People who are unemployed, people receiving income support, renters, sole parents, women, children and people with disability are at highest risk of poverty, while those on Youth Allowance experience deepest poverty, according to Poverty in Australia 2023: Who is affected, released today by the Poverty and Inequality Partnership led by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and UNSW Sydney.

The depth of poverty experienced by people on income support payments is severe. Households relying on Youth Allowance are in the deepest poverty, with incomes on average $390 per week below the poverty line. People in households relying on JobSeeker were $269 per week below the poverty line, and people in households relying on parenting payment were $246 per week below the poverty line.

By payment type, 60% of people receiving JobSeeker Payment and 72% of people receiving Parenting Payment live in poverty, compared with one in eight (13%) people and one in six children (17%) in poverty overall, based on the latest available data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

This highlights the failure of relevant payments and supplements to meet essential costs, including the real costs of raising children as a single parent.

The experience of poverty is also highly gendered. Households whose main income-earners were women experienced almost twice the level of poverty in 2019-20 as those whose main income-earner was a man (18% compared with 10%).

Housing status is a major poverty risk, with 1 in 5 people (20%) renting privately and half (52%) of people in public housing living below the poverty line, compared with 10% of mortgage holders and 8% of home-owners without a mortgage.

Sole parent families, migrants from non-English speaking nations and people with a disability are all experiencing poverty at above average levels.

ACOSS CEO Cassandra Goldie said the report provided compelling evidence about the profile of poverty in Australia, who is at greatest risk and how we can end poverty for all.

“The fact that a majority of people relying on unemployment payments and parenting payments are in poverty shows that current income support payments for people who are unemployed and single parent families are totally inadequate to meet the essentials of life.

“The depth of poverty experienced by young people relying on Youth Allowance also highlights the need for urgent action to lift allowances for young people, including students who are now facing severe financial distress.

“The experience of poverty is also highly gendered. Households with women as the main income earner are almost twice as likely to experience poverty as those where men are the main income earner.

“This report provides further evidence of the need for a poverty reduction package in the May Budget to lift working-age income support payments to at least $76 a day, double rent assistance, increase supplements for the extra costs of sole parenthood and disability, complemented by a commitment to full employment and improved employment services.

“The Government also needs to invest in at least 25,000 social housing units per year, with housing costs a major poverty risk for people on low incomes.

“ACOSS strongly welcomes the work of the Economic Inclusion Advisory Committee and the Women’s Economic Equality Taskforce which are both providing advice to government on policies to drive down poverty in Australia, one of the wealthiest countries in the world.”

Carla Treloar, from the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW Sydney, said:

“This research reveals the profile of poverty in Australia and the role that policy settings – particularly payment rates – play in determining poverty.

“The depth of poverty experienced by young people on Youth Allowance is unacceptable. Young people who are trying to start their working life are being left behind. And, we see every day on campus the impact that this has on students who are struggling to pay for essentials while trying to complete their degrees.”

The report used the latest available data from the 2019-20 Australian Bureau of Statistics Survey of Income and Housing.

Read the report at:


Key facts

The following lived below the poverty line in 2019-20

  • 1 in 8 (13%) of all people, including 1 in 6 (17%) children
  • 62% of people in households whose main income earner is unemployed
  • 60% of people on Jobseeker Payment, 72% of people on Parenting Payment and 34% of people on Youth Allowance
  • 34% of people in sole parent families and 11% of people in partnered families with children
  • 18% of households where the main earner is a woman and 10% of households where the main earner is a man
  • 20% of people with disability who need assistance with self-care, mobility or communication
  • 20% of people renting privately and 52% of those in public housing
  • 18% of migrants from a non English-speaking country are in poverty compared with 11% of people born in Australia

Households mainly reliant on income support payments had average weekly incomes well below the poverty line:

  • $197pw less than the poverty line for all income support households (including pensions and working age payments)
  • $390pw less for those relying on Youth Allowance
  • $269pw less for those relying on JobSeeker Payment
  • $246pw less for those relying on Parenting Payment

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