Calls for action on inequality in Australia have been spurred by new national reports released this week, including the Inequality in Australia 2018 report released by the Australian Council of Social Service and the University of New South Wales (UNSW) and the HILDA Statistical Report 2018.
According to ACTCOSS Director Susan Helyar, “The ACT is often promoted as a privileged jurisdiction but reports like these remind us that pockets of great wealth are a sign of growing inequality. Indeed the Inequality Report shows that Australia has a substantial group of people with ultra-high wealth, among the highest in the world, but there are few signs that this is coming through for those in the bottom 20%. Our Cost of Living research has shown that there has been a persistent and growing gap between incomes and living cost.
“We are learning more about both the situations that lead to inequality and the investments that might make the most difference. Some people are more likely to be in the lowest 20% of incomes due to circumstances including people who are unemployed; single parents; older people; and people born overseas in non-English speaking countries.
“Like ACOSS we know the growth in wealth inequality is not inevitable. We see compelling evidence of the difference an increase to Newstart of $75 per week would make in a single stroke. Sixty-three percent of households where the person receives the Newstart allowance, providing under $40 a day, are in the lowest 5% of incomes.
“Both reports speak to the centrality of housing. Wealth inequality has increased most strongly between people under 35 years, who have experienced a decline in owner occupied housing, while persistent disadvantage exists among many single parents who have consistently had the highest rate of housing stress. In every generation, people in the lowest 40% income groups struggle to make ends meet in the private rental market.
“Mission Australia's latest Youth Survey homelessness findings released today show 16.6% of ACT respondents had experienced homelessness – this is 1 in 6 people and higher than the national figure of 15.6%.
“The ACT Deputy Chief Minister is leading improved targeting of investments and better education attainment outcomes for children and young people who experience disadvantage and/or exclusion. We also need the ACT Government to lead investment in housing affordability for people living on low incomes. Those two measures could turn around growing inequality in our city.
“Action is needed to address the circumstance leading to inequality including support for people experiencing barriers to employment, facing inadequate number of hours, insecure or precarious employment, living with the impacts of violence and trauma and/or unable to access the support they need to navigate adverse circumstances because of difficult life transitions.
“In addition Canberrans feel the impact of energy costs. A report released by St Vincent de Paul this week found that over the past 12 months in the ACT, the total cost of energy, for average consumption households, has increased by 11% (or $380).
“Federal Parliament must also join the growing chorus of Australians, including the ACT Chief Minister, in getting behind proposal to Raise the Rate of Newstart and other allowances”, Ms Helyar said.
For more information or comment please contact
Susan Helyar, Director, on 0448 791 987 or 02 6202 7200.