Here in Australia we’re far from immune from the scourge of poverty. As today’s release of the UNSW Sydney and the Australian Council of Social Service’s (ACOSS) Poverty in Australia 2018 report highlights, millions of Australians are currently living below the poverty line.
Produced every two years this detailed study is a must read for anybody concerned with understanding just how prevalent poverty is in our country.
We strongly recommend taking the time to read the full report. But for those of you who don’t have time to go through the whole document we’ve distilled it down to 7 key findings.
1. Three million Australians live below the poverty line
Australia has entered its twenty-seventh consecutive year of economic growth. There are few countries in the world – let alone the developed world – who can boast of such an achievement; however, the fruits of this prosperity have not been evenly shared.
According to the Poverty in Australia 2018 report there are now more than three million Australians living below the poverty line, including more than 730,000 children. Even without such a sustained run of economic growth this figure would be a concerning, but when you consider the overall state of the economy, it’s nothing short of shocking.
2. More than 730,000 of those are children under 15
Probably the most concerning of the report’s findings is the revelation that 739,000 Aussie kids are living below the poverty line.
The report found that “a major source of child poverty is the high poverty rate among sole-parent families, who must generally rely on a single income.”
3. Children in single parent families are three times more likely to live in poverty
Nearly 40 per cent of the 739,000 children who live below the poverty line come from sole parent households.
Children in sole parent households are three times more likely to be living in poverty than their counterparts in couple families.
4. More than 60 per cent of people on Youth Allowance live below the poverty line
Despite what the Federal Government likes to tell us about how generous our social welfare benefits are, the Poverty in Australia 2018 report paints a very different picture.
Right now 35 per cent of people who receive social security payments are living below the poverty line, including a massive 63 per cent of those receiving Youth Allowance.
5. Just under 40 per cent of all recipients of the Disability Pension are living in poverty
Another shameful finding highlighted in the report is the discovery that so many disabled Australians are struggling to make ends meet.
While people with a disability tend to have poorer employment outcomes than able bodied Australians, it’s disappointing so see that our social security system doesn’t take this into consideration when calculating support pensions.
According to the report, “more than one-third of people in households whose reference person receives the Disability Support Pension is in poverty (36 per cent), while 17 per cent of people in households whose reference person receives a Carer Payment are below the poverty line.”
6. Only 17% of people living below the poverty line are homeowners
Just as full-time employment is a pretty reliable insurance policy against poverty, so is home ownership. Only 17 per cent of home owners (with or without a mortgage) in Australia currently live below the poverty line.
Unsurprisingly, 49 per cent of Australians doing it tough reside in a private rental.
7. Australia’s poverty rate (remains) the 14th highest in the OECD
In line with the historical contempt we feel towards ‘tall poppies’, we’re remarkably average when it comes to keeping our citizens out of poverty.
Yeah we’re outperforming big brother, the United States, but we’re not performing as well as we should be.
After 27 years of sustained economic growth – something that no other developed country has achieved – we should be trending closer to our European counterparts when it comes to our poverty ratios.
Don’t be discouraged, there’s cause for hope
Despite the fact that three million Australians are doing it really tough, we are seeing some improvements.
The 2007-08 global financial crisis forced huge amounts of people across the developed world into poverty, and here in Australia, we were no different. During the tumultuous GFC period our headline poverty rate actually skyrocketed close to 15 per cent.
We’ve managed to bring this down to 13 per cent. However, while we’ve made some good short-term progress we still have more people living in poverty today than we did in 2003-04.
Photography by: Dan Romeo