HILDA tells an Australian story about wealth and poverty – and there is an international angle as well

HILDA stands for the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey and it has been run by the Melbourne Institute since 2001. It is one of many surveys and studies reporting on inequality in Australia. Honest History has been collecting them and other resources on inequality. We have been particularly interested in the growing gap between Australia’s egalitarian ideals and the reality of the early 21st century.

The latest HILDA results were presented in infographics by Roger Wilkins, chief HILDA wrangler and Helen Westerman and Wes Mountain of The Conversation. Key points were:

  • mean household wealth fell by 1.2 per cent between 2006 and 2014 after growing by 37.8 per cent in the years 2002-06;
  • home ownership fell 3.3 per cent over the years 2002-14;
  • while absolute poverty fell, relative poverty (being able to afford a ‘normal’ or ‘mainstream’ lifestyle) remained about the same; and
  • while our welfare safety net keeps many people out of long-term poverty about one-sixth of poor people stay that way for more than three years.

A further survey of the HILDA findings with more graphics.

Commentary on the HILDA findings came from Greg Jericho in Guardian Australia (lots of graphs and a focus on housing affordability) and Jessica Irvine in Fairfax (housing again) but there was not too much elsewhere. (Perhaps inequality is no longer newsworthy.) More from Jericho on the implications of cutting welfare payments. Helen Hodgson in The Conversation looked at the implications of inequality for superannuation policy.

While not directly referencing HILDA, Francis Sullivan of the Truth, Justice and Healing Council raised important issues to do with inequality. Then, not unconnected with the HILDA work – because the level of our own wealth and income flows through to our capacity to share it around – was a piece from John Thwaites of Monash University on Australia’s performance on progress towards world Sustainable Development Goals – we come in 20th, below 15 European countries, Iceland, Canada, Japan and Singapore, but above New Zealand and the United States.

Then there was Stephen Duckett in The Conversation about the health treatment implications of whereabouts patients live. He called this ‘unacceptable place-based inequality’ and he was commenting on his Grattan Institute report. Also in Fairfax.

22 July 2016 updated

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