I wanted to start with a definition of ‘poor’ what actually constitutes a person of being poor? The Oxford Dictionary defines poor as “Lacking sufficient money to live at a standard considered comfortable or normal in a society.”
I then look at that and automatically see issues, what is considered comfortable? And what is normal in society?
The United Nations defines poverty as:
“Frequently, poverty is defined in either relative or absolute terms. Absolute poverty measures poverty in relation to the amount of money necessary to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter. The concept of absolute poverty is not concerned with broader quality of life issues or with the overall level of inequality in society. The concept therefore fails to recognise that individuals have important social and cultural needs. This, and similar criticisms, led to the development of the concept of relative poverty. Relative poverty defines poverty in relation to the economic status of other members of the society: people are poor if they fall below prevailing standards of living in a given societal context. An important criticism of both concepts is that they are largely concerned with income and consumption. “
This thorough definition allows us to investigate what level of relative poverty and absolute poverty we are exposed to in Australia.
We are seeing a dramatic expansion in poverty in Australia and the gap between the rich and poor is only getting bigger. The ACOSS released a report on this gap, an estimation of 2.9 Million people (13.3%) of all people are living below the international standard poverty line. (ACOSS, 2016)
The full report can be found here.
This isn’t relative poverty, this is absolute poverty, living in a coastal city we are really only exposed to occasional relative poverty and occasional see homelessness. But there is severe life-threatening poverty just in our backyard…
From a relative poverty standpoint; Australia’s economic position favours the rich and impinges on the poor. new legislation surrounding public holiday and penalty rate cuts to casual and part-time workers is a prime example of the government benefiting business owners and larger corporations.
“This will have disastrous effects on student welfare and wellbeing, putting more students under financial pressure to make ends meet. Students are already being asked to pay more for their education and now they’re being asked to take a huge pay cut. For many students, Sunday penalty rates make an enormous difference when it comes to paying rent, buying food, and affording public transport. As many students are earning award wages or are on the minimum wage, Sunday and public holiday penalty rates can mean the difference between living above or below the poverty line.”
As an independent student not able to receive any youth allowances or financial support from family, I struggle to manage University with two jobs. And I scrape by on the bare minimum pay. The relative poverty I am experiencing is much more aligned to the first definition I mentioned. “Lacking sufficient money to live at a standard considered comfortable or normal in a society.” The issues I raised with this definition was what is defined as ‘normal’ and ‘comfortable’. I see eating out for dinner getting a coffee or buying an item of clothing/makeup as a luxury, that I must budget and save for. However, in a society revolving around material goods and social status based on wealth, those ‘luxuries’ are considered a day to day expense that don’t really affect the majorities financial position.
However, I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in and a job to go into every day. Some people don’t even have that. The communities being marginalised in Australia, need the same educational and employment opportunities to bridge this gap. We need to address the issue in our own backyard to help those in neglected towns struggling to find their feet. This poverty cycle needs to be broken we have the resources to help these people.
NaCare is an Australian fund created to ‘to help and support Australian registered Charities operating within Australia and the South Pacific region.’ and there are multiple charities and organisations within Australia to help assist those struggling to break the poverty cycle.
Siddharth Rajeevan, 2016 ‘Aestheticization and Romanticising Poverty’ Blog post, March 10, Viewed: 18th March 2016, https://poverty2019.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/aestheticization-and-romanticizing-poverty/
Australian Council of Social Services, 2016, Poverty report, viewed: Tuesday 21st March 2016, http://www.acoss.org.au/poverty/