In partnership with UNSW Sydney, the Australian Council of Social Service has released the findings of its Inequality in Australia 2018 report, which highlights the stark disparity between high income earners and those on the lowest incomes. The report also examines the distribution of wealth in Australia, challenging the notion of the ‘land of the fair go’, and tracks changes in income and wealth inequality over time through the latest available data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

Key findings

  • The gap  between  those with the highest and lowest incomes in Australia is unacceptably large: a person in  the  highest  20%  lives  in  a  household  with  five  times  as  much  disposable  income  as  someone in the lowest 20%.
  • The highest 1% earns as much in a fortnight as the lowest 5% receives in a year.
  • Incomes are very concentrated: the top 20%  collectively  receives  40%  of  all  household  income,  more  than  the  lowest  60%
  • Some people are more likely to be in the lowest 20% due to their circumstances: people who are unemployed (77%), older people (39%), sole parents (36%), people living outside capital cities in SA, TAS, VIC or NSW (over 25% in all cases), and people born in non-English speaking countries (24%).
  • Although income inequality has plateaued after its peak during the Global Financial Crisis, wealth inequality in Australia continues to increase.
  • As such, wealth is even more unequally distributed: The average wealth of a household in the highest 20% is 100 times that of the lowest 20%.
  • For people under 35, wealth inequality increased both in relation to older Australians and, most strongly, within their age group.

However, the report highlights, rising inequality ‘is not inevitable and tax, transfer, labour market and education policies can and must play a more effective role in reducing divisions in our community’.

(Source: Media release | Report | Factsheet | Watch the launch)


More from the blog:

Good Times, Bad Times, by Peter Whiteford

Measuring Inequality of Opportunities, by Arturo Martinez Jr, Tina Rampino, Mark Western, Wojtek Tomaszewski and Jude David Roque

Complexity and Inequality in Fiscal Systems: A Conversation Between Vito Tanzi, Stephen Howes, Roger Bradbury, Peter Whiteford and Miranda Stewart, by Emily Millane

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