Morals and Policy: Public Duty and Private Responsibilities in the Employment to Retirement Transition

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The period of welfare state restructuring has seen a resurgence of concern, in both policy and popular opinion, with the balance of rights and duties attached to claims for community support. Curiously, contemporary debates about ‘welfare reform’ have had little to say about economic support in retirement. This paper is concerned with how policy for the transition from employment to retirement figures in a changing discursive landscape of social policy citizenship. Examining the views of a group of Australians in mid-life, it draws out and compares the meanings of entitlement, rightfulness, merit and deserts they attach to the age pension and occupational superannuation, the requirements, duties, and obligations they think are attached to such benefits, and how they believe these benefits and their financing should be shared among Australian citizens and workers. This evidence suggests that there are interesting continuities of political culture in the rights and duties seen as associated with welfare support in working life and in retirement. The basis of these continuities lies in common emphasis on the moral duties that accompany a social right to support from the public purse, and the social privileging of self-provision over ‘dependency’ on the public purse. These parallels suggest that some of the values, principles and sentiments associated with mutual obligation are carrying over to retirement income provisions, with at least potential consequences for the transition from employment to retirement. To date, however, these parallels are too limited to suggest a reshaping of retirement provision in the image of mutual obligation.
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Shaver, Sheila
Thompson, Merrin
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