Trajectories of the welfare state in Australia and New Zealand since 1980

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Australasian capitalism, and with it the New Zealand and Australian welfare states, has undergone fundamental restructuring since the early 1980s. Importantly, the impetus for restructuring was, in both cases, driven by Labour governments. Neo-liberal programmes of economic deregulation, corporatization and privatization, combined with transformations in labour relations and cuts to social welfare entitlement, characterized developments in both countries from the early 1980s into the 1990s. Viewed from afar, these changes are often presented as sharing an essential unity – being driven by the same imperatives, taking similar institutional forms, and having converging consequences. This is partially true, but it conceals important differences in restructuring between the two countries. Deploying a comparative method, this paper analyses the similarities and disjunctures in New Zealand’s and Australia’s experiences of transforming the welfare state. It suggests that the main differences in restructuring – a more gradualist, corporatist-inspired model in the case of Australia, and a more rapid shock-therapy, top-down model in the case of New Zealand – can be accounted for by differences in the starting point, differences in the institutional context of political decision-making, and differences in the balance of social, especially class, forces.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 2003 Sociological Association of Aotearoa Conference
Subtitle of host publication“Knowledge, Capitalism, Critique”
Place of PublicationAuckland
Number of pages13
Publication statusPublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes
EventSociological Association of Aotearoa New Zealand Conference - Auckland
Duration: 9 Dec 200311 Dec 2003


ConferenceSociological Association of Aotearoa New Zealand Conference


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