SACOSS yesterday held its ‘Working to Make Ends Meet’ Conference, with a focus on the challenges faced by waged poor households – a group that is often overlooked, and is also less likely to seek help.
“What our research actually identifies is that one in four households living below the poverty line rely on wages as their main source of income,” stated SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley.
"They are employed, but are struggling to make ends meet. COVID has only added to the number of households in this situation, and the needs of this group need to be recognised by governments, regulators and service providers. This is why we have chosen to look in more detail at this important area for today's Conference.”
Conference keynote speaker Saunoamaali’I Karanina Sumeo, Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner at the New Zealand Human Rights Commission, highlighted drivers of waged poverty at the Conference, stressing: “We cannot continue to tolerate inequity. It must end with us.”
“The government and employers must realise that poverty and pay gaps are a human rights issue. This impacts upon people’s ability to realise the right to equal employment opportunities, and the right to be free from discrimination, including their right to an adequate standard of living, housing, food, education, and health care,” she stated.
The Conference looked at findings from SACOSS’ research on waged poverty, with a series of presentations – one of which was from Teresa Corbin, CEO of the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network (ACCAN).
“The issues facing waged poor households have historically been overlooked," Ms Corbin stated. "SACOSS’ Waged Poor Report has shined a light on the important issues of working Australians’ struggle to afford modern basic utilities such as phone and internet services."
“We know that low-income consumers chose to go without basics such as food in order to keep their phone and internet services connected during the COVID-19 pandemic so that they could monitor rosters, look for new jobs, and let their kids take part in online education. Because waged poor households are less likely to seek out assistance from charities and other non-Government organisations, we need to ensure that telcos are being proactive in providing support to those who need it to stay connected,” she stated.
The Conference examined the rise of waged poverty in a post-COVID economy, including structural factors that entrench people in poverty, and unpacking myths around who is in poverty and why. Speakers for this session included Emma Dawson, Executive Director from Per Capita and Angas Story, Secretary from SA Unions. Also, Alison Pennington, Senior Economist at the Centre for Future Work, who highlighted that jobs with enough hours and pay are in diminishing supply in Australia, with around half of all workers experiencing precarious work in some form, and the quality of jobs and wages earned in jobs deteriorating long before the pandemic struck.
“Not only does the colloquial mantra ‘a job’s a job’ not cut it anymore, it undermines our ability to diagnose and solve the employment crisis,” she stated. “The real way to overcome the recession will be to restore the capacity of people to work, earn and be healthy, engaged members of a more inclusive Australian economy.”
“The federal government is trying hard to sell us a ‘business-led recovery’, but the creation of more good jobs can only be achieved when governments commit to a more ambitious vision for economic and social change, backed by substantial and sustained public spending. This vision should create more secure jobs, invest in climate-friendly industries, and strengthen and expand our public services like healthcare, education and skills,” stated Ms Pennington.
The Conference also looked at the question of who is slipping through the gaps and why – with illuminating and inspiring presentations from Ian Steel, CEO of KickStart for Kids, Ciara Stirling, CEO of Thriving Communities Partnership, and Jess Perrin, Head of Social Innovation and Digital Inclusion, Infoxchange.
Other conference topics included utilities bill stress, concessions, designing customer supports, and ways to address cost of living concerns. SACOSS thanks all our speakers and event and session sponsors for their valued support of the conference and today's examination of this important and topical area.
For Conference media queries contact:
Eva O’Driscoll SACOSS Communications Coordinator email@example.com | 8305 4232
For comment, contact:
Ross Womersley SACOSS CEO 0418 805 426