New research by ACOSS and UNSW Sydney reveals the widening wealth gap between people with the most and least, even as income inequality slows.

The latest report from the Poverty and Inequality Partnership, Inequality in Australia 2024: Who is affected and how? shows the average household wealth of Australia’s highest 10% growing much faster than the lowest 60%, from $2.8 million to $5.2 million (an 84% increase) over the past 20 years. Meanwhile, the average wealth of the lowest 60% has risen from $222,000 to $343,000 (a 55% per cent increase).

Nearly half (45%) of the increase in household wealth since 2003 went to the highest 10% (those with at least $2.6 million) and half of this increase to wealthy older people (over 64 years).

Wealth inequality is also growing among households aged under 35, even though they hold just 5% of all wealth. The average wealth of the highest 10% rose from $928,000 to $2 million (an increase of 126%) since 2003. At the same time, the average wealth of the lowest 60% of younger households – largely excluded from home ownership – rose just $68,000 to $80,000 (39%).

The report also shows wage inequality falling between 2021 and 2023, when unemployment dropped below 4%. During that time, wages growth for the lowest 10% (up 4.9%) outpaced the highest 10% (up 3.3%).

Read the full report here.

Income inequality

  • The highest 10% of households by income take home an average of $5,248 after tax, more than two and a half times the middle 20% ($1,989) as well as six times the lowest 20% ($794).
  • The main cause of income inequality is unequal distribution of earnings, driven by inequality of paid working hours and hourly wages.
  • Lower income brackets are more likely to include people receiving Jobseeker and related payments, sole parents, families whose main income-earner is a woman and adult migrants born in non-English speaking countries.
  • Income support and family payments reduce inequality by 9% and income tax by 29%.

Wealth inequality

  • Nearly half of all wealth is held by the highest 10% of households, worth an average $5.2 million each. They hold 15 times’ the wealth of the lowest 60% ($343,000 per household).
  • Over half of the wealth (53%) of older households was owned by one-sixth of older people. They had an average wealth of $5.6 million, comprise 4% of all households but hold 18% of all wealth.
  • The average over-65 household is 25% wealthier (with $1.58 million) than the average middle-aged household (with $1.26 million) and almost four times as wealthy as the average under-35 household (with $410,000).

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