Poverty in Australia is a major policy and advocacy focus for ACOSS.
Poverty can be measured in different ways, including as a measure of income or wealth, using ‘poverty lines’; or by looking at what essential items people are missing out on through lack of income, or by having to spend more of their income on certain costs above others. For example, spending on housing and utilities instead of food. This is known as ‘deprivation’.
Our Poverty in Australia 2016 report uses as the main poverty measure the number of people living below the poverty line of 50% of median household income. This is the poverty line used by the OECD, and in 2014 (the latest year for which figures are available) equated to a disposable income of less than $400 a week for a single adult.
This report showed that, despite Australia’s 20 year economic growth, there are three million people living in poverty in Australia.
Of the three million people living in poverty in Australia, 731,000 are children.
One in six (17.4%) of children under the age of 15 lives in poverty.
How can we address child poverty in Australia, and ensure a future for all children? Our briefing, A future for all children looks at the facts about child poverty and what changes we can make to ensure that no child need live in poverty.
Poverty and Inequality in Australia
ACOSS has produced a number of Poverty in Australia reports. As part of our series on Poverty and Inequality in Australia, ACOSS has produced a number of “Poverty in Australia” reports. Below is some information about the most recent of these:
In October 2016, ACOSS released a new report revealing that poverty is growing in Australia, with an estimated 2.9 million people or 13.3% of all people living below the internationally accepted poverty line.
The report provides the most up to date picture of poverty in the nation drawing on new data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Income and Expenditure surveys for 2013-14 and previous years. It found that 731,300 or 17.4% of all children were living in poverty in Australia.
ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie said:
“The overall picture from the last decade is one of persistent and entrenched poverty across the community with an increase in child poverty. It is a national shame that after 25 years of economic growth, we have not done better at changing this trajectory and ensuring our most precious national resource, our children, are given the best possible start in life.
“This report is a further wake up call to the Government to address the inadequacy of the lowest income support payments and bolster support to low income families through the family payments system. It is also a reminder that housing remains the biggest cost of living issue for households and must be addressed as a policy priority.”
Read full media release: Child poverty on the rise: 730,000 children in poverty .
Summary of key findings
- 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.
- 2,990,300 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.
- Child poverty in Australia increased by 2 percentage points over the decade 2003-04 to 2013-14.
- 36.1% 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.
- 57.3% 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.
- 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%). Only 15.5% of people living below the poverty line were home-owners.
About the Poverty Report
This Poverty in Australia 2016 report is the 5th in ACOSS’ poverty series and updates earlier reports with new data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics Income and Expenditure surveys for 2013-14 and previous years. It uses the internationally accepted poverty line, defined as 50% of median household income, and adjusts for housing costs. The report was written in conjunction with the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of New South Wales.