Research criticises mutual obligation 'franchise'

The Jesuit Social Services and Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre yesterday released two papers investigating the widening application of mutual obligation within Australian public policy.

The papers examine the application of the "mutual obligation" concept of self-help to Australia's long-term unemployed and Australia's overseas development assistance program. It 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," he said.

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

Research critical of mutual obligation 'franchise' (Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre 14/3/06)

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Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre
Jesuit Social Services

The mutual obligation franchise (Uniya Jesuit Social Justice Centre 14/3/06)

15 Mar 2006