Economic security

Changing economic and working conditions disproportionately affect the economic security of disadvantaged young people and adults. Rising costs of living combined with stagnant or declining retirement income also present serious challenges for some older Australians.

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

However, 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.

Our research looks at the interaction between employment, income support, and taxes and transfers. Currently, we are examining on how people manage financial risks across the life course in order to better understand what effective and necessary interventions. 


Research papers

The ANZ Tony Nicholson Research Fellowship is a one-year position funded by ANZ in honour of former BSL Executive Director, Tony Nicholson.

The work of the inaugural fellow, Dr Jeremiah Brown, has concentrated on how financial capabilities can be conceptualised in a way that embraces the needs of disadvantaged and vulnerable households. This work has contributed to the development of a financial wellbeing framework, which will help guide practice and strategic thinking across the sector.

Jeremiah Thomas Brown 2020, Economic dignity and financial capabilities: connecting principles and concepts (PDF, 468 KB)

Jeremiah Thomas Brown and Dina Bowman 2020, Economic security and dignity: a financial wellbeing framework (PDF, 292 KB)


Research project

Reclaiming social security

This research effort will include seminars led by academics and other experts, as well as publications on topics such as the adequacy and targeting of Australia's income support and the impact of conditions imposed on people who receive it.

Read more »

Research project

Trampolines not traps

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

Read more »


Book chapter

Bowman, D, Mallett, S and Cooney-O'Donoghue, D 2019, 'Diversion ahead? Change is needed but that doesn’t mean that basic income is the answer', in E Klein, J Mays & T Dunlop (eds) 2019, Implementing a basic income in Australia: pathways forward, Palgrave Macmillan.

Seminar presentation

Basic income: a solution to what?

Could a basic income paid by government be part of the solution for increasingly precarious employment and growing inequality? This question was explored by Shelley Mallett and Diarmuid Cooney-O'Donoghue in a seminar presentation at the John Cain Foundation.

Shelley Mallett and Diarmuid Cooney-O’Donoghue 2018, Basic income: a solution to what? (PDF, 2.3 MB)

Working paper

Basic income: trade-offs and bottom lines

With the uncertain future of employment and with political pressure on social welfare spending, there is renewed interest in the concept of a basic (or guaranteed) income. This is a form of social security in which individuals receive a regular, often unconditional payment from either government or a public institution. 

This working paper examines the purpose and intent of key basic income proposals and trials in Australia and overseas. It then proposes a nine-dimension framework, expanded from the framework of De Wispelaere and Stirton (2004), for assessing basic income policies, especially their capacity to underpin economic security.

Dina Bowman, Shelley Mallett and Diarmuid Cooney-O’Donoghue 2017, Basic income: trade-offs and bottom lines (PDF, 471 KB)



Spinning the plates

International research shows that people with volatile incomes face increased financial uncertainty making ends meet. Yet little is known in Australia about how much household incomes vary from payday to payday, how many households are affected, what types of financial 'juggling' households do, or how they find coping with this problem. 

This project explored these important questions.

Dina Bowman and Marcus Banks 2018, Hard times: Australian households and financial insecurity (PDF, 471 KB)

Marcus Banks and Dina Bowman 2017, Juggling risks: insurance in households struggling with financial insecurity (PDF, 1.1 MB)

Read more »

Working paper

Understanding financial wellbeing

Financial wellbeing has become a popular concept in the fields of social policy, service delivery and personal financial products. This new working paper traces its development. The authors argue that financial wellbeing should take account not only of a person’s money management skills and access to products but also the external factors such as labour market trends, job security and income levels that constrain real choices and opportunities.

Dina Bowman, Marcus Banks, Geraldine Fela, Roslyn Russell and Ashton de Silva 2017, Understanding financial wellbeing in times of insecurity (PDF, 340 KB)


All being well? Financial wellbeing, inclusion and risk

RMIT University, Melbourne, 5 December 2016

This lively panel discussion on financial wellbeing featured Professor Elaine Kempson (UK), Professor Jerry Buckland (Canada) and Dr Jack Noone (Australia).

Read more, including a summary report »



Not simply business as usual: insights from Money For Jam, a micro-enterprise initiative for older women

This study commissioned by Per Capita  examined the Money For Jam pilot and its impacts, and produced  suggestions for program development and policy advocacy.


No! Not equal

Dina Bowman and Yvette Maker present the urgent need to address the gender inequality that prevents many Australian women from achieving economic security, in a publication by Future Leaders. Download the No! Not equal text by chapter

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