Over half a million children will be born into poverty in Australia over the next decade unless leaders work to fundamentally change how the country “supports and identifies people in disadvantage,” according to a new report by the Committee for Economic Development of Australia (CEDA).
"We are still waiting to see the full impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, but there is already evidence the pandemic has further exacerbated the financial, employment and health hardships of Australia’s most vulnerable,” CEDA Chief Economist Jarrod Ball said in a press release earlier this month. “Unless Australia addresses these issues now, we will be entrenching the next generation of poverty and disadvantage.”
According to CEDA, Australia currently has a disjointed support system for vulnerable people going through particularly hard times, with little information shared between state and federal services. As a result, individuals and entire families too often “slip between the cracks.”
Six years ago, Australia signed onto the United Nations Global Goals, of which Goal 1 is to end poverty in all its forms.
Despite committing to halve the number of men, women and children living in poverty by 2030, Australia has yet to set interim targets or reform any actions or reporting frameworks. Today, 13% of the population live in poverty, including 17.7% of all children under the age of 15.
A separate report on intergenerational trauma by the University of Melbourne, published in October 2020, reveals kids who endure poverty are more than three times as likely to be poor in adulthood. They are also more likely to experience poor mental and physical health.
"In contrast, young adults who grew up poverty-free are 2.4 times more likely to get university degrees, 1.8 times more likely to be full-time work and 1.3 times more likely to have permanent and ongoing jobs,” the report explains. “They also earn more — hourly wages of young adults who were never poor are 23% higher than those who experience poverty as children.”
CEDA says Australia can avoid a child poverty crisis, but only if all levels of government work together.
To break the cycle of poverty and disadvantage, the committee says shared data must be prioritised to identify those most at risk and enable early intervention. For this to become a reality, “clear and tangible reform commitments” should be set out in a national, overarching agreement.
"What is truly holding back action is a lack of political will,” the report states.