ACOSS-UNSW Poverty report highlights importance of effective employment services to end entrenched economic exclusion

The latest ACOSS-UNSW Poverty in Australia 2023 report has highlighted the importance of effective employment services to end entrenched economic exclusion. The report calls for an investment in employment and training that will enable long-term unemployed people – along with First Nations communities, people with disability, older people and young people – to access decent jobs and careers. This is important whether someone is entering the workforce for the first time or returning to paid work following caring or other responsibilities.

ACOSS says effective employment and training services is one of five key elements to reduce poverty in Australia; it is also important to:

  • Lift the lowest income support payments (including Youth Allowance and JobSeeker) to at least pension levels to shield people of working age and their families from poverty when they cannot obtain enough paid work.
  • Introduce and improve supplements to cover essential costs above and beyond basic income support, including the extra costs of sole parenthood and disability.
  • Commit to full employment based on targets which guarantee there are enough jobs and paid working hours overall for people who need them.
  • Build more social housing and increase rent assistance to improve the supply of secure and affordable homes and help those on the lowest incomes with their largest living expense.

On average in 2019-20, one in eight people (including one in six children) lived below the poverty line. In total, over three million (3,319,000) people lived in poverty, including 761,000 children.

“The report shows that high levels of poverty are not inevitable – well targeted investments in income support can make a big difference to people’s living standards and wellbeing.”

Why this is relevant for Australia’s Adult and Community Education Providers

CCA CEO Dr Don Perlgut comments: “Australian adult and community education (ACE) providers consistently over-perform compared to other types of training providers, disproportionately catering for students from the most disadvantaged groups and regions. On almost all tracked measures of vulnerability and disadvantage, not-for-profit ACE providers reach these learners far better than other types of training providers, including TAFE and private for-profit companies. ACE providers reach proportionately more people with a disability, most disadvantaged students, regional and rural students, older (age 45+) students and Indigenous students. Our sector has a special role to play in reducing Australian poverty and disadvantage, and economic exclusion.”

About the Report

“The report sheds light on the human face of poverty in Australia – who is most affected and why. It examines the extent of poverty at different stages of the life course from childhood to old age, among people in different types of families, among those with disability or caring responsibilities, in households with different income sources and by reference to a range of other characteristics. It offers fresh insights into who lives in poverty and how it might be reduced.

“The data used for this report comes from the 2019-20 ABS Survey of Income and Housing, which was conducted just as the COVID recession struck and major improvements were made to income support to shield those affected from hardship. The impacts of these momentous events on poverty in Australia were profound. By comparing poverty levels before and after the introduction of the new COVID income supports in the June quarter of 2020 (including the $275 per week Coronavirus Supplement), we gauge their impact on financial hardship among different groups.

“We estimate the average levels of poverty throughout 2019-20 among people belonging to different groups in the population, together with changes in their poverty levels after those income supports were introduced.” (Download the report in PDF.)

About the ACOSS-UNSW

ACOSS (the Australian Council of Social Service) has partnered with UNSW Sydney to undertake a research and impact collaboration to sharpen the national focus on poverty and inequality in Australia. The partnership monitors trends in poverty and inequality over time, explores drivers, and develops solutions to sharpen the focus and stimulate action to tackle these policy challenges. We are now in our second five-year phase of the partnership, backed by new NGO partners: 54 reasons (part of Save the Children Australia Group), ARACY, Foodbank Australia, Jesuit Social Services, Life Without Barriers and Settlement Services International, with new philanthropic partner John Mitchell; and phase one partners who continue into phase two: Brotherhood of St Laurence, cohealth (a Victorian community health service), Good Shepherd Australia & New Zealand, Mission Australia and The Smith Family; along with Australian Communities Foundation subfunds Hart Line and the David Morawetz Social Justice Fund.

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