The Henderson Question? The Melbourne Institute and 50 Years of Welfare Policy

Robert G. Gregory*

*Corresponding author for this work

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    2 Citations (Scopus)


    I discuss selected research contributions of the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research to 50 years of welfare policy for those of workforce age and focus particularly on the policy focus of R. F. Henderson, the inaugural director. Following the spirit of his 1960s poverty research, in the mid-1970s, government doubled unemployment allowances in real terms and increased pensions by approximately 40 per cent. Both income support payments were to be indexed by average wage increases. At the time, unemployment was typically around 1 per cent and the pension take-up for those of workforce age was also limited. Today, income support take-up rates have probably increased fivefold. In response, government has adopted a 'make work pay' policy over the last two decades and indexed allowances for Consumer Price Index increases and allowances have fallen by 25-35 per cent, relative to community living standards. Pensions continue to be indexed by average wage changes. I address a range of questions arising from this experience, including: Why has government abandoned the Henderson recommendations?; Is there any evidence that a 'make work pay' policy is working?

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)202-215
    Number of pages14
    JournalAustralian Economic Review
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2013


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