How do we tackle rising inequality?

Over 2.5 million Australians live in poverty. Hundreds of thousands are out of work and stagnating wages that, for years, haven’t increased in line with the cost of living. After enjoying one of the most prosperous periods in our country’s history, the disparity between rich and poor is at a 75-year high. Many Australians haven’t had it this bad since the Great Depression.

With this in mind, Labor, along with several of the country’s leading policy thinkers, has released a comprehensive report, Growing Together, which focuses primarily on the alarming imbalance between the rich and poor. Currently, the top 20 per cent of households have 70 times more wealth than households in the bottom 20 per cent.

“Worsening inequality threatens our future,” the report claims.

Unemployment, low wage growth, gender gaps, reliance on the Age Pension and insecure jobs all combine to make it incredibly difficult for many to find some semblance of financial stability. This instability, as the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) recently declared, “takes a toll on the social fabric of communities, places a heavy economic cost on future growth, and reduces trust in governments and institutions”.

 “For all the success Australians have achieved, the rewards are not as widely spread or as fairly shared as we like to imagine,” the Growing Together report states. “Inequality is rising – undermining living standards, sustainable growth and social cohesion.”

Although Labor claim this report is not a “policy manifesto or an election platform”, the timing of its release may imply otherwise. Regardless, it does propose some bold ideas that should incite lively debate about the future of Australia.

The report also suggests how Labor may act if it ever does come into power. Some of these suggestions include:

  • putting in place a new minister for ageing and longevity
  • reviewing the effectiveness of Newstart and increasing welfare benefits, as well as reworking family payments
  • creating new policies that will help the long-term unemployed get back to work
  • a committing to full employment
  • establishing an organisation that will oversee social policy
  • improving early education
  • promoting a balance between work, health and family
  • supporting longevity
  • building stronger communities.

The report aims to put social investment at the centre of any discussion about Australia’s future, making people a priority over money going into big corporate’s coffers.

As the report states: “If you work hard, you will be rewarded. If you fall behind, you’ll be helped back onto your feet. In Australia, you are responsible for your own success, but you are never on your own.”

Left or right, it’s difficult to argue against such a sentiment.

Read the Growing Together report

Have you read the report? What did you think of it? Do you think that changing social policy will help our economy by putting more money in the pockets of those who will actually spend it? Could such policies ever lead to greater social harmony?

Related articles:
One third of over 60s in poverty
Why do women retire in poverty?
Generation wealth gap widens

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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