New analysis of poverty in Australia finds that, before COVID-19, households with children with a female main income earner were more than twice as likely to live in poverty as those in which the main income earner was male, highlighting the impact of caring roles on poverty in Australia. The report also finds that people who were unemployed were at greatest risk of poverty, with two-thirds of people in affected households living below the poverty line. The report’s findings confirm, once again, the inadequacy of pre-COVID payments for people who are unemployed.

The report compares the impact of poverty on different people in the community, broken down by age, family type income source, and labour market and housing status. It includes estimates of poverty among people with disabilities and those from culturally and ethnically diverse communities. The report, which analyses Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from 2017-18, provides a baseline against which to measure the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic on poverty in Australia.

Key findings:

  • Being unemployed remains the greatest poverty risk factor, with two thirds (66%) of people in households in which the main earner is unemployed living below the poverty line. This is directly related to the level of pre-pandemic income support payments.
  • Households that have to rely mainly on social security payments (e.g. unemployment, parenting, and disability payments) are five times more likely to experience poverty (36%) than those receiving most income from wages and salaries (7%). However, 38% of those in poverty are in wage-earning households; the majority of whom are households with children.
  • The biggest differences in poverty rates between households with male and female main earners are in families with children. The average poverty rate among people in families with children where the main income-earner is female is 23%, compared with 10% where the main income-earner is male (which is the more common arrangement). In contrast, among households without children, the average poverty rate where the main income-earner is female is 12%, compared with 10% where the main income-earner is male.
  • Renters are almost twice as likely to live in poverty as home-owners (19% compared with 9%) with public housing tenants at greatest risk (58%).
Related Information

Poverty in Australia 2020 - part 1: overview

Publication Details
978 0 85871 068 9
License type:
All Rights Reserved
Access Rights Type: