Our research looks at the interaction between employment, social security, and taxes and transfers.

We’re working to learn how policies help or hinder people’s economic security. This research is used to inform our advocacy and program development and delivery.

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For most Australians of working age, the main source of income is wages. However, low wage growth and increasingly insecure work means that people living on low or fluctuating incomes face extra risks and tough choices.

Low incomes over a working life can put people, especially women, at great risk of poverty later in life. They may be unable to afford decent housing, transport or health services.

Our income research is interested in how households make ends meet and what policies and programs are needed to help them build economic security.

Despite sustained economic growth in Australia, inequality persists and the gap between the rich and the poor is widening.

The decline in entry-level and semi-skilled jobs, coupled with increased restrictions on government income support, has compromised some people's ability to earn a stable income. It can also limit their access to necessities such as housing, transport, care services, health services and education.

Services such as disability or aged care are increasingly complex and require specific knowledge and skills to navigate.

Our financial capabilities research examines what is needed to help people to understand their entitlements and gain economic security. We work with others to develop products and programs, while advocating for change.

Find all recent publications on Income (2000–present)

Visit the BSL library for our earlier research on Income (pre 2000)

Social security

Social security enhances wellbeing, reduces vulnerability to 'shocks' and enables people to participate fully in social, economic, political and cultural life.

Our research looks at the interaction between employment, income support, and taxes and transfers.

We examine the impacts of current policies and consider alternatives such as Universal Basic Income to inform advocacy for an equitable social security system. This work is central to achieving economic security for all.

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Find all recent publications on Social security (2000–present)

Visit the BSL library for our earlier research on Social security (pre 2000)

Phillips, B & Narayanan, V 2020, Financial stress and social security settings in Australia , ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods, Australian National University, Canberra.

Yanotti, M, Banks, M, de Silva, A, Anantharama, N, Whiteford, P, Bowman, D & Csereklyei, Z 2021, The utility of new data in understanding housing insecurity , AHURI final report no. 351, Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute Limited, Melbourne. DOI:10.18408/ahuri5321801.

Selected publications

By Ursula Harrison and Dina Bowman 2024

How has becoming and being a parent affected the economic security and financial wellbeing of participants in our Life Chances longitudinal study?

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By Dina Bowman, Emily Porter and Margaret Kabare. 2024

How has the cost-of-living crisis intersected with long-term drivers of financial stress?

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By Miranda Stewart, Emily Porter, Dina Bowman and Emily Millane 2023

How can the Family Tax Benefit (FTB) better meet the needs of today’s families?

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By Margaret Kabare and Dina Bowman 2023

Adopting a gender lens helps to identify barriers affecting women and create opportunities to improve women’s financial wellbeing in regional towns.

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By David Bryant, Emily Porter, Ismo Rama and Damian Sullivan 2022

Understanding which households experience energy stress is important for policy development in the context of rising energy prices and the move to decarbonise the economy.

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Selected projects

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How well are Australia’s current family assistance payments supporting low-income parents to meet the needs of their children and achieve economic security?

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What are the drivers and impacts of financial stress for low-income people and what are the policy implications?

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How do people on lower incomes in regional, peri-urban and urban locations experience and respond to financial challenges?

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What drives economic insecurity among women and what changes to policies and systems would make a difference to their futures?

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Understanding patterns of financial wellbeing is a key to protecting Australians against financial distress in times of crisis.

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To tackle inequality we need to understand how issues like payment conditions and tax policies are connected and can trap single mothers in poverty.

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An ongoing project exploring how income support could be made adequate and fair the adequacy and targeting of income support

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How common are late receipt of Newstart Allowance and volatile payment amounts?

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How can ‘real-time’ data help us to understand the financial dimension of housing insecurity

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Stepping Stones offers training, mentoring and support to help women from refugee and migrant backgrounds expand their business skills and increase their participation in business and the community.

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Looking for services related to income and social security?

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Go to the Money Smart website to find services that can help you.

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Given the Chance is one of our longest running and most effective employment support programs.

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Our Youth Transitions Support Pilot Program helps young refugees participate in the community through work, education and sport.

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Creating Futures for Youth empowers young people to pursue their career goals and build their capacity to work or undertake further learning.

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Join Australia’s award winning free financial education and matched savings program and receive up to $500 for you or your children’s education.

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We offer community workers training in MoneyMinded, Australia’s largest adult financial education program.

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Our approach to working with people with disability focuses on building a sense of wellbeing and autonomy. We recognise the importance of family, friends, carers and community.

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