Fact sheet

Fact Check: Does the data show that income inequality has fallen?

Liberal Party of Australia Social inequality

The notion that Australia is becoming less equal has become a point of contention in political debate. Opposition Leader Bill Shorten claims "the deck is stacked against ordinary people". But Treasurer Scott claims the accepted international definition of inequality shows "it hasn't got worse, inequality, it's actually got better". RMIT ABC Fact Check found Mr Morrison's claim is unjustified. To support his claim he focuses on a relatively short time frame and the evidence is subject to volatility. Furthermore, his claim is underpinned by income data from the 2016 census that is potentially problematic, and unpublished calculations that have not been released for independent scrutiny. Experts contacted by Fact Check broadly agree: Australia is less equal today than it was in, say, 1981. And the broad trend over the decades since the early 1980s would appear to point to widening disparity. However, the experts are not united about what has happened in recent years. Some suggest inequality has got no worse, while others suggest it has. This uncertainty is also reflected in the data: one credible set of figures shows a slight deterioration of inequality, another one a slight improvement. Mr Morrison was excessively definitive in the face of data which is not definitive.
Verdict: Unjustified

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