7. POVERTY

7. POVERTY

Povert in Australia

The Australian Council of Social Security (ACOSS) Social Policy Research Centre published a report in 2016 outlining the extent of entrenched poverty in Australia.

A summary of their report is outlined as follows;

“ In 2014, the 50% of median income poverty line for a single adult was $426.30 a week (or $343.00 for income after housing costs). For a couple with children it was $895.22 a week (or $720.22 after housing). Using the after-housing poverty line, the headline poverty rate in 2014 is 13.3%, slightly lower than the 2012 rate (13.9%).¹

Long term analysis indicates an overall trend of persistent and entrenched poverty over the decade. Of most concern, there was a 2% increase in child poverty from 2004 to 2014, with the trend most pronounced for children in lone parent families.

Poverty in Australia

AUSTRALIAN POVERTY

Internationally, Australia’s poverty rate remains above the OECD average, despite our relative prosperity.

In population terms, there were 2.99 million people living below the poverty line after taking account of housing costs in 2014.² The poverty rate for children remained significantly higher than for adults at 17.4%, affecting 731,000 children. This was little changed from 2012 when the child poverty rate was 17.7%. Of concern, the child poverty rate for children in lone parent families increased from 36.8% in 2012 to 40.6% in 2014.

By family type, lone parents experience the highest poverty rates at 33.2% and this has been a consistent trend throughout the decade. The rate of poverty for lone parents has increased since 2012, a year in which 80,000 sole parents were moved from pension to (much lower) allowance payments. Children in lone families are more than three times more likely to be living in poverty than their counterparts in couple families, with a poverty rate of 40.6% compared to 12.5%.

SOCIAL SECURITY

The majority of people below the poverty line relied on social security as their main source of income (57.3%), but a significant proportion received wages as their main income (32%). This division has not changed significantly from the previous reports, with wage earners comprising about a third of those in poverty in 2010 (29%) and 2012 (33%).

While an overall minority of people receiving social security payments fell under the poverty line in 2014 (36.1%), a majority of Newstart (55%) and Parenting Payment (51.5%) recipients were in this category.

A number of social security payments fell significantly below the poverty line, including most notably the unemployment payment. For a single person with no children, Newstart in 2013-14 fell $109.55 per week below the poverty line. Youth Allowance was even further below: for a single person with no children it fell $158.63 per week below the poverty line. These figures take Rent Assistance into account, so the gaps were even higher for households not eligible for this supplementary payment.

Unemployed households experienced poverty at the highest rate of all the population groups analysed at 63.2%, a 2% increase since 2012. People of working age not in the labour force had a poverty rate of 43.9% and lone parent families 33.2%.

Analysis by housing tenure shows that the vast majority of people below the poverty line were in rental housing in 2014 (59.7%), with most in private rental housing (44.2%) compared with 11.4% in public. Only 15.5% of people living below the poverty line were homeowners, with a slightly higher proportion being mortgagees than outright owners.”

Entrenched Poverty in Australia

“SNAPSHOP OF POVERTY IN AUSTRALIA – IN 2014:

  • The poverty line (50% of median income) for a single adult was $426.30 a week. For a couple with 2 children, it was $895.22 a week.
  • 99 million people (13.3% of the population), were living below the poverty line, after taking account of their housing costs. 
  • 731,300 children under the age of 15 (17.4% of all children) were living below the poverty line. 
  • The proportion of people in poverty was slightly lower than in 2012, a decrease of 0.6%, from 13.9% in 2012. However, the 2014 headline poverty rate reflects persistent and entrenched poverty over the decade.
  • Child poverty in Australia increased by 2 percentage points over the decade 2003-04 to 2013-14.
  • 1% of people receiving social security payments were living below the poverty line, including 55% of those receiving Newstart Allowance, 51.5% receiving Parenting Payment, 36.2% of those receiving Disability Support Pension, 24.3% receiving Carer Payment, and 13.9% of those on the Age Pension.
  • 3% of people below the poverty line relied upon social security as their main income and 32.1% relied upon wages as their main income.
  • Between 2012 and 2014, poverty rates increased for: children in lone parent families (36.8 to 40.6%), those receiving Youth Allowance (50.6 to 51.8% and those receiving Parenting Payment (47.2 to 51.5%). They remained very high (61.4% to 59.9%) from 2007 to 2014 for unemployed households.”

It is noted that much of this report is based on the situation in 2014 and since that time economic conditions and the housing market have only made conditions more extreme and increased the extent of endemic poverty within our community.

Catherine Yeomans, the CEO of Mission Australia comments that;

“This report highlights the urgent need to redouble our efforts to tackle entrenched poverty. We know that for so many of our service users the crippling cost of rent is a significant proportion of their income. Addressing the affordable and social housing crisis is one way we can start to break the cycle of poverty.”

Poverty is all about people and in 2019 we must learn about caring for each other because we are all connected.

It is hoped that in some small way, this study will help.

 

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