Justice, Opportunity and Shared Wealth for all South Australians

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Waged Poverty

SACOSS has been doing original research in relation to waged poor households, and particularly around struggles with affordability of essential services like energy and telecommunications. 

In 2018 Energy Consumers Australia funded a SACOSS study of energy affordability for waged poor households. 

In 2019 the Australian Communications Consumer Action Network funded a study of telecommunications affordability for waged poor households.

  • Report is due to be published in July 2020
  • Download and listen to Rhonda's Story (9 MB file)
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While noting that the terminology may be problematic (there is no agreed term or definition in the literature), SACOSS defines “waged poor” households as those living below the poverty line (50% of median equivalised household disposable income) whose main source of household income is wages and salaries. The Australian minimum wage is above the poverty line for a single person, but waged poverty can arise from:

  • low wages, and lack of leave and other entitlements;
  • irregular and insufficient work hours;
  • a large number of dependents relying on a wage;
  • a combination of any of the above.

SACOSS research using the 2015-16 ABS Household Expenditure Survey found that there were 249,818 waged poor households in Australia equating to 23.8% of households in poverty and accounting for 685,744 people. That is, around one-quarter of all households below the poverty line had wages as their main source of income.

By comparison with other households below the poverty line, waged poor households are likely to be:

  • larger (2.7 people per household vs 1.9 for other households in poverty);
  • couples or couples with children (55% of all waged poor households);
  • renting (65% of waged poor households);
  • spending more on telecommunications (5.9% of their income); and
  • less likely to seek support from charities and non-government organisations (less than 1% of waged poor households sought such support).