ACOSS’s new report reveals that income and wealth has become more concentrated in the hands of fewer people over the past two decades across the country.
Releasing its analysis, ‘Inequality in Australia: A nation divided’, ACOSS says that while inequality is not extreme in Australia by international comparison, we are trending in the wrong direction.
‘It should be a concern to us all that despite more than 20 years of unparalleled economic growth, we have allowed complacency to blind us to the need to ensure the benefits of growth and prosperity are shared by everyone,’ said ACOSS CEO Dr Cassandra Goldie.
‘Our findings show that income and wealth are increasingly unequally distributed. For instance, a person in the top 20 per cent income group receives around five times as much income as a person in the bottom 20 per cent.
‘Wealth is much more unequally distributed with a person in the top 20 per cent having a staggering 70 times as much wealth as a person in the bottom 20 per cent.
‘Strong employment growth over the past 17 years helped to reduce inequality, however wages growth was very unequal over the period and acted to increase inequality.
‘Another factor tilting the scale towards greater inequality is the increased concentration of wealth in areas where generous tax concessions afford the highest benefits to people on the highest incomes – such as real estate, shares and superannuation.
‘The inconsistent tax treatment of these kinds of savings are distorting the fairness of our tax system, with flow on implications for economic growth as well as the distribution of wealth. We found that top 20 per cent of the wealth distribution owns over 80 per cent of wealth in shares and investment real estate and over 60 per cent of superannuation.
‘While we can be proud of our history in building our tax system and social safety net, we need to refocus our efforts on realigning and strengthening them at this time to prevent widening inequality from becoming the new normal.
‘International institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the OECD, have all warned nations of the dangers of rising inequality.
‘If left unchecked it risks splintering our social fabric and entrenching social, economic and spatial divisions in our community.
‘In a country as wealthy as ours, all citizens should be included and able to realise their potential. In this way we could proudly pursue a fairer, more inclusive society, to advance the common good,’ Dr Goldie said.