This report provides a brief overview of levels of poverty - overall and among adults and children – following the recent release of Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data on household incomes in 2019-20. It examines trends in poverty since 1999, and through each quarter of 2019-20. While it is unusual to measure changes in poverty on a three-monthly rather than annual basis, it was a very unusual year.

The report reveals the overall impact of the pandemic recession and temporary increase to income support on poverty (noting that the COVID income supports introduced in the June quarter of 2020 were later withdrawn). As with previous publications in our Poverty and Inequality in Australia series, this report will be followed by a more detailed examination of poverty levels among different groups in the community and their likely causes.

Key findings:

  • One in eight people, including one in six children, live below the poverty line according to the latest data (2019-20).
  • Poverty rose, then fell sharply during the COVID-19 recession in 2020.
  • New social security payments introduced at the outset of the COVID-19 recession lifted the incomes of people on pensions to just below the poverty line and those of people on unemployment payments well above it.
  • Reductions in poverty for people on the lowest payments were short-lived.
  • The Coronavirus Supplement could have been better designed to reduce poverty.
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