Wage Increase is Not Enough
Wage Increase is Not Enough; Increased Income Support Needed to Alleviate Australians from Poverty
A 4.6% increase in minimum wage took effect on October 1, 2022, hoping to combat the ongoing cost of living pressures in Australia. The increase is expected to benefit more than 400,000 low-paid workers in several key industries, such as tourism, aviation, and hospitality, with full-time employees expecting to receive a minimum of $40 extra income per week.
The news is a welcome relief to those who have suffered during the pandemic. But is this Wage Increase is Not Enough?
A recent report released by The Poverty in Australia 2022 shows that around 3.3 million people in the country, including 761,000 children, live in poverty. This information was based on the partnership research conducted by the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and UNSW Sydney.
According to ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie, the numbers were concerning. “These figures should be a source of great shame for our nation. We can and must do better,” she added.
Director of the Social Policy Research Centre at UNSW Sydney Professor Carla Treloar shared the sentiment of Dr Goldie. According to her, the report highlights the unacceptable levels of poverty in Australia.
What are the key findings of the Poverty in Australia 2022 report?
Here are the key findings contained in the report:
- More than one in eight people in Australia, or roughly 3,319,000 people, were living below the poverty line during the first year of the pandemic, 2019-2020.
- One in six children, or 761,000, also live in poverty.
- Poverty rate surged to 14.6% in the quarter of March 2020 as a result of COVID-19 restrictions. In the quarter of June 2020, the figures fell to a 17-year low of 12% as a result of temporary income support payments. The support payments, which include Coronavirus Supplement and Economic Support Payment, moved up 646,000 people or 2.6% of the population above the poverty line.
- In September 2019, about 16.2% of children were below the poverty line. The percentage of impoverished children soared to 19% in March 2020, then dropped to a two-decade low of 13.7% in the quarter of June 2020.
- People already living in poverty further fell behind the rest of the society, as their average weekly incomes dropped to $304 below the poverty level.
- Social security payments for single adults with no private income went from $134 below the poverty line to $146 above the poverty line due to boosted income support. The same is true for single parents with two children—from $119 to $176. For couples without children, they went from $152 below to $411 above the poverty line.
What can Australia do about poverty?
The government should increase income support. As shown by the data collected by the two research groups, the temporary income supports that were introduced during the 2020 pandemic were shown to pull people up from the poverty line to above it. Again, the numbers do not lie.
During the first quarter of 2020, the poverty rate was as high as 14.6%, but the rate dropped to a 17-year-low of 12% in April of the same year when boosted income support payments were announced.
The same is true when it comes to children who are in poverty. During the quarter of March 2020, 19% of the children population was in poverty. In the June quarter of 2020, 245,000 children or 13.7%, were lifted above the poverty line.
Unfortunately, the $275 weekly Coronavirus Supplement was abolished in April 2021. It was replaced by JobSeeker and other related payments that only amount to $25 a week.
According to Dr Goldie, Jobseeker and related payments should be at least $73 per day. In addition, there must be an increase in Commonwealth Rent Assistance as well as in substantial investment in social housing. She also suggested investing in energy efficiency and solar retrofits for low-income people.
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