2020 Poverty in Australia Overview

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The 2020 Poverty in Australia Overview by the Australian Council of Social Service and UNSW Sydney reports that 3.24 million people in Australia are living below the poverty line. They include more than one in eight adults and one in six children. In response, ACOSS has called on government to boost growth in jobs, increase Newstart and Rent Assistance, and invest in social housing.

We want to support each other. It’s who we are as a nation. But our economy is leaving people behind, with persistently high poverty rates despite decades of uninterrupted economic growth. People living in poverty include young people working to get their foot in the door of the competitive job market, single parents juggling caring responsibilities, and older people confronting age discrimination. The job market is changing, with jobs less secure, and fewer entry level jobs than there used to be. Our housing costs are among the highest in the world and are locking people in poverty. For households of working age with the lowest incomes, average housing costs rose by 42% from 2005 to 2017. Australia’s income support system was designed to help people when they are going through tough times. But key income support payments – Newstart and Youth Allowance – have not increased in real terms in 26 years and they are both well below the poverty line.

Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO Australian Council of Social Service

The report’s lead researcher, UNSW Sydney Associate Professor Dr Bruce Bradbury said: “The poverty rate in Australia is worse than in most other wealthy countries, including New Zealand, Germany and Ireland. Our report finds that 13.6 per cent of people in Australia are living in poverty and that poverty rates have remained at about this level for the past decade, despite economic growth. Child poverty has consistently been higher than overall poverty, ranging from 18 per cent to 16 per cent over the past decade and now sits at 17.7 per cent – more than one in six children.”

Professor Carla Treloar, Director of the Social Policy Research Centre, UNSW Sydney, said: “We cannot accept these high, persistent levels of overall poverty and child poverty. We can see in recent decades the impacts of changes to income support settings on poverty levels. It’s clear we must take action on income support, housing and employment to lift people out of poverty.”

The full report can be read here.