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Gap between rich and poor widens


Social Trends: The Age this morning carries a report on new Sydney University research which shows the gap between the rich and poor is continuing to widen. Australia has one of the world's most prosperous economies but most of its citizens are not sharing the wealth. Meanwhile, in Brisbane, a suicide prevention conference is debating the place of spirituality in helping prevent suicide.

The Australian Centre for Industrial Research and Training study found that almost nine out of every 10 new jobs created in the 1990s paid less than $26,000 a year. Nearly half those jobs paid less than $15,600 a year. Australia has one of the world's most prosperous economies but most of its citizens are not sharing the wealth, with one in three expected to be casual employees by the end of the decade.

Chief researcher John Buchanan said the growth in inequality was driven by "an explosion" of earnings at the top and the "stagnation" of earnings at the bottom and the middle of the labour market.

He said real hourly earnings for men in the top 10 per cent of income earners rose from $28 an hour in 1989 to $43 an hour in 2001 - a real increase of 53 per cent based on 2001 dollar values.

"At the start of the 1990s, the top 10 per cent of male income earners took home 1.6 times the median income.

"By 2001, this has jumped to 1.9 times the median income. Only the top 40 per cent of income earners experienced real wage increases throughout the 1990s, with only the top 20 per cent receiving substantial income growth."

The study found Australia no longer projected a "standard" employment model. New data showed only about half of the nation's workforce were permanent employees, with 25 per cent working casually. The remainder worked on contract or were self-employed.

Single breadwinner households dropped from 51 per cent of couples with children in 1981 to 31 per cent in 2000.

Meanwhile, suicide is on the rise. The ABC's 7.30 Report last night carried a story last night on the blow out in suicide statistics. Kerry O'Brien introduced the story like this: "Australia's preoccupation with the road toll is as strong as ever, despite the fact that numbers seem to be gradually trending down."

"But it's far outstripped by another national scourge that attracts nowhere near the attention -- suicide.

"Conservatively, 2,500 Australians take their own lives each year and thousands more attempt it.

"In the search for an answer to this epidemic, the age-old comfort of spirituality is attracting new interest. But, as delegates to a suicide prevention conference in Brisbane are debating, how do you develop spirituality when mainstream religion is in decline and under siege?"

The full transcript of the story can be found at the link below.

Source - Full Stories:
The Age
ABCTV 7.30 Report

13 Jun 2003