Welfare groups are demanding that authorities strengthen Australia's social safety net in order to prevent widening inequality from becoming the new norm.
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21 Jun 2015 - 4:49 PM  UPDATED 22 Jun 2015 - 7:50 PM

Australians in the top 20 per cent of wealth holders have 70 times the wealth that people in the bottom 20 per cent have, a report on Australia's widening wealth inequality says. 

The report from the Australian Council of Social Service on Monday says Australia's level of income inequality is above the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development average.

Welfare groups are demanding that authorities strengthen Australia's social safety net in order to prevent widening inequality from becoming the new norm.

The top five per cent of households in Australia earned more 15 times as much as the bottom five per cent of households in 2012, based on a range of data including Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, the ACOSS report says.

The top 20 per cent of income earners have a disproportionate share of national income distribution.

But the good news is that Australia is doing much better than the United States and the United Kingdom because of the minimum wage and tax systems.

"While inequality is not extreme in Australia by international comparison, we are trending in the wrong direction," ACOSS chief executive Cassandra Goldie said at the launch of the report at Mount Druitt Community Hub.

"If we're serious about doing something about job opportunities, if we're serious about making sure we've got the revenue we need to fund good education, to fund decent health care and to really tackle housing affordability, we must address this growing concentration of wealth in the hands of the few.

"What we need - the IMF tells us, and we agree - is to be investing more in the income levels for people at the bottom, to be making sure that we are sharing better the wealth that the country does have."

Christie, a Mount Druitt teenager, is currently homeless and said the refuge she is staying at has recently had its funding cut.

"They can only keep us kids for so long until they move us on," she said. "But us kids

"I am finding it hard to struggle living out of home...but we try to move on in life."

Another Mount Druitt resident, who did not want to provide a name, said housing affordability has become a critical issue for young people growing up with socio-economic disadvantages.

"How are the young ones ever going to own a home?" she said. "You would have to have more than one person sharing a home."

"Because you look around - even around here - $400-$500 a week rent who can afford that? To me it goes back to greed, people that are renting those homes for such prices."

According to the report, income is unevenly distributed across Australian states and territories.

Tasmanians are more likely to be in the bottom 20 per cent while their Western Australian counterparts are more likely to be in the top 20 per cent of income earners as a result of the mining boom in recent years.

NSW, Victoria and Queensland had a more even representation of people across the income spectrum, while South Australians were more likely to be found at the bottom or the middle.

There is also a rural and urban rich-poor divide, with metropolitan residents better off compared with their country cousins.

Perth, Sydney and Brisbane had more residents in the top 20 per cent of income earners and less at the other end compared with other cities.

KEY FINDINGS OF ACOSS INEQUALITY REPORT

  • Inequality in Australia is higher than the OECD average
  • Top 10 per cent of wealth holders own 45 per cent of all wealth
  • Tasmanians more likely to be in bottom 20 per cent of income earners
  • Western Australians are more likely to be in top 20 per cent
  • City people better off compared with regional Australians
  • NSW, Victoria and Queensland have even distribution across income spectrum
  • Perth, Sydney and Brisbane residents more likely to be in top 20 per cent