hands opening empty wallet

A new analysis by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and UNSW Sydney shows national poverty rates remain high despite Australia experiencing decades of uninterrupted economic growth. The Poverty in Australia 2018 Report finds there are just over 3 million people (13.2%) living below the relative poverty line, including 739,000 children (17.3%). In Australia, the poverty line is defined as a single adult living on less than $433 a week, or $909 for a couple with two children. The report finds:

  • One in eight adults and more than one in six children are living in poverty.
  • Many of those affected are living in deep poverty, on average, a staggering $135 per week below the poverty line.
  • Unsurprisingly, those experiencing poverty at the highest rates are those unable to get paid work, relying on Government allowances – Youth Allowance and Newstart.

ACOSS Chief Executive Officer Dr Cassandra Goldie said: “The evidence released today shows that through social security, housing and employment policies, as a nation we choose the level of poverty we are prepared to accept.

“The Government argues that poverty in Australia is not the problem. They are wrong. People on the lowest incomes cannot afford to pay for the very basics of life – housing, food, energy, health and getting their teeth fixed. Poverty is now a consistent feature of Australian life. Are we prepared to accept this?

“The solutions to tackling poverty are clear. We must lift the adequacy of our social security safety net for those most acutely affected – people living on Youth Allowance and Newstart, boost family payments for the lowest income families and index these payments to wages. A serious boost to social and affordable housing is long overdue, as well as an adequate increase to Commonwealth Rent Assistance. A complete overhaul of employment services, and a commitment to full employment is essential, as is a guarantee of at least 2 days of early childhood education and care for every child, regardless of their background.

“Australia is one of the wealthiest countries in the world. With strong signs in the economy, and an improved Federal budget position, the top priority for any Prime Minister must be to end poverty in all its forms, not deliver another round of tax cuts.

“It is time that our politicians stopped talking about themselves and turned their attention to the issues that the community cares about,” Dr Goldie said.

UNSW Professor Peter Saunders, lead researcher, said: “The Australian Government has joined other nations in adopting the Sustainable Development Goals, a framework for national and global development. These Goals include reducing by half poverty rates for men, women and children by 2030, but we are a long way from achieving them. Australia lacks a poverty reduction plan and we do not have regular monitoring and reporting by governments on progress to address poverty.

“This report seeks, in part, to fill that data gap and our hope is that, informed by this research, action to reduce poverty becomes a national priority for governments, business and the community,” Professor Saunders said.

Read more findings and download report (scroll down past media release)

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