This quote that forms the title of this article is from Adam Smith, the Philosopher and Economist who is considered to be the Father of Modern Economics. He is best known for two classic works: “The Theory of Moral Sentiments” and “The Wealth of Nations”. Importantly he is also regarded as the creator of the concept of free market economic theory.

The issue of poverty in Australia has always been a matter of some contention. There are many who would point to the obvious signs of poverty in some of our neighbouring Asian countries and point out that there aren’t similar issues here.

The Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) puts out a report on Poverty in Australia regularly. The results are staggering. Rather than attempt to paraphrase their findings I reproduce them below in full: The report can be accessed here:

This report found that there are approximately 2,265,000 people, or 12.8% of all people in Australia who are living below the OECD poverty line of 50% of median wage. The report also found that there were some groups particularly at risk, including: people without paid work, children (especially in sole parent families), and people whose main source of income is social security payments.

The poverty report found that:

  • 2,265,000 people (12.8%) were living below the poverty line
  • 575,000 children or 17.3% were living below the poverty line
  • 63% of people in unemployed households were below the poverty line
  • 25% of people in lone parent households were below the 50% poverty line
  • 37% of people in households whose main income was social security were living below the poverty line
  • Among people in households where the main income earner received the following payments, the following proportions lived below the poverty line, after taking account of housing costs:
    • Newstart Allowance, 52%
    • Parenting Payment, 45%
    • Disability Support Pension, 42%
    • Carer Payment 24%
    • Age Pension, 14%
  • 62% of people below the poverty line came from households with social security as their main source of income, but a sizeable minority (29%) were in households with wages as the main income source. This 29% figure is due to the higher number of wage-earning households overall. It is likely that most of these people live in households where people receive part time earnings only, or are raising children on a low wage
  • 14% of women were below the poverty line compared to 12% of men
  • 54% of people living in households below the poverty line were female compared to 46% male
  • 26% of adults living in households below the 50% poverty line came from a non English-speaking country
  • The level of poverty was higher (13.1%) outside capital cities than in capital cities (12.6%)
  • The proportion of people in poverty rose by approximately a third of a percentage point from 2003 to 2010 but it is difficult to compare poverty levels over the long term due to changes in the various ABS surveys.