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This report shows that, pre-COVID, single people on JobSeeker, even those with some paid work, and single parents on JobSeeker, have been struggling on the lowest rung of the household income scale. Over half are in the lowest 10% of incomes nationally. Half of people on age pensions are in the lowest 20% of incomes nationally, though widespread home ownership among this group provides a significant degree of protection from poverty. The 10% of older people who rent their homes are in a much more financially distressed position.

The report sets a base-line of data against which to assess the impact that COVID-19 is having on inequality in Australia. It reveals where different groups fit in the income and wealth scales, and the direct causes of inequality from the latest data available, 2017-18.

Key findings:

  • The highest 10% of households by wealth owns almost half (46%) of all household wealth, followed by the “middle wealth group” (those in the 60th – 90th wealth percentile) with 38%, leaving the lowest 60% – who are younger and poorer – with just 16% of all wealth. Wealth in the form of shares and other financial investments and investment property is especially skewed towards the highest 10%, who hold two thirds of these assets, including investment property averaging $802,000 in value and shares, business & financial investments worth an average of $1,441,000.
  • The Retirement Income Review revealed that the average value of inheritances received by people in the highest 20% by wealth was around $180,000 – twice that of the middle 20% and four times the lowest 20%. Overall superannuation death benefits are projected to rise from $17 billion in 2019 to $130 billion in 2059, in large part due to lax draw-down requirements and excessively generous exemption from tax of the earnings of super funds after a member retires.
Related Information

Inequality in Australia 2020 - part 1: overview https://apo.org.au/node/308062

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