More Queenslanders are living in poverty, new report finds

  • Empty wallet in the hands of an elderly man.

A new report into poverty in Australia has found that even before COVID-19 more Queenslanders were experiencing poverty than in previous years, highlighting the need for our politicians to provide a much-needed safety net that will lift Australians out of poverty.

Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) CEO Aimee McVeigh says that the increase should alarm politicians in Queensland and Canberra.

“We simply can’t go back to the situation where people are expected to make the choice between putting food on their table, seeking medical help or paying their bills.

“In the two years to 2018, we witnessed a significant increase in the number of people experiencing poverty in Queensland. We also know that the rate of poverty in Queensland is 1.7 per cent higher than the national average”.

“By temporarily effectively doubling the JobSeeker payment during the pandemic, the federal government has already shown that it is possible to change the lives of thousands of people overnight. Right now, people are no longer having to choose between skipping meals and keeping the lights on.

“We can’t go back to expecting people to live on $40 a day – it is unconscionable and it is forcing 773,000 Queenslanders into impossible choices and subjecting them to poverty.”

National findings were released on 28 May 2020 by ACOSS and the University of New South Wales, and new information released overnight shines light on the situation in Queensland.

The report, which analyses Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from 2017-18, found that 15.3 per cent of Queenslanders were living in poverty, compared to the Australia-wide figure of 13.6 per cent. A previous report from 2015-2016 by ACOSS and UNSW found 13 per cent of people lived in poverty in Queensland.

As the ABS estimated Queensland’s population to be 5.05 million people in 2018, the ACOSS/UNSW report indicates there were 773,078 people experiencing poverty in the state in 2018.

According to ACOSS, the report provides a baseline against which to measure the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic on poverty in Australia.

Ms McVeigh warns that the government must not phase out the COVID supplement in September without having an appropriate social safety net in place.

“Queensland, and Australia as a whole, will not be able to recover our economies if people do not have enough income to spend on three square meals a day, let alone wider essentials and other goods.

“With the findings from this report, and the realities we face in Queensland as we rebuild our economy, there is no better time than now for our elected representatives to truly work for Queenslanders and build back better”, Ms McVeigh says.

Key facts from the report

  • In households where the main earner is a female, the poverty rate is 19 per cent – almost double the rate when the main earner is male – 10 per cent.
  • Single parent families in which the main earner is a woman have twice the rate of poverty (37 per cent) as those in which the main earner is a man (18 per cent).
  • The average poverty rate among people in families with children where the main income-earner is female is 23 per cent, compared with 10 per cent 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 per cent, compared with 10 per cent where the main income-earner is male.
  • Nearly half the children in sole parent families live in poverty (44 per cent) compared with 13 per cent for children living with both parents.
  • Being unemployed remains the greatest poverty risk factor, with two thirds (66 per cent) of 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.
  • While those of working age are at greater risk of poverty than older people, over 65s who are living in private rental accommodation face a relatively high risk of poverty (39 per cent).
  • Renters are almost twice as likely to live in poverty as home owners (19 per cent compared with 9 per cent) with public housing tenants at greatest risk (58 per cent).
8 June 2020