Excessive inequality is a problem for any society. It means that people have unequal ability to take part in social and economic opportunities, and it undermines the cohesiveness of that society.

Excessive inequality is a problem for any economy. Resources become concentrated in fewer hands, resulting in reduced economic participation for the majority. Practically, this results in fewer new businesses started; fewer house purchases; and fewer purchasing of goods and services. It also leads to increased dependency on government intervention.

There is a widening gap between the highest and lowest income earners in most wealthy countries; and this gap has been widening over the past twenty to thirty years. Those in the top 10% of income earners are pulling away from the majority at an increasing rate.

In a country that prides itself on its egalitarian traditions, the reality of income and wealth inequality in Australia comes as a shock to many.

 Watch the video: Inequality in Australia: A nation divided

fact sheetIn June 2015, ACOSS released our report into inequality in Australia, part of our Poverty and Inequality in Australia series. Read the media release here. This report was supported by: the Social Justice Fund, a sub-fund of Australian Communities Foundation; Anglicare Australia; The Salvation Army; and the St Vincent de Paul Society.

Along with that report, we have released a factsheet on inequality in Australia.

This factsheet outlines the current situation of income and wealth inequality in Australia, and places the situation into context.

The factsheet, and other communications resources for this project, were supported by the Reichstein Foundation and by BB & A Miller Fund, Hartline Fund, and Social Justice Fund, sub-funds of Australian Communities Foundation.

The Inequality Report 2015inequality report front

Inequality in Australia: A nation divided was released on 22 June 2015.

This report revealed that, when it comes to income inequality, Australia’s income inequality is higher than average for the OECD, although not as bad as in the US or the UK.

In terms of average income, somebody in the highest 20% has around five times as much income as somebody in the lowest 20% income group.

In terms of average wealth, somebody in the highest 20% has around seventy times as much wealth as somebody in the lowest 20% wealth group.

The paper that reveals the methodology behind the report is available here.

An HTML version of the report is available at:


community-perspectives-social-inequality2Perceptions of inequality

Paired with ACOSS’ report on inequality, Ipsos, in conjunction with ACOSS, has produced a report into perceptions of inequality. This report provides an insight into how inequality is perceived in Australia. It shows that people care strongly about the fairness of Australian society; and shows that there is a perception that the fairness for which Australia is renowned is declining. The report shows genuine concern about how others are faring; older people worrying about how young people will get paid work; the perception that first-time home buyers are struggling in today’s property market; and a concern that spans the generations about how older people are faring.

How do you fare in the inequality stakes?

Inequality in Australia: A nation divided looks at inequality through the lens of income and wealth inequality by household, based on 2012 figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (the latest available data).

The table below gives the average income and wealth by household in each quintile (a statistical value representing 20% of the population, of which the first quintile represents the lowest fifth of the population, 1-20%; the second quintile represents the second fifth, 21-40% and so on), to show how your household fares when it comes to income and wealth in equality in Australia.ACOSS_Inequality_factsheet_2015-tables


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