Australia has overtaken New Zealand as the country with the highest percentage of people in the bottom quintile, a new study finds.
The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) said it had found that Australians were the richest nation in the developed world in the year to December 2016, after the United States, Canada and France had all dropped out of the top five spots.
Its report, titled The World’s Richest Nation, found that Australian households were worth $6,879 per person, an increase of about $600 over the previous year.
But its headline figure for the bottom 20 per cent of earners was still just $5,732, the ABS said.
“There are still millions of Australians struggling to get by, especially in remote and marginalised parts of the country, where there are few jobs, few services and limited opportunities,” it said.
“We need to act now to tackle inequality and tackle the root causes of poverty and poverty-related health issues, including high rates of infant mortality, maternal mortality, child poverty, homelessness and underemployment.
As part of this, we need a national focus on addressing inequality in the economy, with all Australians, including those in the lower quintile earning more than those in higher income brackets.”
The new report also found that, across the developed nations, women had the highest incomes, while men and children were far more likely to live in poverty.
However, the report did not include the highest earners in the top 20 per and bottom 20 percent of earners in its calculations.
In addition, it did not find any country with a higher percentage of the population living in poverty, a finding that is a surprise to the Australian government.
It said that its own poverty rate was about half that of the OECD average.
And the ABS also found the top quintile had an annual income of about 4.6 times the bottom, compared to a rate of 2.4 times for the middle and lower income groups.
Although it did find a large number of Australians were still living below the poverty line, it said the average was now $3,074, well below the OECD’s figure of $7,051.
Other notable findings: Australia has the highest proportion of Australians living in extreme poverty.
The ABS said this was partly because of the high number of people living in families with no income. AAP/ABC