Poverty rates continue to increase

Nearly three million Australians live below the poverty line, a new report has found.

The overall poverty rate has failed to reduce in the decade to 2014, despite 25 years of economic growth in Australia. About 74,000 Tasmanians are living below the poverty line.  The Australian Council of Social Services 2016 Poverty in Australia report found the poverty rate for children remained significantly higher than for adults, increasing from 36.8 percent in 2012 to 40.6 per cent in 2014.  

Providing vulnerable members of the community with adequate resources to move out of poverty was seen as fundamental to preventing the 16 per cent of Tasmanian children living below the poverty line from being entrenched in generational poverty.  

Tasmania Council of Social Services chief executive Kym Goodes said the longer someone experiences poverty, the more difficult it becomes to move out of poverty.

“Persistent poverty also causes psychological distress and often results in a lifetime of physical and mental ill-health,” she said.

In the 10-years to 2014, single parents have experienced the highest poverty rates at 33.2 per cent.   The poverty line for a single parent with two children before household costs is $682.07 a week after tax.  More than half of the people living below the poverty line relied on welfare payments as their main source of income, but a third relied on wages. 

 “Increased casualisation of the workforce and the gender-based disparity between pay all contribute to underemployment and the lack of a living wage,” Ms Goodes said.

Increasing payments to income supplements such as NewStart and securing meaningful employment has the potential to help transition Tasmanians out of poverty, she said.

“Australia is a wealthy country and we should not continue to see so many of our citizens, our children forced to live in poverty.”

The poverty line for a single person with no children before household costs is $426.30 a week after tax.  Australia’s 2014 poverty rate ranks 14th highest out of 36 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries.

ACOSS chief executive Doctor Cassandra Goldie said the idea of poverty as an individual issue needs to be shifted to the idea that it is a shared issue.  Social Policy Research Centre partnered with ACOSS for the report.