Peter Saunders

Senior Fellow

Expertise: Social policy issues, welfare reform, nanny state, tax reform, poverty

Peter is currently living in England but has continued his association by becoming a CIS Senior Fellow. He was the Centre’s Director of Social Policy from 2002 until 2008. His work at the CIS has focused mainly on issues of poverty, social inequality and welfare reform. His most recent works are Remoralising the Welfare State (2013) and When Prophecy Fails (2011).  Peter’s first CIS publication was Social Foundations of a Free Society (2001).  Other publications include A Self-Reliant Australia (2003) and Australia’s Welfare Habit: And how to kick it (2004) and The Government Giveth and the Government Taketh Away (2007), edited Taxploitation. The Case for Income Tax Reform (2006).

Before joining the CIS Peter was Professor of Sociology at the University of Sussex in England and Research Manager at the Australian Institute of Family Studies (2000-02). He published major works on topics including meritocracy, contemporary capitalism, privatisation and home ownership.

www.petersaunders.org.uk


Featured Publication

  • Re-moralising the Welfare State 13 March 2013 | OP131
    The left thinks high welfare spending signifies compassion. The right believes it rewards irresponsible behaviour. Saunders argues both sides are right. The left says people who need help must be cared for, irrespective of circumstances. Recent work in evolutionary psychology…...
    The left thinks high welfare spending signifies compassion. The right believes it rewards irresponsible behaviour. Saunders argues both sides are right. The left says people who need help must be cared for, irrespective of circumstances. Recent work in evolutionary psychology…
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Media & Commentary

  • The need for political civility 18 August 2017 | Ideas@TheCentre
    The word ‘civility’ shares an etymological root with the idea of ‘citizenship’ on the one hand, and of ‘civilisation’ on the other. This alerts us to two distinct but related ways in which the concept gets applied. The first sense…
    The word ‘civility’ shares an etymological root with the idea of ‘citizenship’ on the one hand, and of ‘civilisation’ on the other. This alerts us to two distinct but related ways in which the concept gets applied. The first sense…
    read more
  • Britain has rediscovered its liberty 01 July 2016 | Ideas@TheCentre
    Since the 1950s, the Eurocrat dream has been to impose a federal union onto the old, historic nations of Europe.  Since the creation of the common currency in 2002, this dream has become an imperative. Nineteen of the 28 EU…
    Since the 1950s, the Eurocrat dream has been to impose a federal union onto the old, historic nations of Europe.  Since the creation of the common currency in 2002, this dream has become an imperative. Nineteen of the 28 EU…
    read more
  • What are we to do about Jeremy? 18 September 2015 | Ideas@TheCentre
    In Britain, the Tories think all their Christmases have come at once.  Labour Party activists have overwhelmingly chosen as their new leader a Marxist, Jeremy Corbyn, who has the support of barely 10% of his own MPs.  He has in…
    In Britain, the Tories think all their Christmases have come at once.  Labour Party activists have overwhelmingly chosen as their new leader a Marxist, Jeremy Corbyn, who has the support of barely 10% of his own MPs.  He has in…
    read more
  • Shy Tories key to UK poll 15 May 2015 | Ideas@TheCentre
    The most uninspiring UK election campaign of recent times culminated last week in the most extraordinary result.  Eleven opinion polls conducted the day before reported Labour and Conservatives neck and neck, yet the Conservatives beat Labour 37% to 30% and…
    The most uninspiring UK election campaign of recent times culminated last week in the most extraordinary result.  Eleven opinion polls conducted the day before reported Labour and Conservatives neck and neck, yet the Conservatives beat Labour 37% to 30% and…
    read more
  • Nobody knows why Cameron wants to be PM 01 May 2015 | Ideas@TheCentre
    This UK election campaign has been the most tepid and uninspiring I can remember. Everyone seems bored. Support for Labour and Conservatives has hardly flickered (both stuck around 33%).  Barring some last minute seismic shift, Britain is heading for another…
    This UK election campaign has been the most tepid and uninspiring I can remember. Everyone seems bored. Support for Labour and Conservatives has hardly flickered (both stuck around 33%).  Barring some last minute seismic shift, Britain is heading for another…
    read more

Publications

  • TARGET30: Towards smaller government and future prosperity 06 March 2013 | T30.01
    The size of government in Australia (federal, state and local) has been steadily expanding over the last 40 years, reaching into areas far beyond the core government responsibilities. Spending in the general government sector (across all levels of government) has been growing at an average of more than 4% per…...
    The size of government in Australia (federal, state and local) has been steadily expanding over the last 40 years, reaching into areas far beyond the core government responsibilities. Spending in the general government sector (across all levels of government) has been growing at an average of more than 4% per…
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  • When Prophecy Fails 09 September 2011 | SP12
    In their 2009 book, The Spirit Level, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett argued for the ‘benefits’ of income redistribution. Although enthusiastically welcomed by the left, CIS Senior Fellow Peter Sanders showed in his critique Beware False Prophets that much of The Spirit Level’s evidence linking equality with wellbeing was flawed,…...
    In their 2009 book, The Spirit Level, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett argued for the ‘benefits’ of income redistribution. Although enthusiastically welcomed by the left, CIS Senior Fellow Peter Sanders showed in his critique Beware False Prophets that much of The Spirit Level’s evidence linking equality with wellbeing was flawed,…
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  • Supping with the Devil : Government Contracts and the Non-Profit Sector 09 August 2009 | PF16
    There was a time when it was easy to look at the formal organisations in a modern society like Australia and identify three clear sectors. Government (public sector) made laws and generally ran things. Business (the private sector) generated wealth by creating goods and services for profit. And a ‘third’…...
    There was a time when it was easy to look at the formal organisations in a modern society like Australia and identify three clear sectors. Government (public sector) made laws and generally ran things. Business (the private sector) generated wealth by creating goods and services for profit. And a ‘third’…
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  • Declaring Dependence, Declaring Independence: Three Essays on the Future of the Welfare State 01 August 2008 | OP111
    In a time when governments are running up enormous welfare bills and intrusively regulating everyday life, this series of essays remind us that many people do not need to rely on the government to survive. ‘Some people do need the government to provide them with an income, give them housing,…...
    In a time when governments are running up enormous welfare bills and intrusively regulating everyday life, this series of essays remind us that many people do not need to rely on the government to survive. ‘Some people do need the government to provide them with an income, give them housing,…
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  • A Whiff of Compassion? The Attack on Mutual Obligation 10 June 2008 | IA96
    Mutual obligation requires people receiving welfare benefits to undertake a prescribed activity or forfeit some or all of their payment. This requirement has gradually been extended to cover most of those claiming unemployment allowances, as well as single parents with school-age children and new Disability Support Pensioners whose impairment is…...
    Mutual obligation requires people receiving welfare benefits to undertake a prescribed activity or forfeit some or all of their payment. This requirement has gradually been extended to cover most of those claiming unemployment allowances, as well as single parents with school-age children and new Disability Support Pensioners whose impairment is…
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  • What are Low Ability Workers To Do When Unskilled Jobs Disappear? Part 2 14 February 2008 | IA93
    Part 2: Expanding Low-skilled Employment One reason working-age welfare dependency remains high is that the demand for unskilled labour is in decline. Part 1 of this CIS Issue Analysis showed that more education and training will be of limited help to jobless people who do not have the ability to…...
    Part 2: Expanding Low-skilled Employment One reason working-age welfare dependency remains high is that the demand for unskilled labour is in decline. Part 1 of this CIS Issue Analysis showed that more education and training will be of limited help to jobless people who do not have the ability to…
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  • What are Low Ability Workers To Do When Unskilled Jobs Disappear? Part 1 06 December 2007 | IA91
    Part 1: Why More Education and Training Isn’t the Answer Employers are reporting shortages of skilled labour, yet unskilled workers are sitting idle on welfare. Many commentators think both problems can be solved by more education and training, but this paper disputes this. The solution to the skills shortage lies…...
    Part 1: Why More Education and Training Isn’t the Answer Employers are reporting shortages of skilled labour, yet unskilled workers are sitting idle on welfare. Many commentators think both problems can be solved by more education and training, but this paper disputes this. The solution to the skills shortage lies…
    READ MORE
  • The Government Giveth and the Government Taketh Away: Tax Welfare Churning and the Case for Welfare State Opt-Outs 14 May 2007 | PM74
    Australians are more prosperous than ever before, so the number of people needing government assistance should be falling. Yet the welfare state keeps getting bigger. The book explores this paradox. It asks why the government is spending more than ever on the welfare state when increasing numbers of people are…...
    Australians are more prosperous than ever before, so the number of people needing government assistance should be falling. Yet the welfare state keeps getting bigger. The book explores this paradox. It asks why the government is spending more than ever on the welfare state when increasing numbers of people are…
    READ MORE
  • Reinventing New Zealand’s Welfare State 27 March 2007 | IA85
    Government in New Zealand keeps expanding. The main driver has been the inexorable increase in spending on the welfare state. New Zealanders are much richer than when the welfare state was founded. People’s incomes should therefore be sufficient for them to buy many of the services earlier generations could not…...
    Government in New Zealand keeps expanding. The main driver has been the inexorable increase in spending on the welfare state. New Zealanders are much richer than when the welfare state was founded. People’s incomes should therefore be sufficient for them to buy many of the services earlier generations could not…
    READ MORE
  • A Welfare State for Those Who Want One, Opts-outs for Those Who Don't 30 January 2007 | IA79
    This paper looks at how the long-term growth of government spending, and the erosion of personal responsibility that this creates, might be reversed by allowing people to opt out of the welfare state. Those who prefer to pay higher taxes in return for government services and payments could still do…...
    This paper looks at how the long-term growth of government spending, and the erosion of personal responsibility that this creates, might be reversed by allowing people to opt out of the welfare state. Those who prefer to pay higher taxes in return for government services and payments could still do…
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  • Taxploitation: The Case for Income Tax Reform 01 June 2006 | R11
    Australia’s increasingly irrational income tax system is riddled with distortions and disincentive effects. ‘There are so many special allowances, exemptions, credits, offsets and write-offs that tax law has become almost indecipherable, and gross amounts of money and time get spent trying to reduce liability to tax.  Most really-high earners are…...
    Australia’s increasingly irrational income tax system is riddled with distortions and disincentive effects. ‘There are so many special allowances, exemptions, credits, offsets and write-offs that tax law has become almost indecipherable, and gross amounts of money and time get spent trying to reduce liability to tax.  Most really-high earners are…
    READ MORE
  • Twenty Million Future Funds 21 December 2005 | IA66
    This report is the third in a series of three titled ‘Restoring Self-Reliance in Welfare’ and explains the economic and social reasons for reducing tax welfare churning by allowing people to retain more of their income in return for reduced use of government benefits and services. This requires lower taxes…...
    This report is the third in a series of three titled ‘Restoring Self-Reliance in Welfare’ and explains the economic and social reasons for reducing tax welfare churning by allowing people to retain more of their income in return for reduced use of government benefits and services. This requires lower taxes…
    READ MORE
  • Six Arguments in Favour of Self-Funding 14 July 2005 | IA61
    This report is the second in a series of three titled ‘Restoring Self-Reliance in Welfare.’ The first report, The $85 Billion Tax/Welfare Churn, showed the mass welfare state has outlived its usefulness. This second report explains why we should replace it with greater use of self-funded benefits and services. The…...
    This report is the second in a series of three titled ‘Restoring Self-Reliance in Welfare.’ The first report, The $85 Billion Tax/Welfare Churn, showed the mass welfare state has outlived its usefulness. This second report explains why we should replace it with greater use of self-funded benefits and services. The…
    READ MORE
  • Clearing Muddy Waters: Why Vinnies are Wrong on Inequality 21 June 2005 | IA60
    The Vinnies researchers claim we are on a ‘headlong dash into the chasm of inequality’ UNTRUE: This was the key claim in the Vinnies’ report, and it is false. No matter which measure we take, not much has changed in the distribution of incomes over the last ten years. It…...
    The Vinnies researchers claim we are on a ‘headlong dash into the chasm of inequality’ UNTRUE: This was the key claim in the Vinnies’ report, and it is false. No matter which measure we take, not much has changed in the distribution of incomes over the last ten years. It…
    READ MORE
  • A Headlong Dash into the Chasm of Hyperbole 08 June 2005 | IA59
    The paper’s rhetoric is unsupportable. It warns of a return to a 19th century minimal state, for example, but this is absurd when the federal government is spending $87 billion on welfare payments. The level of net cash transfers made by the government to the poorest 30% of the population…...
    The paper’s rhetoric is unsupportable. It warns of a return to a 19th century minimal state, for example, but this is absurd when the federal government is spending $87 billion on welfare payments. The level of net cash transfers made by the government to the poorest 30% of the population…
    READ MORE
  • The $85 Billion Tax/Welfare Churn 07 April 2005 | IA57
    This is the first of three papers in the series ‘Restoring Self-Reliance in Welfare’ analysing whether and how the welfare state might be transformed to give ordinary people more control over key areas of their lives which are currently managed for them by government. It demonstrates that, to a large…...
    This is the first of three papers in the series ‘Restoring Self-Reliance in Welfare’ analysing whether and how the welfare state might be transformed to give ordinary people more control over key areas of their lives which are currently managed for them by government. It demonstrates that, to a large…
    READ MORE
  • Australia's Welfare Habit and How to Kick It 01 October 2004 | SP07
    Forty years ago only 3% of working age Australians depended on welfare payments as their main source of income. Today it is 16%.  There used to be 22 workers to support each person on welfare.  Now there are five. This book asks: How did Australia get into this mess and…...
    Forty years ago only 3% of working age Australians depended on welfare payments as their main source of income. Today it is 16%.  There used to be 22 workers to support each person on welfare.  Now there are five. This book asks: How did Australia get into this mess and…
    READ MORE
  • Only 18%? Why ACOSS is Wrong to be Complacent about Welfare Dependency 02 September 2004 | IA51
    A new report from the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) recognises that welfare dependency has now expanded to cover 18% of working-age Australians, but it denies this is a problem. Arguing that Australia still spends less on welfare than many other developed countries, ACOSS thinks we should be expanding…...
    A new report from the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) recognises that welfare dependency has now expanded to cover 18% of working-age Australians, but it denies this is a problem. Arguing that Australia still spends less on welfare than many other developed countries, ACOSS thinks we should be expanding…
    READ MORE
  • Tax Reform to Make Work Pay 29 May 2004 | PM62
    We are paying more tax than ever before. Australia’s tax burden is higher than in the United States and Japan, taxes on incomes are as high as in many European countries, and corporate taxation is higher than anywhere else in the OECD. Peter Saunders and Barry Maley suggest some solutions.
    We are paying more tax than ever before. Australia’s tax burden is higher than in the United States and Japan, taxes on incomes are as high as in many European countries, and corporate taxation is higher than anywhere else in the OECD. Peter Saunders and Barry Maley suggest some solutions.
    READ MORE
  • Why We Must Reform the Disability Support Pension 06 April 2004 | IA47
    There has been a big increase in people claiming the Disability Support Pension (DSP) although at least half of the claimants are capable of holding down a job. A large part of the increase in DSP numbers represents ‘hidden unemployment,’ as many previous unemployment recipients are now found on the…...
    There has been a big increase in people claiming the Disability Support Pension (DSP) although at least half of the claimants are capable of holding down a job. A large part of the increase in DSP numbers represents ‘hidden unemployment,’ as many previous unemployment recipients are now found on the…
    READ MORE
  • Lies, Damned Lies and the Senate Poverty Inquiry Report 01 April 2004 | IA46
    A recent Senate Report claims that ‘poverty’ in Australia is widespread and has been getting worse. It estimates that the number of Australians living in poverty is as high as 3.5 million (18% of the population). But the statistics on which this Report is based are seriously flawed, its use…...
    A recent Senate Report claims that ‘poverty’ in Australia is widespread and has been getting worse. It estimates that the number of Australians living in poverty is as high as 3.5 million (18% of the population). But the statistics on which this Report is based are seriously flawed, its use…
    READ MORE
  • How To Reduce Long Term Unemployment 11 September 2003 | IA40
    More than half the people claiming unemployment allowances in Australia have been on benefits for more than a year. When we add the increasing number of unemployed people who are no longer counted in the statistics because they have transferred onto Disability Support Pension, we estimate Australia’s long-term unemployed population…...
    More than half the people claiming unemployment allowances in Australia have been on benefits for more than a year. When we add the increasing number of unemployed people who are no longer counted in the statistics because they have transferred onto Disability Support Pension, we estimate Australia’s long-term unemployed population…
    READ MORE
  • A Self-Reliant Australia. Welfare Policy for the 21st century 16 March 2003 | OP86
    In this paper Peter Saunders suggests that the time has come to turn back the growth of this expensive, damaging, demeaning and largely unnecessary welfare state behemoth. I argue that in the 21st century we no longer need a mass welfare state, which originated in the 20th century to tackle…...
    In this paper Peter Saunders suggests that the time has come to turn back the growth of this expensive, damaging, demeaning and largely unnecessary welfare state behemoth. I argue that in the 21st century we no longer need a mass welfare state, which originated in the 20th century to tackle…
    READ MORE
  • Whose Progress? A Response to the ABS Report Measuring Australia’s Progress 20 August 2002 | IA25
    The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recently launched a report, Measuring Australia’s Progress, which it intends to be the first in a continuing series. This initiative threatens to compromise the political neutrality of the ABS, for it blurs the line dividing fact from opinion. Any definition of ‘progress’ will be…...
    The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) recently launched a report, Measuring Australia’s Progress, which it intends to be the first in a continuing series. This initiative threatens to compromise the political neutrality of the ABS, for it blurs the line dividing fact from opinion. Any definition of ‘progress’ will be…
    READ MORE
  • Six Questions About Civility 03 July 2002 | OP82
    Civility is a moral virtue and a social responsibility, contributing to the public good and the quality of life. Yet the term civility is often used without a true understanding of what it is and why it is important. Commentators are often quick to point out its decline without providing…...
    Civility is a moral virtue and a social responsibility, contributing to the public good and the quality of life. Yet the term civility is often used without a true understanding of what it is and why it is important. Commentators are often quick to point out its decline without providing…
    READ MORE
  • Poor Statistics: Getting the Facts Right About Poverty in Australia 03 April 2002 | IA23
    In January, CIS published a short paper, Poor Arguments, which showed that a Smith Family/NATSEM (National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling) report on poverty exaggerated the number of people who are ‘poor’ and wrongly claimed that poverty had worsened in the 1990s. The welfare lobby, however, continues to make…...
    In January, CIS published a short paper, Poor Arguments, which showed that a Smith Family/NATSEM (National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling) report on poverty exaggerated the number of people who are ‘poor’ and wrongly claimed that poverty had worsened in the 1990s. The welfare lobby, however, continues to make…
    READ MORE
  • The Social Foundations of a Free Society 12 February 2002 | OP79
    A look at five main areas where current trends may be eroding the free society – family life, schooling, community relations, the welfare state, and the values, norms and beliefs that comprise our common culture.          
    A look at five main areas where current trends may be eroding the free society – family life, schooling, community relations, the welfare state, and the values, norms and beliefs that comprise our common culture.          
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