Addressing entrenched disadvantage in Australia

21 Apr 2015

An estimated four to six per cent of Australia's population experiences chronic or persistent poverty or deprivation.

Executive Summary

Entrenched disadvantage is a wicked problem for any society. Disadvantage of one form or another will always be with us, but when disadvantage is entrenched, some Australians are not able to play their full part in our economy and society.

An estimated four to six per cent of our society experiences chronic or persistent poverty or deprivation. This represents both a tragedy for the individuals concerned and a loss of economic potential for the nation.

While we have policies in place or in development to address disadvantage, it is not clear that we have recognised the need to address the deeper problem of long-term, persistent and chronic disadvantage. As a rich and successful society, we can clearly do better – others do.

Two aspects of entrenched disadvantage are clear:

  • The problem is both significant and complex; and
  • Current policies to remove entrenchment are not working.

The people who find it hardest to escape from disadvantage appear to fall into six main categories:

1. Older people;

2. Less-educated people;

3. Households with no employed members;

4. Particular geographic areas;

5. Indigenous Australians; and

6. Those with chronic health problems.

Current policies are mainly designed to get people into, or back into, the labour market. While this is an appropriate objective, there are people in our society who need targeted and/or additional help to prepare themselves for ongoing employment. It is difficult to get or hold a job if you do not have anywhere to sleep or have ongoing health problems. It is hardly surprising then that disadvantage is cumulative: The longer a person spends with significant disadvantage, the more likely he or she is to be stuck there. Children who grow up in a home with entrenched disadvantage are also more likely to face the same problem.

Related identifier: ISBN 0 85801 299 5

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