about an hour a day…and that’s an hour I can’t spend driving.

      Surely, a declaration on what you took, recorded by your taxi meter, is sufficient?  There isn’t enough money in day-to-day cab operations to worry about it much farther than that.  Not because it’s right, but because eliminating it isn’t worth the effort.

    • Debbie says:

      09:42am | 29/10/12

      I guess that if we had a zero company tax rate we would have zero unemployment. No more dole payments, the feveral budget would then be showing a huge surplus. Its so easy.

    • Tell It Like It Is says:

      06:51am | 29/10/12

      I think the wonderful story featured in The Australian this weekend about the cattle industry recovery in west Cape York confirms your thesis.
      What an inspiring account of what determination and dedication to change can make, in this case the result of a large number of cooperating families of the Aboriginal Wik clan.

      Best news we’ve read in ages!

    • Robinoz says:

      06:58am | 29/10/12

      I’ve been travelling around Victoria for the past five weeks, mainly regional areas. Several people I have spoken with at vineyards, cheese factories and elsewhere have told me that the most difficult problem they have is finding workers. One person told me if he was not able to get immigrant workers, he couldn’t run the business. This at a time when the welfare system makes it too easy for healthy, largely young Australians to sit around doing nothing.  Some of these long term welfare recipients should be directed into employment and taken off the dole. Womb to tomb dole is simply not in Australia’s best interests.

    • GROBP says:

      08:30am | 29/10/12


      The way we have lived and squandered the entire countries wealth over the past two or three generations, as well as accumulated ridiculous personal debt, bid up housing, national debt and sold any assets worth selling, we’re going to find out what “poverty” actually means.

      It sure as hell doesn’t mean 50% of a really good wage…..

      This country is broke and most people don’t even know it yet.

      Are we really being honest with our kids with what we’re leaving them?

      It disgusts me being part of the cohort that used the whole lot, that voted for whoever gave me the whole lot, helped me consume more and more and more while knowing full well (but pretending) that what we were doing was wrong.

      Kath. “Kimmy, you have a two door Hyundai and a two bedroom unit” What more could you want?

      Kim. ” I don’t know mum, I just want more”

      There is NO poverty in Australia, but there sure will be.

    • acotrel says:

      10:16am | 29/10/12

      Vineyards that pay an hourly rate have less trouble than those paying piece rates for workers to pick inferior crops.  Reselttled asylum seekers are a boon to far mers in the Goulburn Valley.  The fellas can save on pesticide and water and grow rubbish.  Their workers will struggle and pick it and still fill the quota imposed by the winemaker at smaller wages bill. There are no unions in the country ! That is one of the main reasons many businesses go there, also one of the main reasons they then go offshore. They intend to exploit.

    • acotrel says:

      10:22am | 29/10/12

      A lot has t o do with Centrelink idiocy.  Grape picking is seasonal and part time.  If people leave the dole to do it , they then have to bugger about with the jerks when the work runs out. I suspect your comment about the cheese factories is cynical garbage.  Those sorts of jobs are well sought after in any country town.

    • Fiddler says:

      06:59am | 29/10/12

      even those who count as being in poverty would be rich in the rest of the world. If you can afford pay tv you aren’t poor.

      Problem is a lot of people don’t want to work

    • acotrel says:

      07:21am | 29/10/12

      ‘Problem is a lot of people don’t want to work

      I’m over 70 and professionally qualified as a scientist and manager.  Find me a paying job !

    • lower_case_andrew says:

      07:22am | 29/10/12

      “even those who count as being in poverty would be rich in the rest of the world”

      True.  But we don’t live in the rest of the world.

      Poor people in Australia don’t pay Indian rates for food, telecommunications, cars, travel, accommodation.

      Instead, poor people here have to pay the going rates in Australia; a first-world, prosperous country with prices to match.

      “If you can afford pay tv you aren’t poor.”

      I don’t know any poor people who have Pay TV.

    • Fiddler says:

      07:44am | 29/10/12

      I am referring to people who have never worked and never contributed to society, they are the ones who typically consistently fill the percentages listed.

    • Rose says:

      08:27am | 29/10/12

      Very few people don’t want to work, The last figures I saw showed that of all the people ‘breached’ by Centrelink only 4% were breached for failing to take work offered to them. Most breaches are administrative,people failing to respond to letters, often which they don’t always get if their accommodation is not secure, or they may not be able to read if their literacy is poor.
      Of the 4% breached for failing to take work offered, many did so because accepting that work would have made them worse off in either the short or long term.

    • Fiddler says:

      08:48am | 29/10/12

      a lot of people who don’t want to work do it either by churning out lots of children with no employment by either parent (when they actually declare they are together) or go in the DSP claiming back pain or depression.

      There are suburbs full of generation after generation on welfare, and yes they pretty much all have a pay tv dish on top of their roof.

    • nihonin says:

      11:53am | 29/10/12

      You’re a riot acotrel, I can just see you giving up your ‘self funded’ government pension, or is it the retirement fund you thought your taxes were being paid in to.

    • Rose says:

      01:13pm | 29/10/12

      That’s a real shame Fiddler, when people are so disengaged that they will have children as it’s the only way they can guarantee some security of income!

    • bananabender56 says:

      07:11am | 29/10/12

      If illegal immigrants (the ones that fly in)/visa overstayers can find work, sufficient enough to actually live here (because they can’t claim handouts, right?) then why can’t the people who legally live here find work? If Kiwi’s can fly across and find work, and there are thousands of them, why can’t Australians?
      In part I suspect it’s because if you can’t find a job where you live then there are no jobs.

    • Miss says:

      09:34am | 29/10/12

      I think it also comes down to the fact that many Australians think they are ‘above’ certain kinds of work. I once worked in a call centre with a lady whose boyfriend had been on the dole for 8 years (he was 26, had never really had any kind of job). She offered to get him employed as a customer service agent and his response was “No way, I don’t want to be a call centre pleb”.

    • chuck says:

      07:37am | 29/10/12

      Seems to me that this is a prelude of things to come. On one side you have people (eg. mining) with little education earning 6 digit figures/pa and on the other side a swag of people (eg. cleaners) earning $16 /hr, and then you have the high flyers who earn 8 digits+ (eg banking/finance) + incentives whose great contribution to productivity is to reduce staffing levels and extract $‘s from customers then it is only a matter of time that we embrace the US model with bottom feeders at $5/hr + tips !
      There is no excuse for long term unemployed (unless handicapped). Bring back conscription or have them working on local project initiatives for their suso payouts.

    • bananabender56 says:

      08:19am | 29/10/12

      @chuck - there are a lot of people in the mining industry who don’t earn 6 digit figures/pa - the support staff in catering typically earn $50k plus. As for the US model and bottom feeders - workers who have a low basic wage but rely on tips earn depending upon the service they provide - bad service = low tip, good service = larger tip. It’s a pity we don’t have the same in Oz, maybe service in shops and restaurants would pick up.

    • acotrel says:

      08:46am | 29/10/12

      “Work for the dole’ people in our town actually lost on the deal.  The cost of getting to work was money down the drain.  To a man every single one of them that I supervised wanted permanent paid work. So when you say ‘some of them don’t want to work’, you might remember about Kharma - ‘what goes around comes around’ !
      It is a sad day when we start to behave like greedy uncaring Yanks ! If somebody really wanted to exploit and compete with Australian businesses with no holds barred, you lot would shit yourselves ! Bring back Al Capone !

    • acotrel says:

      08:52am | 29/10/12

      You obviously don’t live in a country town where union influence is minimal.  The service in our restaurants and bakeries is superb.  To get a job you have to part of a clique, and be prepared to accept crap wages. The feudal system still exists. It ain’t all pansies and daisies.

    • bananabender56 says:

      09:07am | 29/10/12

      @acotrel, you’re right I don’t live in a country town - although Perth is a long way from anywhere. I suspect i’m not alone in seeing people earning $20 per hour for chatting on their mobile phones while pretending to offer a service in a shop.

    • marley says:

      09:21am | 29/10/12

      @acotrel - well, I live in a small town, and the service here is pretty spotty, to put it kindly.  Some people care, a lot don’t;  more to the point, some people know what service is, and a lot don’t.  And the reasons the pay is lousy is because business is lousy.  You can’t pay people $30 an hour when your sales barely cover expenses.  That’s not feudal, that’s survival.

    • acotrel says:

      10:30am | 29/10/12

      Where did the $30 per hour come into this?  If you are paying wages, you get what you pay for - ‘quality doesn’t cost, it pays’.  When I work these days, it is usually ‘on contract’ - I run myself as a business with expenses.  You cannot run a business on $30 per hour gross income, and survive. The insurances are the biggest hit in what I do.
      What you are talking about is people standing behind a counter.  Your belief about what they get paid is unrealistic, and paying them more won’t improve their performance anyway.  That is achieved by training,  motivation and leadership.

    • marley says:

      12:16pm | 29/10/12

      @acotrel - I was assuming your reference to “crap wages” referred to the minimum wage levels or slightly above, which you are not prepared to accept.  If you want more than $15-20/hour, you have to be working for a business that’s generating a lot more profit than your average small town shop/bakery/restaurant.

    • Rose says:

      01:11pm | 29/10/12

      On the other hand Marley, a boss would be an idiot to only pay the minimum amount covered by the award if he has really good staff. a small increase in his weekly wage bill may keep his good staff in his employ, encourage them to maintain a high standard and increase the long term profitability of the business. 
      One of my former bosses was so reluctant to reward staff for their effort that long term staff, those that had been there long before they took over, left as they saw their benefits and bonuses stripped away, not because of a decrease in turnover, simply because the boss said they didn’t have to pay it.
      The business is now staffed by a high turnover of ‘newbies”, much of the expertise has gone and those old staff that are left only ever put in the bare minimum.
      Treat staff well and they will generally respond accordingly, treat them badly and you only have yourself to blame when things go to shit!!

    • marley says:

      02:08pm | 29/10/12

      @Rose - of course you pay your staff more than the minimum if they do more than the minimum.  If you’ve got good staff you want to keep them.  My point, though, was that you can’t expect the kinds of wages a big city employer will pay if you’re working in a small shop in small town Australia.  And if you’ve got no particular skills in whatever it is the small town business is engaged in, you shouldn’t expect mid-management level salaries, as Acotrel seems to. You have to be realistic about small businesses and their margins, and not blame it all on “feudalism.”

    • JAZ says:

      07:44am | 29/10/12

      Guys your missing the point. 
      The greater the percentage of “poor” the greater number of votes you can secure to keep the gravy train rolling.

      Maxine, Lindsy, Frank, Steve all can see the irony…

      The Labour Party objective used to be to raise people out of poverty…some where along the way a modicum of success was achieved and the poverty numbers started to drop…no problem ...change the definition…shore up the voter base.

      Labour is facing a delema, a crisis of conscience if you will…

      Tick the box marked objective achieved
      Tick the box marked stay in power

      140 billion buys you the right answer…

    • Eleventh Rose says:

      10:23am | 29/10/12


      Not on a 6 figure business salary I guess.

      There are around 300,000 long term unemployed people, with 25 per cent of these born in a country other than Australia. Don’t have an idea and let everyone say yes or no, have an idea on the statistics, the evaluations, the evidence base.

      The problem is that people are making decisions based on media articles or what they hear. Decision makers, and the voters (including me) need to see the real statistics, see the truth and make our opinions based on evidence.


      07:45am | 29/10/12

      Hi there,

      We all know that poverty doesn’t only mean hungry children, with torn up clothes who can’t afford to get a new pair of shoes and new school books.  That was the sort of old version of poverty a couple centuries ago a bit like the Victor Hugo novel called Les Miserables, set in France. Sadly that harsh reality may still apply to many poor nations around the world today. Poverty breeds more poverty in our world. Right now as a society we actually suffer from turning a blind eye to some facts a as well as saying that “well they do get welfare payments and so what”?

      So what does poverty stricken truly mean for the children of today’s society in Australia?  Poverty means just more than not being able to afford new clothes or toys. Poverty is vicious cycle for those children mission out on getting good education, reaching their full potential and becoming healthy productive members of Australian society. And sadly for those children they do end up making very bad life choices as well as somehow get lost in the system. Is that really what we want for future generations?

      Today’s children are tomorrow’s young adults and parents!  In conclusion what chance or hope do the children born to such families have actually to get out of the vicious cycle of not only being poor?  But also more suffering along the way due to lack of education and other basics.  Kind regards.

    • andrew says:

      09:41am | 29/10/12

      If we stop paying australians to breed ( stop baby bonus / maternity leave, family tax benefits and increased welfare payments to parents) i suspect that in about 18 years time we will see very few disadvantaged children in australia, as people won’t have kids unless they can afford to look after them.

    • GROBP says:

      08:11am | 29/10/12

      How can using “an income below 50 per cent of the median income ” possibly reflect whether someone lives in poverty or not?

      No one lives in poverty in Australia. Got food? Shelter? Medical? Yes, you’re rich.

    • Big Jay says:

      08:52am | 29/10/12

      @GROBP - Totally agree. I’m a left-leaner and even I have trouble with this definition!...If you have food, shelter, and healthcare, there are (at least) 100’s of millions of people that would kill to be in that position.

    • acotrel says:

      08:55am | 29/10/12

      Unless you are on the street, divorced or mentally ill.  Then you might have a problem ?

    • GROBP says:

      09:22am | 29/10/12

      I agree acotrel (never thought I’d say that), but that’s a different problem isn’t it. It’s not poverty due to lack of money.

      Then land of plenty is still there offering those people lots and lots and lots and lots.

    • Chris L says:

      10:02am | 29/10/12

      This is one of the things that frustrates me when folk here complain about not getting any handouts and wail about the government “punishing the hard worker”.

      We have it pretty good, even those of us below the average income receiving no government handouts.

    • Rose says:

      08:22am | 29/10/12

      Having read many of papers published by this duo, let me first say that they show a deliberate and complete ignorance to the wider issues associated with getting people off welfare. Where is the acknowledgement that the current system does everything possible to discourage people from actively looking for work. It’s not as simple as here is a fruit picking job so take it, it’s not as simple as increasing benefits increases recipients. Saunders and Baker routinely allow their ideology to skew their analysis.
      1) If some one who has been unemployed for any length of time takes a fruit picking, or any temporary job, at the end of that job they then need to go back on the waiting list before they receive benefits again should they no be able to find alternative employment straight afterwards. So, assuming that they secure 4 week long temporary job, that will be followed by 6 weeks of zero income until they can receive benefits again. Who, while already living on the bones of their arse, is going to take that big a risk unless they have another means of financial support to fall back on (parents etc)?
      2 )In order to do these fruit picking jobs etc, it means living away from home. These jobs are not well paid enough to pay for both their temporary accommodation as well paying to keep their normal residence for when their temporary stint finishes.Who is going to risk long term homelessness for a short term relatively low paid job.
      3) At $245 per week, there is simply not enough money for the unemployed to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table with enough left over to actively seek training and employment. Even if they are able to get some training provided the other costs, while seemingly minor to those already employed, are unaffordable to the unemployed. A $50 per week increase would still have them living at under half of the minimum wage and is therefore obviously not a disincentive to work, but it may provide a little room for recipients to fund training and job seeking efforts.
      3) The current JSA system is inefficient and geared towards profit making by operators and not outcomes for the unemployed. Provided JSA’s go through a process, they get paid, whether or not that process is successful or not. The unemployed are sent from course to course, activity to activity and are heavily penalised for non compliance, even though compliance gives little to no possibility of an employment outcome. So many courses are poorly designed and completely inappropriate for the unemployed and yet they are still required to participate. One simple tip, if a supposedly vocational course does not include a work placement, is not approved by the relevant industry, and is not delivered by people who know and have worked in that industry, it is USELESS!!!!
      4) Work for the Dole: research indicates that once people become involved in WFD programs their employability decreases. WFD specifically disallows any training in most instances and takes up a considerable block of time. Jobseekers find that they are better off not to put their WFD activity in their resume as there is a stigma involved and so they then have significant time gaps on the resume.

      If there is going to be any real possibility for the long term unemployed to get off the benefits roundabout we should start looking more at programs which look at a life first and not job first approach. These programs look at the individual’s own barriers to employment and work towards overcoming them. There is evidence that in many of these programs, some participants are able to secure long term sustainable employment before the program is actually completed, and with post-employment support most are able to stay in employment. We need to look at scrapping WFD and replacing it with proper training programs which are geared toward the employment needs of local industries. If employers work with the different agencies solutions can be found. We also need to get rid of the punitive language and policies surrounding long term unemployment, this is a failure of government, not a failure of the individual. We live in an era that has changed dramatically and no longer has the same low-skill jobs available, older workers are remaining in jobs traditionally picked up by school leavers as there is nowhere else for them to go, meaning kids are not getting opportunities to break into employment. We need to change our benefit system so that a parent who gains employment in December no longer has a Centrelink debt for the benefits that they received prior to getting work (why would you look for a job that is going to immediately ensure you have a debt?)
      It’s all very well and good to tell people to get off their butts and work but we have created an environment that does everything possible to discourage that while at the same time punishing people for the structural failures that keep them unemployed.

    • GROBP says:

      09:18am | 29/10/12

      ............“These programs look at the individual’s own barriers to employment and work towards overcoming them”..................

      So the problem’s not poverty.

      Yet you dismissed what I’ve said as simplistic and ignorant. Rose, come on. Who’s simplistic and ignorant then? Do you really think that workers want to hear that people that live quite well, off the tax payer are poor? Wouldn’t your cause be better served if you stopped the woh, poor is them attitude and stuck to the facts?

    • bananabender56 says:

      09:21am | 29/10/12

      @Rose, I wondered how long it would take before the ‘training program’ would appear. You may know (I don’t) that if you’re on a training scheme you may not be unemployed under the definition. Proper training programs are desperately needed, however, there seems to be little recognition by Government that some people are just dumb and placing them in a training program doesn’t make them any smarter or employable. They are just trained dumb people.
      How can Kiwi’s in their thousands, a great deal without tertiary education, manage to fly across and find jobs?

    • Rose says:

      09:34am | 29/10/12

      You have limited comprehension skills don’t you.  The problem is poverty and it’s structural causes.
      Barriers to employment are many and varied, including but not limited to;  lack of skills and training, poor literacy and numeracy, lack of assistance for those with mental health issues, physical incapacity, poor education and the impact of entrenched generational poverty.  The ‘system’ is not geared toward providing assistance for those who need it, it is geared toward making people ‘give back’ for their welfare payments, even though the act of giving back decreases employability.
      The only way to solve the problem is to address these issues in the context of providing proper training. Scrap programs that don’t actually work, make JSAs prove that they have assisted people to find sustainable employment before they get paid and stop this ridiculous notion that people need to ‘give back’.
      To find the solution all stakeholders need to come together, as happens in smaller life first programs, and there will be quantifiable results. There are programs that already do this and their success should be replicated where ever possible.

    • Economist says:

      09:39am | 29/10/12

      Sure these authors sit on the right, but you conveniently ignore a lot of other studies. It’s simply a difficult area because you can only help those that want to help themselves and each persons circumstances are unique.

      Firstly if we got rid of the minimum wage employment would increase in the short term, but return to a long term trend and as has been seen countries with lower or no minimum wages don’t necessarily have lower unemployment rates comparative to countries with higher rates. So the CIS I think would be barking up the wrong tree as minimum wages overall provide a standard of living above welfare recipients. hence I support them despite that fact that they inhibit the reduction in unemployment numbers in the short term.
      The problem is a lack of acknowledgement that there is a certain percentage of the population that are unemployable and would negatively impact on the productivity of others if employed. Targeting the education of their kids should hopefully improve intergenerational unemployment. So I’d agree with your focus on “life” training.

      I’m not convinced that work for the dole impacts negatively on employability (can you please link to these studies you talk of). It is only one type of participation requirement managed by employment agencies. Others do include training, part-time work and volunteer work.  The aim of these employment agencies is to provide a more tailored service and most are run by religious and non-profit based organisations.

    • AdamC says:

      10:34am | 29/10/12

      Rose, I actually agree with some of what you are saying. I also think the authors would as well.

      One of the problems in this country is that, in order to enable their fundrasiing and activism, anti-poverty NGOs and their hangers-on have defined the concept of poverty so broadly as to be meaningless. This is understanable from the perspective of the welfare sector - bigger numbers of those in poverty makes the work of agencies and charities seem more relevant and urgent - but it is a disaster in terms of public policy.

      There is no doubt that there is a core of people in genuine ‘poverty’ in Australia. The members of this core are characterised by two things. The first could be called disengagement. By this I mean that they are persistently excluded from regular society. This is because they are long-term unemployed; they have substance abuse problems; or they lack language skills. They may have all three of these problems, as each can lead to the other.

      The second aspect is hardship. By this, I mean the ‘core poverty’ set could be expected to have periods where they go without some of the basics of decent, modern life. This may include skipping meals or suffering housing insecurity or homelessness. Hardship is caused by a lack of sufficient income, poor money-handling skills and substance abuse or addiction.

      Raising Newstart will only address one of the causes of hardship and will do nothing to address disengagement. (It may even make it worse.) So I cannot support it as a serious anti-poverty measure. We need to improve case management resources to help people change their lives.

    • Rose says:

      01:26pm | 29/10/12

      Economist. I have a significant amount of research on this topic but I don’t really have enough time to go through it to provide specific links so I’m going to suggest you look up the work of Lorraine Kerr, Harry Savelsberg, Ed Carson, Lisa Fowkes, Colin Honey and many others

      “A preliminary evaluation of the effect of the Work for the Dole program on participants found that the program failed the most disadvantaged jobseekers because it did not respond adequately to the varying personal circumstances of participants. Although there were some positive aspects of participation, particularly for voluntary participants, the program did not build employment skills or increase employment commitment and self-esteem.”

      “THE Coalition will press ahead with plans to expand work for the dole schemes despite a finding in Britain that they are ineffective.
      A peer-reviewed investigation by the UK Department for Work and Pensions of its own mandatory work activity scheme has found it has done nothing for the employment chances of the unemployed Britons referred to it.
      The study found that while being forced to work 30 hours a week got people off the dole for a few months, over the longer term referrals to the scheme had “no impact on the likelihood of being employed compared to non-referrals”.
      Jonathan Portes, director of the British National Institute of Economic and Social Research retained to peer review the study said the scheme was “a complete policy disaster”.
      “It is very difficult not to conclude that, whatever your position on the morality of mandatory work programs like these, the costs of the programme, direct and indirect, are likely to far exceed the benefits,” he wrote on his blog.”

      I’m not against getting people engaged in activities that will increase their employability, I am against forcing people to do things which offer little to no benefit and, in a lot of cases make their situations worse.
      If I get time later I will have a look and give you more specific links.

    • Mark says:

      08:25am | 29/10/12

      Good to see we are still looking well and truly inside the square for a solution that has so far escaped human minds.
      So long as capitalism=freedom, we will always have poverty. The one rule that most seem to forget is scarcity. For one to have plenty, another must have none. Until we right this wrong worldwide there will be no real change, only statistical posturing.

    • GROBP says:

      08:37am | 29/10/12

      The dole is equivalent to 250kg of top quality jasmine rice per fortnight. That’s over six ton a year.

      The dole pays more than a Mongolian mining truck driver, one of Mongolia’s highest paid.

      Poor? Laughable. So laughable it’s ridiculous. When will we stop?

    • Rose says:

      08:50am | 29/10/12

      What is laughable is your simplistic, ignorant rantings. You really should do some reading and work out exactly what the hell it is that you’re talking about!!!

    • GROBP says:

      09:05am | 29/10/12

      What are you saying Rose? The dole isn’t the equivalent to 250kg of top quality jasmine rice per fortnight.

      What are you saying? Just that I’m wrong? That I’m simplistic, ignorant?

      You didn’t say anything that would change my mind. At least I gave you some numbers and stats.

      I’m right aren’t I Rose and that’s fired up your socialist twisted logic way of thinking.

    • Rose says:

      09:51am | 29/10/12

      You are wrong about pretty much everything. Whether or not the dole can pay for rice is irrelevant, it needs to pay for rent, utilities, food and job search activities.
      Your way of thinking is what got us into this mess, the pulling apart of the training components included in Working Nation has meant that we have reduced the ability of many to access training in areas that will lead to employment outcomes. To our shame we haven’t yet improved the availability of training.
      You accuse me of socialism but you fail to even consider what I’m saying properly. I’m saying that it is absolutely necessary to get the unemployed back to work, BUT the current structure discourages it, there is not the training available even though over 80% of sustainable long term jobs require some form of formalized training (anything from a forklift licence to a Cert 3 in a particular vocation). This training is not accessible to many, JSAs don’t get paid for placing people in Cert 3 courses ans so they don’t do it.  Instead they often place them in courses which offer no possible employment outcome. i heard of one 10 week course in heavy transport during which there was NO point at which they even got close to a bloody truck, let alone get shown how to load one or tie a load down. How the hell is that going to help them get a job, remembering of course that non-attendance means they lose benefits.
      They system is broke, it doesn’t offer value to those it is supposed to help. It just keeps them trapped in an unemployment cycle which sees them working solely to remain compliant with little room for them to break out of the cycle.
      So yes I’m saying you’re ignorant and yes I’m saying that you’re simplistic. Read wider and you will find that what I’m suggesting is not so much socialism as offering criticism of the current failed structure and the adoption of a new structure that has significantly higher potential to get people off welfare.

    • GROBP says:

      10:26am | 29/10/12


      I actually think Rose I agree with what you’re saying. I however think you completely miss where I’m coming from. Australia is broke because we all thought Asia was going to make our stuff while we sat on our arses and consumed. All the jobs are gone, all the industry dismantled, all the assets sold. That’s why the problem you’re talking about is getting bigger and bigger. It’s not going to get better. We’ve sold way too much, we’ve borrowed way too much, we do way too little, we are way too populated. Australia’s wealth has been exported, yet there is still no plan. We’re tinkering around the edges of a bigger problem. It’s very sad we weren’t proactive in making government do what they’re elected to do; look after the welfare of the country.

      I’m not wrong Rose, I’m just looking from a different angle to what you are and I guarantee the problems we see today you’re highlighting are the way MOST of us will be living very soon.

    • Rose says:

      11:11am | 29/10/12

      I would suggest that we stop trying to cut back on money paid to improve employment outcomes for the long term unemployed and cut back instead on middle class welfare. Where currently figures show that in only 42% of cases JSAs were able to provide evidence that their service helped some one into employment, instead they should only receive payments when they can provide that evidence. They should no longer receive payments when some one finds their own job or when someone gives up and stops looking for work (or receiving payments). I think that any course that is delivered to the unemployed and receives government funding should also be accredited, it should provide genuine employment outcomes and only those suited to that type of employment should be obliged to do the course. There should be a broad range of courses available to allow the unemployed access to courses which meet their abilities and capacities. All courses should have input by the relevant industry body so that participants can be sure that in completing the course that they have a qualification that employers recognize as worthwhile. More emphasis should be placed on courses having a work placement component, allowing prospective employers to provide training and participants the ability to get hands on experience, and contacts and references that are useful to them.
      The only reason I would like to see the dole increased is that evidence shows that the amount paid and the system that pays it deters people from attempting to get off the welfare roundabout.
      Since John Howard I think we have become very quick to demonize the unemployed while at the same time removing the structures that provided real assistance, instead we now just punish them.

    • Fiddler says:

      11:48am | 29/10/12

      better off eating basmati rice, lower GI

    • GROBP says:

      10:17am | 29/10/12


      I actually think Rose I agree with what you’re saying. I however think you completely miss where I’m coming from. Australia is broke because we all thought Asia was going to make our stuff while we sat on our arses and consumed. All the jobs are gone, all the industry dismantled, all the assets sold. That’s why the problem you’re talking about is getting bigger and bigger. It’s not going to get better. We’ve sold way too much, we’ve borrowed way too much, we do way too little, we are way too populated. Australia’s wealth has been exported, yet there is still no plan. We’re tinkering around the edges of a bigger problem. It’s very sad we weren’t proactive in making government do what they’re elected to do; look after the welfare of the country.

      I’m not wrong Rose, I’m just looking from a different angle to what you are and I guarantee the problems we see today you’re highlighting are the way MOST of us will be living very soon.

    • Stormy Weather says:

      10:38am | 29/10/12

      Is this more “dole bludger” bashing?

      I’ll say it again, “Australia is not Britain”

      Let’s just totally undermine ALL “poverty researchers” and believe instead the words of these two blokes who I’ve never heard of.

      “causes of poverty - things like truancy rates, drug and alcohol dependency, and chronic intergenerational unemployment.”

      Sorry, those things don’t apply to me, nor many unemployed people I know.
      It especially does not apply to any single mother I know.

      There’s a petition challenging the inadequacy of Newstart Allowance and those single mothers affected by poverty Saunders and Baker say doesn’t exist.
      Maybe people should know the truth about how Austerity affects people. The true “cause” of poverty.

    • Rose says:

      11:17am | 29/10/12

      “causes of poverty - things like truancy rates, drug and alcohol dependency, and chronic intergenerational unemployment.”  This is wrong, these things are generally the result of poverty and symptoms of poverty, not causes.
      They do however end up being a significant barrier to stopping people getting off the welfare roundabout, once trapped in a cycle it’s damn near impossible to get off, particularly when the system is geared to punishing people and not helping them.

    • Fiddler says:

      11:53am | 29/10/12

      a lie, there are well paying manual labour jobs, often that aren’t very physical and employment agencies will pay you to do the trainng, such as traffic controllers. The problem is a lot of people don’t want to do it and will choose to stay on welfare, feigning unprovable illnesses such as back pain or depression and doctors are too willing to sign off saying they are unable to work, rather than they can work, just in different fields.

      Most people realise that you need to start at the bottom and work your way up, but for some the bottom is too unappealing and they would rather suckle from the public teat.

    • PsychoHyena says:

      03:28pm | 29/10/12

      @Fiddler, unfortunately I think it depends on the JSA as to whether they will willingly cover training costs. I had to back one into a corner to get them to cover training that got me employment within 2 months of completion.


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