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Title: Australian Couples and the Paradox of Modernity: Earning More but Enjoying It Less
Contributor(s): Bittman, Michael (author); Saunders, Peter (author)
Publication Date: 2005
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Abstract: Thinkers from all positions on the political spectrum, from Hayek to Marx, have assumed that modernity (increasing prosperity) would bring increased freedom from drudgery. Economic progress is supposed to result in higher standards of living. Social scientists, especially economists, typically take the prevailing standard of living in a society as the yardstick of progress. Concretely, 'standard of living' refers to the generally prevailing level of welfare achieved by a society in terms of food, clothing, housing and other material benefits. For comparative purposes, the conventional measure of the standard of living has been the gross domestic product (GDP) per head of population - although even this measure ignores issues of distribution and sustainability, thereby limiting its usefulness as a broad measure of wellbeing. Despite these limitations, it is still widely accepted that the level of GDP per head is an index of development; that is, of economic modernity. In the search for higher standards of living, neo-liberal precepts have come to play an increasingly important role in the design and implementation of economic and social policy in Australia and elsewhere. In Australia, economic policy has been focused on two key imperatives - competitiveness and productivity - and microeconomic reform has been the vehicle through which both have been promoted. Advocates of this approach point with some justification to economic statistics indicating that, recessions aside, considerable success has been achieved in generating strong economic growth and high productivity in an era when inflation has also been brought under control. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) has recently noted that real disposable income per capita grew by around 2.5% a year in the decade to 2000-01, an increase that was 'appreciably faster than during the preceding twenty-year period' (ABS, 2002: 38). However, although real incomes have increased - not only on average but also for many of those with incomes below the poverty line (Harding et al., 2001) - it is less clear that this has translated into perceptions of how wellbeing has changed over the period (Eckersley, 2000).
Publication Type: Book Chapter
Source of Publication: Rethinking Wellbeing, p. 109-135
Publisher: API Network
Place of Publication: Perth (W.A.), Australia
ISBN: 1920845178
Field of Research (FOR): 160899 Sociology not elsewhere classified
HERDC Category Description: B1 Chapter in a Scholarly Book
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