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 Research critical of mutual obligation ‘franchise’


Date: 14 March 2006
Contact: VIC – Tim Martyn (03) 9427 7388
NSW – Minh Nguyen (02) 9356 3888

The Ignatius Centre for Social Policy and Research at Jesuit Social Services and Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre, have released today two papers investigating the widening application of mutual obligation within Australian public policy.

The papers examine the application of the ‘mutual obligation’ concept of individual responsibility to Australia’s long-term unemployed, as well as Australia’s overseas development assistance program.

In both cases, the research found that shifting blame to the individual or individual nation ignores the structural barriers that cause poverty.

“Policies that increase individual responsibility without simultaneously improving individual capacity, fail to redress the real labour market barriers faced by disadvantaged jobseekers,” Tim Martyn, author of Jesuit Social Service’s paper explains.

“The level of public investment in labour market training in Australia is pitiful; of the 30 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development members, only Poland and the Czech Republic spent less, as proportion of GDP, than Australia.”

“By insisting that the unemployed are to blame for their own predicament and that the financial obligation for ‘up-skilling’ is their alone, Australia’s ‘mutual obligation’ policies continue to fail this nation’s disadvantaged jobseekers.”

Uniya’s paper argues that applying the ‘mutual obligation’ philosophy to recipients of Australian aid by demanding recipient behavioural change is also no answer to the complex development problems faced by many nations in our region.

“Practices that are intended to accelerate or leverage externally designed policy reforms as opposed to local solutions to local problems will be little different from the discredited practices of conditionality (applied by the IMF) during the 1980-90s”, Minh Nguyen, author of the Uniya paper, argued.

The papers titled Mutual trust: an alternative to mutual obligation in overseas aid and Training for work is more effective than Working for the Dole can be downloaded for free from both the Uniya and JSS websites: www.uniya.org or www.jss.org.au.


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