Our research looks at the interaction between employment, social security, and taxes and transfers.

We’re working to learn how policies help or hinder people’s economic security. This research is used to inform our advocacy and program development and delivery.

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For most Australians of working age, the main source of income is wages. However, low wage growth and increasingly insecure work means that people living on low or fluctuating incomes face extra risks and tough choices.

Low incomes over a working life can put people, especially women, at great risk of poverty later in life. They may be unable to afford decent housing, transport or health services.

Our income research is interested in how households make ends meet and what policies and programs are needed to help them build economic security.

Despite sustained economic growth in Australia, inequality persists and the gap between the rich and the poor is widening.

The decline in entry-level and semi-skilled jobs, coupled with increased restrictions on government income support, has compromised some people's ability to earn a stable income. It can also limit their access to necessities such as housing, transport, care services, health services and education.

Services such as disability or aged care are increasingly complex and require specific knowledge and skills to navigate.

Our financial capabilities research examines what is needed to help people to understand their entitlements and get what they need. We work with others to develop products and programs, while advocating for change.

Find all recent publications on Income (2000–present)

Visit the BSL library for our earlier research on Income (pre 2000)

Social security

Social security enhances wellbeing, reduces vulnerability to 'shocks' and enables people to participate fully in social, economic, political and cultural life.

Our research looks at the interaction between employment, income support, and taxes and transfers.

We examine the impacts of current policies and consider alternatives such as Universal Basic Income to inform advocacy for an equitable social security system. This work is central to achieving economic security for all.

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Find all recent publications on Social security (2000–present)

Visit the BSL library for our earlier research on Social security (pre 2000)

Our policy positions for income and social security

• Ensure social security payment rates are sufficient to enable people to live with dignity and participate in community and economic life.

• Establish an independent Social Security Commission to set, monitor and review social security payment rates.

• Legislate principles to reframe Australia’s social security system as an investment in our nation that is enabling, capability building, respectful and fair.

Selected publications

By Danielle Thornton, Dina Bowman and Shelley Mallett 2020

Tracing the history of Australia’s social security system helps us to consider what reforms are needed for the present day.

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By Dina Bowman and Seuwandi Wickramasinghe 2020

What needs to change, for single mothers to be able to build a secure future for their families?

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By Jeremiah Thomas Brown & Dina Bowman 2020

Our new framework explores what is needed for all Australians to enjoy financial wellbeing.

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By Jeremiah Thomas Brown 2020

The concept of economic dignity extends how we understand financial capability. It is not just about people having knowledge and skills, but also about how social and economic structures and systems shape their choices.

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By Dina Bowman. Danielle Thornton and Shelley Mallett 2019

The authors propose five principles to guide and underpin our social security system so that it contributes to a just, fair and compassionate society.

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By Dina Bowman and Marcus Banks 2018

How do households with low and uncertain incomes strive to make ends meet?

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By Marcus Banks and Dina Bowman 2017

To understand why people on low incomes do or do not take out insurance we need to understand their overall financial circumstances and the multiple risks they face.

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By Dina Bowman, Shelley Mallett and Diarmuid Cooney-O’Donoghue, June 2017

In a changing employment and budgetary context, there is renewed interest in the concept of a basic income – a form of social security in which individuals receive a regular, often unconditional payment from either government or a public institution.

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By Seuwandi Wickramasinghe and Dina Bowman 2019

Insights from Money for Jam, a micro-enterprise initiative for older women doing it tough.

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Selected projects

To tackle inequality we need to understand how issues like payment conditions and tax policies are connected and can trap single mothers in poverty.

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An ongoing project exploring how income support could be made adequate and fair the adequacy and targeting of income support

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How common are late receipt of Newstart Allowance and volatile payment amounts?

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How can ‘real-time’ data help us to understand the financial dimension of housing insecurity

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Looking for services related to income and social security?

Given the Chance is one of our longest running and most effective employment support programs.

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Transition to Work is a training and employment program for young people living in Melbourne’s north-western and south-eastern outer suburbs.

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Our CSIS trains public housing tenants to provide a concierge service at the Collingwood, Fitzroy and Richmond public housing estates.

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The ReSource Youth program empowers young people from refugee and migrant backgrounds to make informed decisions about education, employment and volunteer pathways.

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Our Youth Transitions Support Pilot Program helps young refugees participate in the community through work, education and sport.

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Creating Futures for Youth empowers young people to pursue their career goals and build their capacity to work or undertake further learning.

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Are you looking for work or wanting to broaden your work experience? BSL can help place you in a traineeship.

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Join Australia’s award winning free financial education and matched savings program and receive up to $500 for you or your children’s education.

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Go to the Money Smart website to find services that can help you.

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We offer community workers training in MoneyMinded, Australia’s largest adult financial education program.

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Our approach to working with people with disability focuses on building a sense of wellbeing and autonomy. We recognise the importance of family, friends, carers and community.

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