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Locked-in or Locked-out: Can a Public Services Market Really Change?
journal contributionposted on 07.12.2020, 03:20 authored by Mark Considine, Siobhan O’Sullivan, Michael McGann, Phuc NguyenPhuc Nguyen
© Cambridge University Press 2020.
Australia's welfare-to-work system has been subject to ongoing political contestation and policy reform since the 1990s. In this paper we take a big picture look at the Australian system over time, re-visiting our earlier analysis of the impact of marketisation on flexibility at the frontline over the first ten years of the Australian market in employment services. That analysis demonstrated that marketisation had failed to deliver the service flexibility intended through contracting-out, and had instead produced market herding around a common set of standardised frontline practices. In the interim, there have been two further major redesigns of the Australian system at considerable expense to taxpayers. Re-introducing greater flexibility and service tailoring into the market has been a key aim of these reforms. Calling on evidence from an original, longitudinal survey of frontline employment service staff run in 2008, 2012 and 2016, this paper considers how the Australian market has evolved over its second decade. We find remarkable consistency over time and, indeed, evidence of deepening organisational convergence. We conclude that, once in motion, isomorphic pressures towards standardisation quickly get locked into quasi-market regimes; at least when these pressures occur in low-trust contracting environments.
JournalJournal of Social Policy
Article NumberPII S0047279419000941
Pagination22p. (p. 850-871)
PublisherCambridge University Press
Rights StatementThe Author reserves all moral rights over the deposited text and must be credited if any re-use occurs. Documents deposited in OPAL are the Open Access versions of outputs published elsewhere. Changes resulting from the publishing process may therefore not be reflected in this document. The final published version may be obtained via the publisher’s DOI. Please note that additional copyright and access restrictions may apply to the published version.
Social SciencesPublic AdministrationSocial IssuesSocial Workquasi-marketsisomorphismcontracting-outmarketisationwelfare-to-worktailoringWELFARE-TO-WORKEMPLOYMENT SERVICESQUASI-MARKETSINSTITUTIONAL ISOMORPHISMORGANIZATIONAL-CHANGEREFORMAUSTRALIAPOLICYLEVELMANAGEMENTPolitical Science & Public Administration