The ACOSS/UNSW ‘2020 Poverty in Australia Overview’ report set the poverty line at 50 per cent of the median household disposable income. It used 2017-18 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics – the latest year for which household income information is available.
It found that housing costs grew “strongly” in the decade to 2017, especially among low income households. Between 2005 and 2017, housing costs for the lowest 20 per cent of working-age households (those under 65 years) grew by 42 per cent compared to 15 per cent growth for the middle 20 per cent of households.
The report also said that 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”.
Research on job availability by Anglicare released last October found there are five low-skilled applicants competing for every entry-level job.
“The low rate of Newstart, a lack of jobs and unaffordable housing are locking people in poverty,” Dr Goldie said.
Other welfare groups, including Mission Australia, Anglicare and the St Vincent de Paul Society used the report to call for an urgent increase in social housing, rent assistance and income support payments.
“The next generation is set up for failure,” St Vincent de Paul national council chief executive Toby oConnor said.
ACOSS recently upped its call for an increase in the Newstart rate from $75 to $95 a week. Social Services Minister Anne Ruston dismissed the call, saying the government was concentrating on getting people into jobs.
In response to the poverty report, a spokeswoman for Senator Ruston pointed to a 2018 Productivity Commission report that said jobless households were amongst those most at risk of various measures of income poverty.
“It is why the Morrison government is focused on growing the economy and getting more people into work,” she said.
“We are delivering on our plan with more than 1.5 million jobs created since the Coalition was elected and welfare dependency among working age Australians falling to 13.5 per cent which is the lowest level in more than 30 years.”
Judith Ireland is a political reporter for the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, based at Parliament House