Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

The Demographic Implications of Escalating Welfare Payments in Australia

Academic journal article Mankind Quarterly

The Demographic Implications of Escalating Welfare Payments in Australia

Article excerpt

This paper addresses the steady increase in Australian welfare beneficiaries. From 1979 to 2006, working-age welfare recipients on full income support increased from 5.6 to 10 per cent of the population. From 1996 to 1999, children of welfare recipients were found to be five times more likely to be receiving welfare benefits and were producing four and a half times more children than independent families.

Key Words: Social welfare; Welfare Dependence; Dysgenics.

In Australia there is a continuing increase in the prevalence of welfare dependence. The fiscal pressure from the increase in the welfare state has generally been greater than the increases in revenue through taxes, economic reform and growth.2 The Business Council of Australia (2004) predicted that relatively fewer funds will be available for future welfare.3 In 1999, visiting English economist Deepak Lal stated: "nationalization of welfare accelerated in the twentieth century and led to vast transfer states (pensions). The accompanying erosion of traditional morality in the West is manifest in various social pathologies, such as widespread marriage breakdown, high levels of illegitimacy and divorce, proliferation of single-parent families, soaring crime rates, and the perpetuation of an urban underclass."4

Editions of the ABS publication Year Book Australia show that working-age welfare beneficiaries on full income support increased from 5.6% of the population in 1979 to 10% in 2006, while age pensioners remained at 10%. The increase in welfare prevalence was thus due to working age beneficiaries. After 1999, the figures are not strictly comparable, as there was increasing underemployment and more unemployed were transferred to the Disability Support Pension. The 2006 Year Book Australia shows continuing escalation of Disability Support from 3.05% of the population in 1999 to 3.47% in 2005. In September 2004, unemployment was 5.5%, underemployment 5.6% (4.5% in 1980), and underutilization of the Extended Labour Force (unemployment, underemployment and a subset of persons marginally attached to the work force) 12.2%.5

The above graph (previous page) shows that all beneficiaries, except age pensioners, increased linearly in a population that increased from 14.6 million in 1979 to 19 million in 1999. It is noted that the recessions of 1982/83 and 1990/91 did not affect the trend-lines.

Review of a random selection of 53,000 Australian families from 1996 to 1999 by the Department of Family and Community Services, Canberra, showed that in January 1996, income support recipients (22% of families) had an average of 3.1 children, working poor (18%) 3.3, and those with medium to high income (60%) 2.7. The average for all families was 2.9 children. The total population fertility rate (TFR) fell from 3.6 in 1961 to 1.9 in 1978 and 1.75 in 2000. A graph of the apparent fertility of young women by family origin over the years 1996 to 1999 showed that 2% from non-welfare families had given birth by January of each year, 9% from disadvantaged families. Twice as many children from welfare families were recipients of unemployment, parenting and disability payments. 15.3% of poorer families had more than four children against the population average of 9.5%. Overall, children of welfare recipients were found five times more likely also to be receiving welfare benefits, and during the three year period produced four and a half times more children (9%) than the independent families (2%).6 Escalation of the need for welfare services is therefore in part due to the greater apparent fertility rate of welfare families (3.1) compared with the total population TFR (2.9).

Families are unable to cope independently for many different reasons - lack of innate ability, poverty, mental and physical illness, antisocial and criminal behavior. It can be shown that children are like their biological parents in all aspects of life. The most important example is intellect, where the correlation between IQ scores of parent (as child) and child is 0. …

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