06 November 2018

Rising Inequality?: A stocktake of the evidence

This report from the Productivity Commission provides the latest and most complete evidence measuring the prevalence of, and trends in, inequality, economic mobility and disadvantage across Australian society. Income inequality has increased modestly since the late 1980s, but the extent of the increase is contested, and since the global financial crisis the trend indicates a slight decline. Australia’s level of inequality is close to the OECD country average. Nine per cent of Australians (2.2 million people) lived below the relative income poverty line in 2015-16. The relative income poverty rate in Australia has fluctuated, but is currently close to its average level over the past three decades. The demographics of poverty reveal that jobless households, particularly those with children, experience the highest poverty rates. Age wise, children and older people (65+ years) have been the most likely to experience both income and consumption poverty. The length of time people spend in poverty is as important as the rate of poverty. About half of Australians experienced income poverty at some point between 2001 and 2016. Most of these experiences (79 per cent) lasted less than three years. However, a small proportion of people get ‘stuck’ in poverty for extended periods. Six per cent of poverty spells lasted six years or longer.