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Economic uncertainty and labour market change: Challenges for public policy from income volatility

Professor Peter Whiteford of The Australian National University presents his research on the impact of income volatility on public policy responses.

  • 22 Oct 2019, 1.15pm to 22 Oct 2019, 2.15pm BST (GMT +01:00)
  • Chancellor's Building, 3.15, University of Bath
  • This event is free

Join us for our lunchtime Research Seminar Series where we showcase research from our department and invite guest speakers to present on their work. The event lasts an hour, with about 45 minutes of research presentation and 15 minutes for questions at the end. The topics are as varied as the research centres within the department: the Centre for Development Studies (CDS), the Centre for the Analysis of Social Policy (CASP) and the Centre for Death and Society (CDAS).


Peter Whiteford is a Professor in The Crawford School of Public Policy at The Australian National University, Canberra and a Visiting Fellow at The Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath. He has worked at the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Sydney and the Social Policy Research Unit at the University of York. He has also worked in the Directorate of Employment, Labour and Social Affairs of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) in Paris. His work at the OECD encompassed pension and welfare policies in OECD countries, Eastern Europe and China. He also worked on child poverty, family assistance policies, and welfare reform.


Short term earnings volatility – where household incomes can vary substantially and unexpectedly from pay-period to pay-period - is increasingly recognised as a challenge for a wide range of public policy areas, including macroeconomic policy, the accuracy of budget forecasts, taxation collections and tax policy, income-testing of social security payments, financial advice and consumer lending and debt counselling. These patterns of unpredictable incomes can lead households into financial distress and debt, recourse to payday lending, and strained family connections. They can undercut wealth accumulation during working life. At the macro level they may reduce consumer confidence, undercut wage increases, and make Budget forecasts of wage growth, tax collections and transfer spending less reliable. The rise of digital labour markets and the platform and “gig economy” could potentially accentuate these unfavourable trends.

This paper is a preparatory attempt to identify existing data and studies of income volatility and instability and establish a framework for considering potential policy responses particularly in relation to government social security and taxation policies and their responsiveness to income changes. The paper has a comparative focus, looking at research and data in Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, but with the aim of extending comparative analysis in future.


Details below:

Chancellor's Building, 3.15 University of Bath Claverton Down Bath BA2 7AY United Kingdom

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