• 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 Winter Session 2022
    See Future Offerings

In 2022, the class dates for this course are June 17, 20, 24, 27; July 15, 18.

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:

  1. 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
  2. b) Understand key conceptual frameworks regarding social spending, as well as frameworks for the analysis of distributional effects of public spending
  3. 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
  4. d) Analyse and assess alternative approaches to social policy interventions
  5. e) Compare the social protection systems of their own or other countries with those of other rich or developing nations

Indicative Assessment

  1. Assessment is through two individual essays. The Initial Essay should not exceed 2,000 words. (40) [LO null]
  2. The Final Essay should not exceed 4,000 words. Initial readings for both Essays will be as for the Class Reading list, with self-directed follow-up for further reading. (60) [LO null]

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

Inherent Requirements

Not applicable

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

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.  

Commonwealth Support (CSP) Students
If you 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). More information about your student contribution amount for each course at Fees

Student Contribution Band:
Unit value:
6 units

If you are a domestic graduate coursework student with a Domestic Tuition Fee (DTF) place or international student you will be required to pay course tuition fees (see below). Course tuition fees are indexed annually. Further information for domestic and international students about tuition and other fees can be found 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
2022 $4200
International fee paying students
Year Fee
2022 $6000
Note: Please note that fee information is for current year only.

Offerings, Dates and Class Summary Links

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.

Winter Session

Class number Class start date Last day to enrol Census date Class end date Mode Of Delivery Class Summary
On Campus
4642 10 Jun 2022 17 Jun 2022 01 Jul 2022 18 Aug 2022 In Person N/A
4643 10 Jun 2022 17 Jun 2022 01 Jul 2022 18 Aug 2022 Online N/A

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