Executive summary

In 2014, the 50% of median income poverty line for a single adult was $426.30 a week (or $343.00 for income after housing costs). For a couple with children it was $895.22 a week (or $720.22 after housing). Using the after-housing poverty line, the headline poverty rate in 2014 is 13.3%, slightly lower than the 2012 rate (13.9%).

Longerm analysis indicates an overall trend of persistent and entrenched poverty over the decade. Of most concern, there was a 2% increase in child poverty from 2004 to 2014, with the trend most pronounced for children in lone parent families.

In international perspective, Australia’s poverty rate remains above the OECD average, despite our relative prosperity.

In population terms, there were 2.99 million people living below the poverty line after taking account of housing costs in 2014. The poverty rate for children remained significantly higher than for adults at 17.4%, affecting 731,000 children. This was little changed from 2012 when the child poverty rate was 17.7%. Of concern, the child poverty rate for children in lone parent families increased from 36.8% in 2012 to 40.6% in 2014.

By family type, lone parents experience the highest poverty rates at 33.2% and this has been a consistent trend throughout the decade. The rate of poverty for lone parents has increased since 2012, a year in which 80,000 sole parents were moved from pension to (much lower) allowance payments. Children in lone families are more than three times more likely to be living in poverty than their counterparts in couple families, with a poverty rate of 40.6% compared to 12.5%.

The majority of people below the poverty line relied on social security as their main source of income (57.3%), but a significant proportion received wages as their main income (32%). This division has not changed significantly from the previous reports, with wage earners comprising about a third of those in poverty in 2010 (29%) and 2012 (33%).

While an overall minority of people receiving social security payments fell under the poverty line in 2014 (36.1%), a majority of Newstart (55%) and Parenting Payment (51.5%) recipients were in this category.

A number of social security payments fell significantly below the poverty line, including most notably the unemployment payment. For a single person with no children, Newstart in 2013-14 fell $109.55 per week below the poverty line. Youth Allowance was even further below: for a single person with no children it fell $158.63 per week below the poverty line. These figures take Rent Assistance into account, so the gaps were even higher for households not eligible for this supplementary payment.

Unemployed households experienced poverty at the highest rate of all the population groups analysed at 63.2%, a 2% increase since 2012. People of working age not in the labour force had a poverty rate of 43.9% and lone parent families 33.2%.

Analysis by housing tenure shows that the vast majority of people below the poverty line were in rental housing in 2014 (59.7%), with most in private rental housing (44.2%) compared with 11.4% in public. Only 15.5% of people living below the poverty line were homeowners, with a slightly higher proportion being mortgagees than outright owners.

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