What the Social Inclusion Agenda Means for the Integration of Labour Market Regulation and Social Policy

Centre Member: John Howe
Research Staff: Emily Long

The election of the Rudd Labor Government in November 2007 heralded a new era in labour market and social policy. The Labor Party promised to employ the concept of 'social inclusion' as an approach for addressing social disadvantage and alleviating poverty in Australia and has outlined an 'Australian Social Inclusion Agenda'. This project is undertaking a critical examination of the Rudd Government's 'Social Inclusion Agenda', investigating the interaction between labour market regulation and social policy regimes under the Agenda from a social justice perspective. The focus is principally on the interaction between labour law, employment assistance and welfare policy, but the project will also consider the operation and impact of other areas of legal and social policy, including taxation. The research will lay the groundwork for a larger project to undertake empirical research to assess whether these fields of legal and social policy interact effectively to ensure secure incomes and employment for families experiencing disadvantage. The project will make a major contribution to policy debates about welfare to work, about the ethical issues involved, and about alternative policy frameworks.

This research project was carried out in the Centre and funded by the University of Melbourne's Social Justice Initiative (SJI). The SJI is a cross-faculty, interdisciplinary research institution at the University of Melbourne which was formed with the support of the Centre, and in particular Centre members Associate Professor John Howe and Dr Joo-Cheong Tham. The project was jointly carried out by John Howe and Ms Emily Long along with Professor Miranda Stewart from the Tax Group in the Melbourne Law School and researchers from the Faculty of Economics and the Centre for Public Policy at the University of Melbourne, and from the Brotherhood of St Laurence.

In June 2009 the Social Inclusion Research Forum was held at the University of Melbourne. Fifty government policy-makers, community representatives and academic researchers attended the event. The forum was supported by The Social Justice Initiative, the Law School's Centre for Employment and Labour Relations Law and Tax Group and sponsors Slater and Gordon and Brotherhood of St Laurence. The aim of the Forum was to enable invited policy-makers and experts to engage with the government's Social Inclusion Agenda and to participate in discussions that critically examined concepts of social inclusion and exclusion and new modes of governance to achieve social inclusion. Two world leaders on social inclusion research and policy presented keynote addresses - Mr Eric Marlier from the CEPS/Instead Research Institute, Luxembourg, who spoke on social inclusion governance and indicators in the European Union; and Professor Hilary Silver from Brown University, USA. Other speakers from around Australia also contributed papers. For further information about this event please click here.