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Author's Name: Emily Lancsar
Date: Wed 06 May 2020

Emily Lancsar

Professor Emily Lancsar

Head of the Department of Health Services Research and Policy and Associate Dean (Policy and Practice) in the College of Health and Medicine at the Australian National University. Her broad research interests are in heath economics with particular interest in understanding and modelling choice, preferences and behaviour of key decision makers in the health sector, economic evaluation and policy analysis.

Emily holds a number of current and past ARC, NHMRC, ESRC, MRC, NIHR and EU funded grants and fellowships. She is a member of a number of government advisory committees including the Medical Services Advisory Committee (MSAC), the Economic Sub-Committee of MSAC and the Economic Sub-Committee of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee. She is an Associate Editor of Health Economics and a past Vice President of the Australian Health Economics Society.

Prior to joining ANU, Emily was an Associate Professor in the Centre for Health Economics at Monash University. Joining Monash in 2011 represented a return to Australia from the UK where she held Senior Lecturer and Lecturer positions in the Department of Economics at Newcastle University. Emily also previously worked at CHERE in Sydney and at the Federal Department of Health.

Subject Area Expertise

Health economics, choice modelling


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Responses (5)

Top economists want JobSeeker boosted by $100+ per week and tied to wages

Poll 44

"Ahead of a decision about any permanent increase expected early next year, The Conversation and the Economic Society of Australia asked 45 of Australia’s leading economists where they thought JobSeeker should settle."

Photo credit : Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND


Be indexed in line with wages

The current rate is inadequate (based on the minimum income for healthy living and other measures), has not kept pace with living standards and leaves a number of recipients living in poverty. Payments to people out of work could provide a disincentive to work for some, but the OECD has questioned Australia?s unemployment benefits sufficiency to enable searching for work. Of course we also have to consider the increased cost to the federal budget of raising the rate of JobSeeker, but in doing so important to consider downstream costs avoided or the spillover benefits of reducing poverty in terms of positive outcomes in other areas including health, education, etc. Increasing (or maintaining part of the recent increase) in the rate for JobSeeker will also enhance automatic stabilisers in stimulating the economy in the current economic downturn. Indexing to inflation has meant Newstart/Jobseeker has not kept pace with living standards. Moving forward, Jobseeker must be indexed to living standards and indexing in line with wages is one way to do that. Indexing to wages would also help reduce the large and increasing disparity between various forms of government transfers, including JobSeeker and the pension. Such a change could be considered within a broader review of Australia?s tax and transfer system which could also consider such questions as whether a one size fits all Jobseeker rate is appropriate and the incentives built into that, rates once recipients move to part time work etc.

October Budget 2020 - preferred four programs

Poll 42 

"The October budget will see the government announce additional policies to support recovery.  Please nominate the four programs you think would be the most effective (for an intervention of a given size) over the next two years"

Photo Credit: Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND 


Permanently boosting JobSeeker (Newstart) beyond December 31, 2020, Social housing, More funding for education and training, Increasing subsidies for child care

My preference order is driven by the twin aims of stimulating aggregate demand in the economy to support the recovery and addressing key economic and social issues that existed prior to and further highlighted by the pandemic to bring about longer term economic and social benefits. For example, in addition to stimulating aggregate demand, a permanent boost to JobSeeker will keep a large proportion of Australians from falling below the poverty line (see recent Phillips, Gray, Biddle work) with the many associated health, education etc. benefits; increasing subsidies for childcare is expected to increase workforce participation and is an investment in early childhood education with associated longer term benefits to productivity, health, etc.; social housing is targeted infrastructure investment with multiple positive spillover effects in education, mental health, homelessness etc.; more funding for education and training is also an investment in the generation who will bear the costs of the considerable public debt currently being accrued.

The legislated increases in compulsory super contributions should...

Poll 41

"The legislated increases in compulsory super contributions, which are set to climb from 9.5% of wages to 12% over the next five years should...."

Photo Credit: Wes Mountain/The Conversation, CC BY-ND 


Proceed as planned


If the purpose is to encourage savings then effective way to do that. The impact on wages is relevant in current climate, but I am keen to see the empirical evidence (historical/international), rather than assumption, on whether or not it does in fact result in lower wage increase. The review of approaches to taxing super is also relevant and timely.

Wage freeze for economic recovery

Poll 39

"A freeze in the minimum wage will support Australia's economic recovery"

Photo credit: Wes Mountain/The ConversationCC BY-ND 




On face value might expect cheaper labour due to a freeze in the minimum wage to increase demand for labour and reduce unemployment. However, it is not clear degree to which that holds in practice. Due to the smaller proportion of Australians covered by the minimum wage compared to in the past, the impact today will also be much less than it would have been a few decades ago. Also has important equity implications in relation to who is bearing the burden of stimulating the recovery. There are more effective and equitable ways to support Australia’s economic recovery.

Social Distancing Measures, May 2020

Poll 38

"The benefits to Australian society of maintaining social distancing measures sufficient to keep R<1 for COVID-19 are likely to exceed the costs"


Strongly agree


Costs include reduced economic activity, higher unemployment, and potential wellbeing loss from constrained social freedoms. Economic costs are appropriately reduced via strong economic policy response, particularly, but not exclusively, via fiscal policy. Another potential cost is secondary morbidity and mortality associated with the displacement of usual or non-COVID care, induced by supply side crowding out ? e.g. of elective surgery to increase COVID related health system capacity ? or by demand side delay in seeking usual care due to concern of exposure to the virus. However, the degree to which usual care has been displaced is yet to be quantified and likely mitigated by recent Government initiatives (e.g. introduction of Medical Benefits Schedule telehealth items, expansion of the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme continued medicine dispensing arrangements) and by the speed with which Australia ?flattened the curve? and was able to recommence elective surgery etc. The benefits importantly include reduced morbidity and mortality from COVID-19 (cases avoided and lives saved) and avoiding further economic loss associated with a second wave if R were not maintained <1. Keeping R<1 should also engender consumer confidence. Possible tradeoff between costs and benefits becomes sharper the closer we move to zero cases so another relevant issue is the timing and staging of easing of social distancing. The proposition could naturally lead to a desire to quantify relative costs and benefits. This leads not only to monetising the value of life (e.g. via value of a statistical life) and health (e.g. via monetary value of a quality adjusted life year (QALY)), but in doing so important to note that the value attached to life and health is normative and depends on value judgements of society and policy makers. Examples include different value of statistical life estimates applied in different contexts and differing monetary value of a quality life years based for for example on age, severity, proximity to end of life when that is considered premature, and the concept of "rule of rescue": perceived duty to save endangered life where possible, particularly where those lives are identifiable.