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SACOSS 'Working to Make Ends Meet' Conference

- Understanding and responding to the challenges faced by waged poor households -

Coming up this Wednesday 9 December

The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted both some key strengths of our systems and society, but also some critical challenges. One of these is how we support and respond to people who are struggling to make ends meet in waged poor households - an often overlooked group, who are also less likely to seek help.

The challenges faced by waged poor households is the key theme of SACOSS's upcoming conference 'Working to Make Ends Meet', to be held virtually this Wednesday 9 December.

"When we talk about work and the economy, and who in our community may need support, the assumption can often be that if people have a job, they will be able to pay their bills and live comfortably," says SACOSS CEO Ross Womersley.
"Increasingly, this is often not the case. In a significant number of households, people do have work – sometimes, multiple jobs – but struggle to make ends meet. They may struggle to pay utility bills and other basic living expenses. They may struggle with debt. They may find that they are not able to offer their children the opportunities and choices any parent would want to provide," he states.
"People in this situation may also miss out on support – ‘falling through the gaps’ in support programs and community services. They may not be sure what help is available; and some are reluctant to seek help due to pride or shame." 

SACOSS defines ‘waged poor’ households as those living below the poverty line whose main source of household income is wages and salaries. In South Australia, there are 20,528 waged poor households and 48,362 individuals who are living in waged poverty, based on 2015-16 ABS figures. This figure will now be higher as a result of COVID-19, and is only set to grow.

To give some indication of how common this situation is, nearly 1 in 4 of all households in poverty in Australia are 'waged poor'. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has magnified the challenges faced by waged poor households, with a sudden reduction of hours and loss of income leaving many struggling to navigate and access support services. With increased underemployment likely to push a new cohort of households into waged poverty, it is more important than ever that governments, the community services sector, and businesses working in the essential services, understand and respond to the unique challenges faced by this group in our community.
"This is a tremendously important area to be looking at, and we hope, with this conference, to provide people working in a range or roles and sectors an opportunity to step away from the ‘coalface’ to investigate the key drivers of waged poverty, share in discussions on how to address them, and plan a more equitable future for all," says Mr Womersley.

"We hope that we can imagine, together, how to help ensure that Australia continues to develop as an innovative, affordable and equitable society.”


The Working to Make Ends Meet conference draws on foundational research conducted by SACOSS which examines struggles waged poor households face with the affordability of essential services such as energy, water and telecommunications, and what this means.

The Conference will examine the key drivers of waged poverty, some of SACOSS's research findings, and the rise of waged poverty in a post-COVID economy. It will also look at utility bill stress, who is slipping through the gaps, whether concessions are the answer, and other ways to address cost of living concerns. The keynote address will be delivered from Saunoamaali’i Karanina Sumeo, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commissioner at the New Zealand Human Rights Commission.
For further information or a media pass to attend* the virtual conference contact:
Eva O’Driscoll SACOSS Communications Coordinator
eva@sacoss.org.au | 8305 4232 
*To request a media pass to attend, please get in touch prior to 2pm Tuesday 8 Dec

For comment, contact:
Ross Womersley SACOSS CEO 0418 805 426

Issued 7 December 2020

Published Date: 
Monday, 7 December 2020