Australia Fair report: Australia Slipping behind other Rich Nations

A new Australia Fair report shows that the number of Australians living in poverty has increased over the past 10 years. Using an international poverty line of 50% of median income, the numbers increased from 7.6% to 9.9% of the population between 1994 and 2004, or nearly 2 million Australians. This measure is used extensively in OECD countries. Using the same poverty line used in the UK and Ireland, 60% of median income, poverty has risen from 17.1% of the population in 1994 to 19.8%, or 3.8 million Australians, in 2004.

Australia Fair spokesperson, Andrew Johnson, said, “In the current good economic times, with a large budget surplus, it’s not fair that 2 million Australians are struggling to access necessities like affordable housing and dental care.”

John Falzon said, “Governments need a comprehensive plan with targets to tackle disadvantage in Australia, which is the approach taken in 22 out of 30 OECD countries.”

The new report, Australia Fair: International Comparisons 2007, looks at how Australia compares with other OECD nations. The report examines 10 areas such as health, education, housing and work, which were identified by the Australian public as essential to ensure a fair go for all Australians. The report compares Australia’s economic performance with that of other OECD nations, outlines the latest research on the number of Australians living below poverty lines and identifies where Australia is falling behind other nations in realising a fair go for all its people.

The report finds that there are many indicators that show that our nation’s performance is well above average in the OECD, for example in life expectancy, home ownership and economic growth. However there are areas in which we rank poorly across each of the 10 essentials to make Australia fair, for example the gap of life expectancy between Indigenous Australians and the rest of the community, the cost of owning or renting a house or visiting a dentist.

Lin Hatfield Dodds said, “There are too many areas where Australia is falling behind other OECD nations. Governments need to ensure the benefits of the economic prosperity are shared with all Australians.”

Key facts from the report:

  • Australia is ranked only 14th out of 18 OECD countries on the UN Human Poverty Index, behind most of Western Europe;
  • Australia is in the bottom third of rich nations for oral health for adults;
  • Australian spends less than the OECD average on education and we spend less than almost any OECD nation on early childhood education;
  • While Australia’s home ownership rate (70%) is one of the highest in the OECD, housing affordability is worse here than in any other English speaking OECD country;
  • While the Indigenous populations in NZ, the USA and Canada all have worse health than the rest of the population, the gap between Indigenous life expectancy and the rest of the population in Australia is approximately double the gap in NZ, USA and Canada;
  • While Australia’s unemployment rate is relatively low, the proportion of the working age population living in households where no one works is 5th highest in the OECD.