Poverty to hit ‘levels not seen’


QUEENSLANDERS are facing a poverty wave never seen before, as pre-recession data shows more people in the state are struggling to put food on the table than elsewhere in the country.

A new report from the Queensland Council of Social Service (QCOSS) reveals the shocking rise in poverty, and its chief warns of a tsunami of people who will have to choose between paying their bills or eating, unless the Government throws them a lifeline.

QCOSS chief executive Aimee McVeigh fears what will happen to people once COVID-19 assistance ends on ­September 24.

"We can't go back to expecting people to live on $40 a day - it is unconscionable and it is forcing 773,000 Queenslanders into impossible choices and subjecting them to poverty. If there is not sustained support put in place … most Queenslanders will see a level of hardship most have never seen in their lifetimes," Ms McVeigh said.

The report, which analyses Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) data from 2017-18, found that 15.3 per cent of Queenslanders were living in poverty, compared to the Australia-wide figure of 13.6 per cent. A previous report from 2015-2016 by ACOSS and UNSW found 13 per cent of people lived in poverty in Queensland.

The report provides a baseline against which to measure the impact of the current COVID-19 pandemic on poverty in Australia.

Nearly half the children in sole parent families live in poverty (44 per cent). In households where the main earner is a female, the poverty rate is 19 per cent which is almost double the rate when the main earner is male at 10 per cent.

"In the two years to 2018, we witnessed a significant increase in the number of people experiencing poverty in Queensland. We also know that the rate of poverty in Queensland is 1.7 per cent higher than the national average," Ms McVeigh said.

The council chief warns that the government must not phase out the COVID supplement in September without having an appropriate social safety net in place.

"Queensland, and Australia as a whole, will not be able to recover our economies if people do not have enough income to spend on three square meals a day, let alone wider essentials and other goods," she said.

Originally published as Poverty to hit 'levels not seen'