Australia and the U.S. are both liberal welfare states. During the past quarter century, they have begun the transition from a welfare to a workfare state, albeit at different rates and through different paths. Social work developed in each country in ways congruent with the local liberal welfare state, and as such, has been destabilized by the transition to the workfare regime. Drawing on neo-institutional theory and extant empirical research in other professionalized fields, the paper suggests that this transition can be understood as an aspect of institutional change. By comparing the developments in two similar, yet difterent nations, this analytical framework provides fresh insights into the nature, motives, and consequences of the transition and its impact on social work. Further, by adopting the comparative approach, the paper demonstrates that the theoretical framework used has utility beyond specific nation state boundaries to understand developments in social work more broadly.

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