Alarming increase in Australians living in extreme poverty


Fewer Aussies are living in poverty but the poor are getting poorer.

People who live alone and single parents are struggling most.

There's concern the COVID crisis will make it harder for households to stay afloat as handouts run out.

University of Melbourne research shows about 15 per cent of households nationwide are living in poverty, down from almost a fifth a decade ago.

But the proportion of households in extreme poverty - classed as less than a quarter of the median household income - increased slightly to 3.9 per cent.

Melbourne Institute Professor Abigail Payne, based at the University of Melbourne, told the Herald Sun: "If we are just looking at the national poverty rate we are missing the deeper story."

"There are deep pockets of entrenched poverty,'' Professor Payne.

"It's a national issue we really have to dig into at a community level."


Researchers examined poverty rates between 2006 and 2016 using three sets of Census data.

Poverty was classed as having a household income less than 60 per cent of the nationwide median.

Extreme poverty was as high as 6.9 per cent among singles, who survived on less than $166 a week.

It was 3.9 per cent among single parents, with those who had one child living off less than $216 a week.

"If they are in poverty it is a lot harder for them to get out of poverty,'' Professor Payne said.

"They only have one income."

National Council of Single Mothers and their Children chief executive officer Terese Edwards said her organisation's own research showed three-quarters of single parents limited showers and cooling and even sold belongings to pay their rent and keep the phone and internet on.

A fortnightly $550 coronavirus supplement had kept them afloat but had since ended.

"It was the path out of abuse and the ability to stand on solid ground," Ms Edwards said.

Paul Ramsay Foundation chief executive officer Professor Glyn Davis, whose charity funded the University of Melbourne research, said the pandemic made it especially urgent to find solutions to poverty.

"Some communities continue to be stuck in entrenched cycles of poverty," Professor Davis said.

"With the onset of the pandemic, the challenge for reducing entrenched poverty in these communities is even greater, and will take years to address."

Two-fifths of more than 2000 areas examined nationwide had above-average poverty levels.

A fifth were in Victoria, up slightly from a decade ago.

Areas with above-average poverty also increased in Western Australian and Queensland.

The Northern Territory was most affected.

Originally published as Alarming increase in Australians living in extreme poverty

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