There are many causes of poverty in Australia. It has been almost 30 years since then Australian Prime Minister, Bob Hawke, said, “No child will be living in poverty by 1990.” However, poverty in this country has not decreased despite recent economic growth.
Cassandra Goldie, chief executive of Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) called it a “national shame.” Despite 25 years of continued economic growth, the poverty rate has not budged. The percentage of people living in poverty rose from 12 percent in 2004 to 13 percent in 2014. Moreover, Australia has the second-highest rate of workers employed in insecure work – a total of 40 percent. Children are the worst-affected by poverty in Australia; 17 percent of children live below the poverty line. The percentage of children living in poverty is especially high for single-parent families. The number rose from 37 percent in 2012 to 41 percent in 2014.
What are the causes of poverty in Australia? Some activists blame the growing wage gap in the country. Australia’s wealthiest 10 percent own 45 percent of the capital in the country, and the gap is only widening. The wealth of the top 20 percent has increased by 28 percent between 2012 and 2014. Meanwhile, the bottom 20 percent have experienced a wealth increase of only three percent. The average wage increased by 50 percent between 1985 and 2010. Meanwhile, the poorest 10 percent experienced only a 14 percent wage increase.
Another reason that is suggested as a cause of poverty in Australia is the cuts to welfare payments and housing. Goldie claims that budget cuts to welfare payments directly affect the ability of the impoverished to gain employment. Public housing is also not widespread enough. There are more than 150,000 applicants waiting to find available space in public housing.
The decline of unions is also suggested as one of the causes of poverty in Australia. Unions help drive up wages and economic equality. However, lately, union membership has decreased. This means that ordinary workers get less political power.
Prime Minister of Australia, Malcolm Turnbull, needs to focus more energy on addressing poverty. This means increasing shelter for the homeless, encouraging union membership and driving up the minimum wage. There are many causes of poverty in Australia, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be addressed in order to begin seeing improvement.
– Bruce Edwin Ayres Truax