• Offered by Crawford School of Public Policy
  • ANU College ANU College of Asia and the Pacific
  • Classification Specialist
  • Course subject Policy and Governance
  • Areas of interest Policy Studies
  • Academic career PGRD
  • Course convener
    • Peter Whiteford
  • Mode of delivery In Person
  • Offered in Second Semester 2020
    See Future Offerings

All activities that form part of this course will be delivered remotely in Sem 2 2020.

This course aims to provide both a macro view of welfare state debates in Australia and internationally – including Asia and the Pacific, as well as Europe and North America – and also develop skills in undertaking quantitative analysis of selected major policy issues such as the causes of the growth of public spending, measures to control expenditure growth, and how to analyse the effectiveness of welfare state spending, particularly in relation to impacts on income distribution (inequality and income poverty), as well as unintended consequences. Emphasis is on a comparative approach.

Questions to be addressed include:

  • How expensive is the Welfare State?
    • Issues to be dealt with include the growth in welfare spending in Australia and internationally and the causal factors associated with these trends; issues of definition of the welfare state, including the relationship between public and private welfare, and occupational welfare, and the role of the tax system and its interactions with public spending.
  • How effective is the Welfare State?
    • What are the impacts of social spending and taxation on income inequality and poverty, moving from cash benefits and personal taxes to government provided services and indirect taxes; does the welfare state have unintended consequences that undermine redistribution through impacts on incentives to work and save and form families; does the welfare state have indirect positive effects on social performance, boosting social solidarity and other wellbeing outcomes.
    • What are the social policy challenges facing developing Asian and Pacific countries in coming decades, including trends in inequality and the consequences of population ageing and demographic change? Is there an Asian social policy model or models that can deal effectively with these challenges?  Are the policy approaches developed and used in OECD countries relevant to Asia and the Pacific. What are appropriate the analytical frameworks and tools to assess these questions?
  • Is the Welfare State sustainable?

The financial crisis in North Atlantic economies has resulted in significant growth in public spending in many countries and falling tax revenues, leading to higher public debt.  Some countries have embarked on austerity packages.  These trends coincide with the first cohort of the baby boom population reaching age 65, and projected further substantial increases in welfare state spending on pensions, health care and services for the frail aged. What does this combination of trends mean for the sustainability of the welfare state in Australia and internationally?

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion, students will have the knowledge and skills to:

On successful completion of this course students will be able to:

a)      Find and use key sources of data on social security and welfare spending in Australia and internationally, including Asia and the Pacific as well as OECD countries

b)      Understand key conceptual frameworks regarding social spending, as well as frameworks for the analysis of distributional effects of public spending

c)      Demonstrate a knowledge of methodological issues in the analysis of the effects of government welfare state spending on key social outcomes including inequality and poverty

d)     Analyse and assess alternative approaches to social policy interventions

e)      Compare the social protection systems of their own or other countries with those of other rich or developing nations

Indicative Assessment

Assessment is through two individual essays. The Initial Essay should not exceed 2,000 words and will comprise 40% of the assessment. The Final Essay should not exceed 4,000 words and will comprise 60% of the assessment. Initial readings for both Essays will be as for the Class Reading list, with self-directed follow-up for further reading.

In response to COVID-19: Please note that Semester 2 Class Summary information (available under the classes tab) is as up to date as possible. Changes to Class Summaries not captured by this publication will be available to enrolled students via Wattle. 

The ANU uses Turnitin to enhance student citation and referencing techniques, and to assess assignment submissions as a component of the University's approach to managing Academic Integrity. While the use of Turnitin is not mandatory, the ANU highly recommends Turnitin is used by both teaching staff and students. For additional information regarding Turnitin please visit the ANU Online website.


30 hours of lectures and seminars

Prescribed Texts

Adema, W., P. Fron and M. Ladaique (2011), “Is the European Welfare State Really More Expensive?: Indicators on Social Spending, 1980-2012; and a Manual to the OECD Social Expenditure Database (SOCX)”, OECD Social, Employment and Migration Working Papers, No. 124, OECD Publishing. http://dx.doi.org/10.1787/5kg2d2d4pbf0-en

Barr , N. (1992), 'Economic Theory and the Welfare State: A Survey and Interpretation', Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 30, No. 2, June 1992, pp. 741-803.

Barr , N. (2001), The Welfare State as Piggy Bank, Information, Risk, Uncertainty, and the Role of the State, Oxford University Press, http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199246595.do

Michael Förster & Peter Whiteford, 2009. "How much Redistribution do Welfare States Achieve? The Role of Cash Transfers and Household Taxes," CESifo DICE Report, Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 7(3), pages 34-41, October.

Kenworthy, L. (2011), Progress for the Poor, Oxford University Press, 2011.

Whiteford, P. ( 2010), "The Australian Tax-Transfer System: Architecture and Outcomes," The Economic Record, The Economic Society of Australia, vol. 86(275), pages 528-544, December.

Preliminary Reading

Useful references that cover some of the course are:

 Barr , N. (1992), 'Economic Theory and the Welfare State: A Survey and Interpretation', Journal of Economic Literature, Vol. 30, No. 2, June 1992, pp. 741-803.

Barr , N. (2001), The Welfare State as Piggy Bank, Information, Risk, Uncertainty, and the Role of the State, Oxford University Press, http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199246595.do

Kenworthy, L. (2011), Progress for the Poor, Oxford University Press, 2011.

A Reading Brick will be made available to students in advance of the Course.  Students will also be provided with a Guide to Source Materials (including the Internet) and a comprehensive Bibliography.


Tuition fees are for the academic year indicated at the top of the page.  

If you are a domestic graduate coursework or international student you will be required to pay tuition fees. Tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found at Fees.

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are an undergraduate student and have been offered a Commonwealth supported place, your fees are set by the Australian Government for each course. At ANU 1 EFTSL is 48 units (normally 8 x 6-unit courses). You can find your student contribution amount for each course at Fees.  Where there is a unit range displayed for this course, not all unit options below may be available.

6.00 0.12500
Domestic fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $4050
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2020 $5760
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

ANU utilises MyTimetable to enable students to view the timetable for their enrolled courses, browse, then self-allocate to small teaching activities / tutorials so they can better plan their time. Find out more on the Timetable webpage.

The list of offerings for future years is indicative only.
Class summaries, if available, can be accessed by clicking on the View link for the relevant class number.

Second Semester

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
9541 27 Jul 2020 03 Aug 2020 31 Aug 2020 30 Oct 2020 In Person View

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