Poor Left Behind - NCOSS Report
27 March 2014 at 10:22 am
Cost-of-living measures should focus on low-income and vulnerable groups, a new report by the NSW Council of Social Service (NCOSS) argues.
Drawing on data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics and various other sources, the NCOSS report The Cost of Living: Who’s Really Hurting? is the first in a series of reports focusing on the living expenses of NSW residents.
“The report shows how cost of living pressures for the most vulnerable in our community are increasing disproportionately to those in higher income brackets,” NCOSS CEO Alison Peters said.
The report points to data that shows that more than a million people in NSW are living below the poverty line, which is higher than the national average.
The report found that the average weekly disposable income for households ranges from $348 to $1895.
"Public debate and policy responses often focus on middle and higher income earners, leaving further behind those who are really struggling,” Peters said.
“Looking at cost of living changes across six key categories of expenditure – housing, food, transport, health care, utilities and education – the report highlights issues of particular concern for low-income earners.
“Our analysis finds that low income households spend a greater proportion of their weekly budget on core commodities, such as housing and utilities, which have seen significant cost increases relative to CPI over the last 10 years.
“Housing costs are the largest area of expenditure for NSW households, with the proportion of weekly household spending allocated to housing higher than the national average, and higher still for those who are renting or those whose main source of income is a Government allowance or pension.
"Rents, for example, have gone up at a much faster rate than CPI over the last 10 years, but the wages of many low-income earners have not. Almost half of low-income earners are now in rental stress,” Peters said.
"Electricity prices have also escalated – rising at 4.6 times the rate of CPI. But many people with low-incomes – particularly low-income renters – have little control over their energy bills."
The report acknowledges that people with low incomes may experience cost pressures on a number of fronts.
"Low-income earners are not a homogenous group," Peters said. "A jobless individual in the private rental market, an older person with chronic illness who owns their own home, or a family on a very low income – these households all have very different needs.
“NCOSS is therefore calling for a more nuanced discussion about cost of living pressures, with the report designed to inform debate and discussion amongst community, business and Government stakeholders.
“At a time when the Government budget itself is under pressure, our report signals the importance of ensuring that programs intended to relieve cost of living impacts reach those who are really struggling and provide sufficient levels of assistance relevant to the circumstances.”
NCOSS says it will use the analysis and findings in this report to consult – with service providers, government agencies, advocacy groups, relevant industry representatives and others to better understand the cost pressures that are most hurting disadvantaged households.