Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

Understanding the Intergenerational Welfare Cycle

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, today announced funding of over $1.3 million for a study which will shed new light on the causes underlying the transmission of welfare dependency from one generation to the next.

Senator Patterson said the Australian Research Council (ARC) Linkage Project is a joint research initiative bringing together key academics from Australia and the United States.

“The Social Policy, Evaluation, Analysis and Research Centre of the Australian National University will carry out the project with contributions from the University of Melbourne and the University of Wisconsin,” Senator Patterson said.

“From 1986 to 2003 the number of Australian families with no parent in work increased from about 280,000 to 368,400 (or from 14.5 per cent to 16.7 per cent of all families). Around 80 per cent of parents in these families were not looking for work.

“There is a body of international evidence which indicates that for children who grow up in families with both parents dependent on income support there is an increased likelihood of them being dependent on welfare in adulthood.

“However, we do not have adequate longitudinal data in the Australian context from which to draw a reliable picture of the extent and circumstances surrounding the cycle of intergenerational welfare dependence.

“This project will investigate the patterns of intergenerational welfare dependence in our community.

“Running for five years, from 2004 to 2008, the project relates to a number of Australian Government strategic priorities, including encouraging participation, welfare reform, and children and families,” Senator Patterson said.

“The Australian Government is determined to improve Australia’s social support system for working age people by moving to an active welfare system that brings out the best in people.

“The Australians Working Together Package has already made a difference by providing Australians with improved personalised assessment and services, and reasonable requirements for people to find work, increase their earnings or contribute to the community.

“We want a system that provides the right level of income support, but also provides the incentives and opportunities for those who have the capacity to participate more in our society,” Senator Patterson said.