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From me to us: Strengthening our Financial Capabilities

Jeremiah Thomas Brown, Marcus Banks and Dina Bowman

Economic Papers, 2020, vol. 39, issue 4, 407-417

Abstract: For low‐income or precariously employed households in Australia, the re‐allocation of risk over the past forty years has four crucial economic dimensions: the fraying of the social security net; changes in labour market dynamics; heightened uncertainty arising from income volatilities; and new hazards generated by the financialisation of daily life. Household financial capabilities are negatively influenced by the compounding impacts of each of these risks. Case examples from a BSL study illustrate each impact and their interactions. The dominant idea that individual capabilities are malleable (and thus can be optimised) whilst circumstances and norms are fixed is countered by an expanded view of Sen’s/Nussbaum’s capability approach (CA) that includes collective capabilities. Collective capabilities can change norms, and so, the concept provides a needed link between the political and macroeconomic movement of risk re‐allocation and individual or household financial capabilities. The Australian Unemployed Workers’ Union is used as an example to show how collective action can challenge structural conditions, and expand or protect the capabilities of individuals.

Date: 2020
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