All Australians should have the means and opportunity to live a decent life of financial health and wellbeing.
UnitingCare believes the Australian welfare system must support the transition out of poverty into stable employment.
This can be achieved through a more equitable tax and transfer system, in conjunction with innovative national employment approaches that address the changing workforce.
Poverty and inequality continue to grow in Australia. A staggering 2.55 million Australians were living below the poverty line in 2012.
Chronic poverty remains a high risk, with about a quarter of those who exit poverty returning to being poor within two years, and about 12 to 15 per cent of poor households remaining poor 11 years later.
Income inequality in Australia is higher than the OECD average. In the 25 years up to 2010, real wages increased by 50 per cent on average, but only by 14 per cent for those in the bottom 10 per cent, compared with 72 per cent for those in the top 10 per cent.
An increasing number of children and young people are caught up in the financial hardship affecting their families. Growing up in poverty is a key risk factor for living with long-term financial hardship as an adult, so actions that reduce the risk of poverty in families are crucial.
This includes improving the financial literacy of Australians from an early age, so that they know how to achieve a secure economic future for themselves.
Australia’s workforce participation is declining; the ageing population and advancement in technology are expected to contribute to this trend. Automation of low-skilled jobs may further contribute to the recent peak in youth unemployment.
New skills and capabilities, such as digital literacy, will be crucial in the post-mining boom era.