Australia Has Rising Economic Inequality

Australia, which at one time had some of the most equitable social and economic practices in the industrialized world, now shows effects of rising economic inequality, the Australian Council of Social Sciences (ACOSS) finds. Below are some ACOSS findings, as reported by the World Socialist Web Site:

“[In 2012] The average income of [Australian] households in the top 5 percent was $5,121 per week, 13 times the weekly income of the bottom 5 percent at $402. The average income of the top 5 percent rose 78 percent between 1995 and 2012, while the bottom 20 percent rose by only 44 percent.

The top 1 percent captured more than 20 percent of the pre-tax growth in income between 1975 and 2007, when the global financial storm erupted, and its share of income doubled from 5 percent to 10 percent.

Since 1978, 75 percent of the increase in income of the top 10 percent has gone to the top 1 percent and 65 percent has gone to the top 0.1 percent, which consists of 18,000 individuals who earn an average of $600,000 annually.

In 1980, Australia had the second lowest (after Sweden) share of any OECD country accruing to the top 1 percent. Now it lies between fifth and seventh in the ladder.

While real wages increased by 50 percent during the 25 years to 2010, only 14 percent of income growth went to the bottom 10 percent of society, while a whopping 72 percent went to the top 10 percent.

The income growth of the bottom group was attributed in the main to a $30 per week increase in aged pensions in 2009, people re-entering the workforce from periods on social security benefits and workers taking on longer hours. By contrast, the rise in income at the top was the result of increased investment income and eight successive tax rate cuts, which benefited the highest income earners the most.”

These disparities have significant effects on those earning the lowest salaries and disproportionately impacts some populations more than others. Cheryl McDermid, writing “Inequality in Australia Rising at One of the World’s Fastest Rates,” for the World Socialist Web Site notes that, in Australia:

People in the bottom 20 percent are overwhelmingly 65 years and over, single parent households, immigrants from non-English speaking backgrounds and those on government benefits, particularly the Newstart unemployment benefit. Newstart has been frozen at 1994 levels, condemning the unemployed to levels of poverty and deprivation from which it is almost impossible to escape.

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