The comparative economic status of CDEP and non-CDEP community residents in the Northern Territory in 1991

Author/editor: Altman, JC, Hunter, B
Year published: 1996
Issue no.: 107


The Community Development Employment Projects (CDEP) scheme is a program where participants forego social security entitlements and work for rough equivalents of these entitlements. The scheme has expanded rapidly over the past decade and now operates in 250 Indigenous communities. While the scheme has multiple objectives, it is arguably primarily a labour market program. While there is a growing body of research about the scheme, key research and policy questions about the labour market effects of the scheme on participating communities, in contrast to other communities, have never been asked.

This paper represents the first attempt to compare labour market outcomes at a sample of CDEP and non-CDEP communities in the Northern Territory. This exercise is undertaken with community profile data (on Indigenous people only) from the 1991 Census: ten CDEP and nine nearby non-CDEP communities are compared. Five variables – labour force status, industry structure, occupational status, sector of employment and income status – are analysed.

The paper's results are potentially of considerable policy significance. While official employment levels at CDEP communities are predictably higher than at non-CDEP communities, these levels exceed the direct effect of scheme participation. However, income status at CDEP communities is a little lower than at non-CDEP communities, a puzzling outcome given the options to earn additional income when participating in the scheme. Another puzzling outcome, counter to the views of some researchers, is that there is little statistical evidence of the scheme being used as a substitution funding regime. It is recommended that results are treated with caution given the regional focus of this exploratory analysis.

ISBN: 0 7315 1781 4

ISSN:1036 1774

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