Report highlights growing social distress in Australia

 

Report highlights growing social distress in Australia

By
John Harris

11 March 2017

Australian workers, retirees, single parents and young people face mounting job insecurity, poverty and financial stress, as well as a growing social divide. This is the picture painted by the Household Financial Comfort Report, released last month by industry superfund ME Bank, based on a survey of 1,500 households.

Participants rated their financial situation, expectations and confidence across 11 different fields from 0 to 10 (worst to best). The report recorded the lowest rate of “financial comfort and stability” since the survey was first conducted in October 2011.

The report provided a glimpse into the divergence of the incomes of the wealthiest and poorest layers in society. Last year, 46 percent of households earning over $100,000 per year reported income gains and only 13 percent reported a decrease. By contrast, 41 percent of households earning under $40,000 a year experienced a fall in income and just 17 percent registered an increase.

ME consulting economist and report co-author Jeff Oughton told Fairfax Media: “The rich appear to be getting richer, while the rest of Australia is struggling—there’s a divide across households.”

Oughton noted that with the collapse of the mining boom and the crisis of manufacturing, many workers were being pushed into part-time employment. He commented: “ABS data shows wage growth at historical lows over the past two years to the September quarter. ME’s report highlights low wage growth continued in the whole of 2016 and is causing financial discomfort for many households, exacerbated by job insecurity and underemployment.”

Underlining the precarious jobs situation, 56 percent of households were concerned they would struggle to…

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