Internal Code: 2CABC
Provide historical context that links population policy to fertility rates, an ageing population and restrictive migration policies
Allow for debate about the interrelated social, cultural, economic, demographic, environmental and political issues driving population polic
Critical analysis of key family, ageing and migration policies.
Population policy refers to ‘… government intervention that seeks to influence the size or rate of growth of the population or its geographic distribution’ (McDonald 2014, p. 127). Population policy is not solely about the size of the population but rather the consequences – social, cultural, demographic, economic and environmental – that are central and highly debated. In considering population policy there are competing arguments both for and against increasing the size of the Australian population. For social policy makers and analysts the key debate is centred on what is good for the wellbeing and welfare of Australians. Much of the population debate, as with other social policy issues, is often subjective. One’s own values, as much as the values of the government of the day, will impact on what is seen as ‘good’ population policy.
The 2010 federal report Australia to 2050: future challenges considers that the population of Australia is projected to be 35.9 million people by 2050 (Australian Government 2010). The size of a population has a direct relationship to issues of employment, productivity, participation, economic revenue, infrastructure, transport, the environment, sustainability, climate change, social inclusion and so on.
Population policy as a social issue was most evident in 2010. Then Prime Minister Kevin Rudd (ALP) supported the idea of a ‘big Australia’. When Julia Gillard (ALP) became Prime Minister she rejected that view, instead arguing that Australian population growth needed to be slowed. Compelling this debate was the view of Liberal/National Conservative Coalition, led by Tony Abbott, that they did not want population to be an election issue. Arguably one reason for this was that the Coalition policy was very different to either Rudd’s or Gillard’s hence it was a likely area of policy difference. The current Turnbull Coalition government’s position of population growth is unclear. Central to this view, for both the ALP and the Liberal/National Conservative Coalition, was the issue of migration. The ALP, the political arm of the trade union movement, has traditionally argued for low migration in order to protect Australian workers’ jobs. The Liberal National Conservative Coalition Party sometimes advocate increased migration to increase the labour market and force down wages.
However, another aspect of population policy that emerged in this period was that of sustainability. The Australian Greens, while advocating reasonable levels of migration via a more open refugee policy, argue that population needs to be sustainable. Also emerging in this debate was the Stable Population Party that supported zero migration and wanted government welfare limited to those with only two children or less. It was in this context that the ALP set up an inquiry into population growth resulting in the 2012 report Sustainable Australia-Sustainable Communities: A Sustainable Population Strategy for Australia (Australian Government 2012). After the 2013 election, population policy returned to debates about family policy, aged policy, migration, and national security issues (McDonald 2014, p. 141). What remained however was a latent understanding that debates about population policy were as much about race and multiculturalism, and it is in this context, that the spectre of national security is raised (Jacobs 2013).
Population growth was limited between 1901 and 1945 due to casualties in both world wars and because Australia closed its border to mass migration, specifically migration from non-white nations in Asia, Africa, the Pacific, and some parts of Europe. But because the fertility rate was high (eight births per married woman), the closed border policy associated with the White Australia Policy was not seen as a long-term policy problem. The 1930s Depression however did see a decline in fertility rates. The response from the federal government was to set basic wage requirements and introduce national maternity allowances and child endowment: some of the first elements of the emerging welfare state.
From the post-war period onwards, tax deductions for children and wives were regularly introduced by the federal government. The arguments for tax deductions were in order to encourage employment for fathers and to encourage women to remain out of the workforce and have more children. By the 1970s, family allowances were introduced with much of its rationale aimed at increasing employment, hence increasing government tax revenue. As employment was opened to women, also in the 1970s, concerns about declining fertility rates increased. Various governments introduced child care policies including income supplements for the use of child care by the mostly part-time female workers.
By the 1990s, tax-free thresholds were introduced for families, mainly benefitting two parent families, which in effect discouraged women from working. At the same time Child Care Assistance was wound back. In order to further push up fertility rates (now less than two births per couple), in 2001 the Howard Government (LNP) introduced the Baby Bonus. In 2012 the ALP Government introduced a Paid Parental Leave scheme (McDonald 2014, pp. 133–138). At each stage in the development of family policy, arguably the central driving factor was that of increasing fertility rates.
Population ageing first emerged in broad government and social debate in 1975 with the release of the Report of the National Population Inquiry. However, it was not until the 2002 Intergenerational Report that the co-issues of an ageing population and a declining birth rate were linked (Australian Government 2017). Sustained low fertility is considered a principal determinant of population ageing. Low fertility can be rectified with increased migration. Increased migration or increased fertility ensures that the population increases; this is important for economic policy. But as the population ages it costs more to government in terms of pensions, aged care and health. With a low rate of employment, because of a lack of employees (because of low migration and low fertility) paying income taxes, there is less revenue to service social policy for the ageing. The core of population and ageing debates appears to centre on the cost of service provisions for the aged. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)(2014): an ageing population, has a higher total dependency ratio (with more older people potentially economically dependent on fewer people of working age). This poses a future challenge for government policy because the public costs associated with the aged tend to be higher than the costs of people at other ages.
Policy overview The aim of the PLP policy is to provide financial support for up to 18 weeks to help eligible parents (mum, dad, same-sex couples) to take time off work to care for a new-born or recently adopted child. Paid Parental Leave is paid for a maximum period of 18 weeks at the National Minimum Wage, which in 2011 was $570 a week before tax. In 2017, the minimum wage is $16.88 per hour. Notice the change from a weekly rate to an hourly rate. It is available to primary carer that has worked for at least 330 hours in a ten month period before the birth or adoption of a child. The object of the Paid Parental Leave Act (2010), which can be accessed online (https://www.legislation.gov.au/Details/C2010A00104/Html/Text), is to provide financial support to primary carers (mainly birth mothers) of new-born and newly adopted children, in order to:
Policy overview Federal aged care policies cover a number of portfolios and areas of social policy. Rather than one policy, aged care covers a range of ‘whole of government’ policies with many enacted with the States and Territories. Federal aged care services are the responsibility of the Department of Social Services and can be access via the myagedcare web portal (http://www.myagedcare.gov.au/). Some of the federal aged care policies are:
Policy overview The skill stream of Australia’s Migration Programme is specifically designed to target migrants who have skills or outstanding abilities that will contribute to the Australian economy. The migration to Australia of skilled people with the qualifications and attributes to succeed helps address specific skill shortages in Australia and enhances the size and skill level of the Australian labour force. The 2010–11 skill stream outcome of 113 725 places accounted for 67 per cent of the total Migration Programme (Australian Government 2016). The planning level for the skill stream of the 2011–12 Migration Programme was set at 125 850 or 68 per cent of the total Migration Programme.
The planning level for the skill stream of the 2012–13 Migration Programme is 129 250 places, which also represents 68 per cent of the total Migration Programme. In the skill stream, priority processing is currently given to applicants who are migrating to a regional area, sponsored by employers or nominated by a state or territory government under a State Migration Plan (Australian Government 2016).
This topic has considered population policy in relation to family policy, ageing policy and migration policy. It has considered the historical, political and economic issues associated with social policies that directly impact on individuals, communities and the broader society. As with the following social policy studies, it has considered how ‘good’ social policy is subjective. In relation to family policy, much of the government focus has been on falling fertility rates which has shaped social policy responses in relation to work-family balance and income support. The issue of an ageing population remains a vexed one for policy makers, with most of the focus of social policy on maintaining a quality of life while recognising the economic cost to the state. Migration policy, increasingly driven by fear and anxiety, has moved from a humanitarian focus to one of economic contribution from skilled migrants. In each of these debates, population versus economic sustainability has been the core are of contestation.
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