MORE than 750,000 Australian children are living in poverty, part of a bleak snapshot in one of the wealthiest countries that the St Vincent de Paul Society says is setting the next generation up for failure.
The 2020 Poverty in Australia Overview, released on February 21 by the Australian Council of Social Service and UNSW Sydney, shows one in six children and more than three million people – one in eight – are living below the bread line.
St Vincent de Paul Society National Council chief executive Toby oConnor said the report “highlights the persistent, deepening poverty in Australia”.
“The next generation is set up for failure because of increased housing costs and failed policy around social housing, stagnant rates of income support and slow wage growth,” Mr oConnor said.
“The Government can reduce poverty by boosting jobs growth, increasing Newstart and Rent Assistance and investing in social housing.”
Australian Council of Social Service chief executive Cassandra Goldie said “our economy is leaving people behind, with persistently high poverty rates despite decades of uninterrupted economic growth”.
Dr Goldie said Australians living in poverty included young people trying to start their working lives, single parents and older people who came up against age discrimination.
The 2020 poverty overview set the poverty line at 50 per cent of the median household disposable income and it found housing costs among the highest in the world, locking people into a cycle of poverty.
For households of working age with the lowest incomes, average housing costs rose by 42 per cent from 2005 to 2017 (the latest year that household income information is available).
The report also said the “freezing” of the dole, which has not seen a rise in real terms since 1994, together with the transfer of some single parents from the Parenting Payment to the lower Newstart Allowance, “increased poverty and the depth of poverty”.
The report found the job market was changing, with jobs less secure, and fewer entry-level jobs than there used to be.
Mr oConnor said the 2020 poverty overview highlighted the persistent, deepening poverty.
“In Australia the poverty line, which is measured as 50 per cent of median income, is $457 a week for a single adult,” Mr oConnor said.
“The average poverty gap (the gap between the poverty line and the incomes of people in poverty) is $282 a week.
“Every day, Vincentians work with people who are struggling with a range of issues in communities across Australia.
“For many, their struggle is exacerbated by persistent, grinding poverty.”
Mr oConnor said the 2020 poverty overview was an important measure.
“We track GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and other economic indicators we consider important,” he said.
“We must also track poverty, or nothing will change.”