Are you living in poverty and don’t even know it?

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Jason Bryce – Business & Finance Specialist

Are you living in poverty and don’t even know it?

Single parents just get on with the job of feeding the kids and looking after business. But did you know that you may actually be living in poverty, and you don’t even know it?

By Jason Bryce | 18 October 2016

You may be living below the poverty line

…and not even know it

Of course you know its not easy to be a single parent. It never has been easy, despite what you might hear on commercial radio and TV. But did you know that increasing numbers of single parent families are surviving in poverty? That’s right, over the last ten years, life has got a lot tougher for single mums and their kids.

While there has been a decline in the overall percentage of Aussie kids who live in poverty, from 17.7 per cent in 2012 to 17.4 per cent in 2014, children of single parents are doing it tougher. More than 40 per cent of children of single parents now live in poverty, up from 36.8 per cent in 2012. That compares with just 12.5 per cent of kids in two-parent families.

In this era or political correctness, when we all are supposed to be accepting of diversity, differences and unconventional families, single mums are falling behind.

How many Australians live in poverty?

Three million Australians now live below the poverty line, according to the latest ‘Poverty in Australia’ report from the Australian Council of Social Services and the Social Policy Research Centre at the University of NSW. That includes 731,000 children.

Poor child - Photo source: Bigstock.com
731,000 Australian children are now living below the poverty line

What is the official poverty line in 2016?

The poverty line is a commonly used term, but few people know what it is. Researchers define the poverty line as half of the Australian median income. This is a far less generous measure than what is used in many other wealthy countries, where a 60 per cent of median income rule is applied.

So that 50 per cent rule sets the poverty line in Australia for a single adult at $426.30 per week. For an adult couple with two children the poverty line is $895.22 per week.

For a single parent with two children the poverty line is $682.07. After housing costs are subtracted the poverty line for that single parent with two kids is $548.74 according to the ACOSS/SPRC poverty report.

Do you have $548 per week left over after you have paid the rent or mortgage?

Newstart poverty - Photo source: Bigstock.com
Do you have $548 per week left over after you have paid the rent or mortgage?

One third of single mums are living in poverty

555,600 single parents, or 33.2 per cent of all Australian single parents, live in poverty. 40.2 per cent of children of single parents live in poverty. 51.5 per cent of parents who receive parenting payment live in poverty and 55 per cent of people on Newstart are in poverty.

Why are things getting worse for single mums? The ACOSS researchers say the evidence is in and they sheet home the blame to the removal of parenting payment from 100,000 single parent families with children over the age of eight by the Howard and Gillard governments.

Getting a job may not save you from poverty

The response of the Turnbull government to the ACOSS report on poverty is basically that parents need to get off Centrelink and into work.

Cabinet Secretary Arthur Sinodinos told the ABC that: many children are being raised in homes “where one or more parents, and maybe even grandparents, has not had a job.”

Empty pockets with no money - Photo source: Bigstock.com
One third of all Aussies who are surviving below the poverty line are employed

However getting a job is not an automatic path out of poverty. An increasing number of employed people are also languishing in poverty. 24 per cent of part time workers live below the poverty line (up from 15 per cent in 2012) and 7.9 per cent of full time workers are in poverty (up from 4.7 per cent).

In fact one third of all Aussies who are surviving below the poverty line are employed.

The opposition said the government needs to stop cutting welfare. Labor’s Jim Chalmers said: “This is the worst possible time for the Turnbull Government to be cutting people’s family payments.”

Jason Bryce
Business & Finance Journalist


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go to Jason Bryce's Biography

Jason is a business and finance journalist with 20 years experience, and is also a member of the SingleMum.com.au Expert Opinion Panel. He has a regular weekly column in the Sunday Mail (Brisbane) and writes regularly for the Business Daily section of the Herald Sun in Melbourne and many other newspapers and magazines. Read Jason Bryce’s full profile here

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