Inequality is ‘the challenge of our time’
Australia risks becoming an “Americanised society of high inequality and dead-end jobs” warns a new report by the ACTU.
Income inequality is at its greatest level in 70 years with most Australians experiencing a decline in living standards and job security, says a report by the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
The report – Rising inequality: an Australian reality – finds thatreal incomes for the top quintile (20 per cent) of households grew by more than 40 per cent between 2004 and 2014.
Incomes for the lowest quintile only grew by about 25 per cent, it says.
“Australia must not go any further down this path. Instead we must return to being a country in which families on a normal income can afford to buy a home, provide a good education for their kids and have a decent standard of living,” the report says.
“Societies that pay their workers fairly and provide job security tend to have low crime levels, less social problems and are more inclusive.”
While income inequality is at an all-time high, wealth inequality is even worse, says the report.
Between 2004 and 2014 the incomes of the richest quintile jumped by around 38 per cent while that of the poorest 20 per cent increased by only around 4 per cent.
“Due to very rapid increases in the value of homes, investment properties, shares and other assets held by the rich, wealth inequality has increased even more sharply than income inequality.
“The gap between the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ became a great chasm in this decade.”
The ACTU says it produced the report because, “while the Turnbull government continues to throw its support behind the big corporations and a group of small elites, Australian workers and families are struggling to pay the bills”.
“There are two ways the Turnbull government can act to turn around inequality – make sure everyone pays their fair share of tax and act so working people have strong enough rights at work to get decent pay rises and secure jobs,” said ACTU Secretary Sally McManus.
“But instead the Turnbull government is going in the opposite direction. Every day they think up new ways to hurt working people and weaken their rights while they are giving corporations $65 billion in tax cuts. These are the same failed policies that caused inequality in the first place.”