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Saturday, October 01 2022
World

‘1mn Australians live in severe poverty amid rising cost of living’

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Canberra: A new report has revealed that up to 1 million Australians live in “severe poverty” as welfare support struggles to keep pace with the nation’s rising cost of living.

The report, “Behind the Line: Poverty and Disadvantage in Australia 2022”, published by the Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre, an independent economic and social research organisation located within the Curtin Business School at Curtin University, showed that some of Australia’s poorest families had less than A$150 ($109) per week after housing costs, reports Xinhua news agency.

“Housing costs have risen quite sharply in Australia recently…for those people at the bottom of the income distribution, that’s actually causing quite a lot of strain,” author of the report Alan Duncan told Xinhua.

The report looked at poverty in Australia at two depths, “poverty”, defined as having a total income at 50 per cent of median wages, and “severe poverty”, 30 per cent of median wage.

According to national median wage data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), this meant people living in poverty would have under A$500 a week, and those living in severe poverty, under A$300.

The report highlighted that nearly 12 per cent of Australia’s population lived in some level of poverty, including nearly 750,000 children.

Duncan said any further increases in rent would likely be “financially catastrophic” for up to 1 million Australians living below these poverty lines.

He called for the increase of federal low-income assistance, Commonwealth Rent Assistance (CRA) and Jobseeker, which amount to a total of A$386 a week, while rent in major cities is often in excess of A$250.

“To manage short term situation…a more structural process that embeds increases or changes in supports, according to your cost of living or costs of housing (may be required),” said Duncan.

He added that these payments should serve as just one point of support in a wider network of assistance that helps people break the cycle of unemployment and poverty, which are often closely intertwined.

“There are more things that I think one can potentially do in concert, to respond to different groups that are in need.”

Of these groups he pointed to people who had recently lost employment during the pandemic, women, and ethnic or linguistic minorities who were shown in the report to be more vulnerable to poverty.

“If you care about gender equality…if you care about fairness and equality across different groups, you care about economic efficiency, if you care about any or all of those things you should care about poverty.”

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