Welfare dependency has increased dramatically since the mid 1960's, with a growing trend of more claimants and fewer payers. Saunders believes the welfare system is revealing serious flaws which are encouraging welfare dependency mainly due to a system which does not encourage self-reliance and work ethic for the majority of recipients. Saunders addresses the issue of poverty amongst welfare dependent households, arguing that current benefits sit above the poverty line and that increased benefits will not necessarily solve poverty, alternatively increasing dependency beyond current levels. He recognises the efficiency and equity implications of the current system, calling for significant and simultaneous reforms to the tax system, labour market regulations and eligibility rules for accessing welfare in order for the current trend to reverse itself.
Saunders believes that welfare should be a conditional right (contrary to the Welfare lobby) and that instead of Government acting as a money dispenser it should be focussing more heavily on getting people into work sooner. The aim of his suggestive welfare reforms being one based around increasing work incentives, though this would require stronger constraints on eligibility and entitlements than is presently enforced. Unlike OECD and other Western countries countries which have a time limit on unemployment benefits and insurance based social security, Australia has no time limit on unemployment assistance and too flexible time constraints on other benefits and still bases it's welfare system off tax supplied support.
Australian welfare dependency is concentrated in Disability Support Pensions, Single Parent Payments and Unemployment benefits. The welfare lobby claims that almost all people who are on welfare want to work and do not intend to live off welfare, though these claims have rarely been tested empirically (Saunders, 2004: 86). Research suggests otherwise, revealing that many 'job seekers' are unwilling to undergo what it takes to find a job, ie. 'Job Search Training', compromising over income or job location with at least half of all seekers not legitimately looking for a work (Saunders, 2004: 86, 87). Reforms that would encourage people to be self reliant would not mean undermining genuine people who cannot look after themselves. An alternative system would redirect quality welfare support to those who really need it and help those overcoming their problems (Saunders, 2004: 79).
(CUT DOWN HERE?) Many welfare benefits are counter productive, decreasing work ethic while enhancing a trend towards poverty. The current system allows a parent on Single Parenting Payment to remain on welfare for up to 15 years after the youngest child starts school with statistics revealing many claimants receiving barely any earned income. Current regulations further encourage welfare dependency to transmit throughout generations, with statistics revealing older teenageers being five time more likely to...