Household Energy Expenditure: Measures es off Hardship & Changes in Income

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1 : Measures es off Hardship & Changes in Income By Professor or Sue Richardson Associate Professor or Peter Travers The National Institute of Labour Studies February,

2 Table of Contents HOUSEHOLD ENERGY EXPENDITURE: MEASURES OF HARDSHIP & CHANGES IN INCOME: EXECUTIVE SUMMARY...3 HARDSHIP BASELINE...3 CHANGES IN INCOME...4 SUBSIDIARY INDICATORS BACKGROUND HARDSHIP BASELINE HARDSHIP BASELINE CALCULATED FROM EXISTING DATA SUBSIDIARY INDICATOR BASED ON GENERAL SOCIAL SURVEY CHANGES IN INCOME THE ABS SURVEY OF INCOME AND HOUSING COSTS EQUIVALISED HOUSEHOLD INCOME...13 SUMMARY OF SECTION 3: CHANGES IN INCOME...21 REFERENCES

3 List of Tables TABLE 2.1 HOUSEHOLD EXPENDITURE SURVEY : PERCENTAGE OF DISPOSABLE INCOME SPENT ON FUEL AND POWER BY HOUSEHOLDS IN THE LOWEST FIVE DECILES OF EQUIVALISED DISPOSABLE INCOME (PERSON WEIGHTED)...8 TABLE 2.2 HOUSEHOLD EXPENDITURE SURVEY : PERCENTAGE OF DISPOSABLE INCOME SPENT ON FUEL AND POWER BY HOUSEHOLDS IN THE LOWEST FIVE DECILES OF EQUIVALISED DISPOSABLE INCOME (PERSON WEIGHTED)...9 TABLE 2.3: INCIDENCE OF FINANCIAL STRESS BY EQUIVALISED INCOME QUINTILE: HOUSEHOLDS UNABLE TO HEAT HOME IN PAST YEAR DUE TO SHORTAGE OF MONEY...10 TABLE 3.1 DISPOSABLE INCOME AND EQUIVALISED INCOME...13 TABLE 3.2: AUSTRALIA: INCOME DISTRIBUTION TO ( DOLLARS)...17 TABLE 3.3: SOUTH AUSTRALIA: INCOME DISTRIBUTION TO ( DOLLARS)...18 TABLE 3.4: ADJUSTMENTS TO WEEKLY ALLOWANCES AND PENSIONS (CURRENT DOLLARS): AUSTRALIA...20 TABLE 3.5: INDEX OF ADJUSTMENTS TO WEEKLY ALLOWANCES AND PENSIONS : MARCH 1998=100: AUSTRALIA...20 List of Figures FIGURE 2.1: INCIDENCE OF MISSING OUT BY FIVE-PERCENTILE INCOME RANGES...7 FIGURE 3.1: AUSTRALIA: AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD EQUIVALISED WEEKLY INCOME DOLLARS 14 FIGURE 3.2: AUSTRALIA: INCOME SHARE, HOUSEHOLD EQUIVALISED WEEKLY INCOME...15 FIGURE 3.3: AUSTRALIA: INEQUALITY IN DISTRIBUTION OF HOUSEHOLD EQUIVALISED WEEKLY INCOME GINI COEFFICIENT...15 FIGURE 3.4: SOUTH AUSTRALIA: AVERAGE HOUSEHOLD EQUIVALISED WEEKLY INCOME DOLLARS...16 FIGURE 3.5: SOUTH AUSTRALIA: INCOME SHARE, HOUSEHOLD EQUIVALISED WEEKLY INCOME...16 FIGURE 3.6: SOUTH AUSTRALIA: INEQUALITY IN DISTRIBUTION OF HOUSEHOLD EQUIVALISED WEEKLY INCOME GINI COEFFICIENT...17 FIGURE 3.7: INDEX OF ADJUSTMENTS TO WEEKLY ALLOWANCES AND PENSIONS, : AUSTRALIA

4 : Measures of Hardship & Changes in Income: Executive Summary This Report is a follow up to a Report prepared in October in which we made several recommendations for monitoring fuel-driven hardship. We recommended that a hardship baseline should be established, that changes in income be monitored, and that subsidiary measures should be used. The October 2002 Report focussed on developing the hardship baseline and provided some initial data for South Australia based on the 1998/99 Household Expenditure Survey. This Report supplies measures based on the most recent data available, drawing in particular on the latest income data of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2000/01), the 1998/99 ABS Household Expenditure Survey, and the 2002 General Social Survey. Hardship Baseline The idea behind the hardship baseline is to give an indication of how low-income South Australians were faring in terms of their spending on household fuel and power of all kinds prior to the recent changes in the electricity industry. This information could serve as a reference point for monitoring changes over time. In our 2002 Report, we recommended that readily available information that would serve as such a baseline could be obtained from the five-yearly Household Expenditure Survey (HES). The HES provides very detailed information on how much people spend on household goods and services, and it also calculates their family income. Among the expenditure categories is expenditure on household fuel and power (electricity, gas and other fuels). According to the latest available HES (1998/99), low-income South Australians (defined here as those in the bottom half of the income distribution) spent a larger proportion of their income on household fuel 1 National Institute of Labour Studies (NILS), 2002 (October), Fuel Poverty: A concept with Power in South Australia? 3

5 and power than was the case for Australians generally. The median for Australia lies between three and four per cent, while for South Australia it is between four and five per cent. A minority of low-income Australian households (45.6%) spent four percent or more of their income on domestic fuel and power. In South Australia, however, 58.7 percent of low-income households spent four percent or more of their income on domestic fuel and power in 1998/99. In Table 2.1 of the Report, we show that this picture of relatively higher expenditure for low-income South Australians holds true throughout the full range of levels of spending on domestic fuel and power. We note that one reason for this is that the proportion of South Australians living alone is well above the national average. The Household Expenditure Survey is conducted over a period of 12 months, the latest one covering the period July 2003 to June Results are due for publication in Using the 1998/99 results as a reference point, the forthcoming results will show the extent to which the already high levels of expenditure on domestic fuel and power in South Australia have changed over time. Changes in Income Though the Household Expenditure Survey is conducted at intervals of five years, there are other surveys that can be used in the meantime to gain at least partial understanding of change. Foremost among these are the ABS income surveys, and the General Social Survey (GSS). In this Report, we publish results from the income surveys showing that the lowest income groups have on average increased their income in real terms by a small amount. This is the case both for Australia as a whole, and for South Australia. The main reason for this is that most (though not all) government cash payments have risen substantially in real terms in recent years. Changes in rates for government cash payments are published every quarter and they provide a useful proxy indicator of changes in the situation of households in the lower income range. 4

6 Subsidiary Indicators The results of the first of a new series of ABS surveys, the General Social Survey (GSS) have just been released. The GSS has several questions relating to financial hardship, and we recommended in our 2002 Report that the most appropriate of these in terms of isolating impacts for low-income households is the response to the question: Were you unable to heat your home in the past 12 months because you were short of money? The first GSS shows that in 2002, just on five percent of South Australians in the lowest income range answered Yes to this question, double the rate for Australia as a whole 2. This is consistent with the HES finding that low-income South Australians were spending a larger proportion of their income on domestic fuel and power than the Australian average. Both the GSS and the HES refer to the situation prior to the South Australian electricity retail market becoming fully contestable on 1 January This Report notes that there is a significant difference in the results reported for Australia as a whole by the GSS, compared with the results reported on in the October 2002 Report, which were based on the ABS 1998/99 HES. 5

7 1. Background This Report is a follow up to a Report prepared in October in which we made several recommendations for monitoring household fuel-driven hardship. We recommended that a hardship baseline should be established, that changes in income be monitored, and that subsidiary measures should be used. This Report supplies measures based on the most recent data available, drawing in particular on the latest income survey (ABS 2003a, 2003b, 2003c), the and the General Social Survey (ABS 2003b; 2004). Section 2.1 describes the Hardship Baseline, and Section 2.2 sets out the Subsidiary Measures. 2. Hardship Baseline 2.1 Hardship Baseline Calculated From Existing Data The hardship baseline is based on the proportion of income a household spends on household fuel and power of all types 4. The only source for this information is the Household Expenditure Survey (HES) conducted by the ABS every five years. The most recent one for which data are available is the survey. Fieldwork for the current survey began in July 2003 and will continue for 12 months. First results are due in Since our interest is primarily in those households most at risk of experiencing hardship, it is important that the hardship baseline be one that is well suited to identifying hardship. The ABS has acknowledged that its survey income can be a poor indicator of living standards for those with the very lowest incomes. This is illustrated in Figure 2.1, showing the extent to which missing out on a range of common activities due to lack of money is related to household income. 3 National Institute of Labour Studies (NILS), 2002 (October), Fuel Poverty: A concept with Power in South Australia? 4 All references to household (domestic) fuel and power relate to the ABS definition of domestic fuel and power which includes electricity and gas, as well as heating oil, wood for fuel etc., but excludes fuel used for non-residential purposes such as motor vehicles. 6

8 (The common activities that were missed out on due to lack of money were: family and friends over once a month for a meal; a special meal once a week; new clothing rather than second-hand; a holiday away from home once a year; night out once a fortnight.) A feature of Figure 2.1 is that though, as would be expected, rising income is associated with a lower probability of missing out, this is not the case for the households in the very lowest five percentile income range. The most likely explanation of this is that this lowest group includes those with zero and with negative income, a disproportionate number of whom are self-employed and have expenditure patterns that do not accord with their stated income. We have taken this problem into account in Tables 2.1 and 2.2 by omitting from our calculations those households declaring zero or negative income. Figure 2.1: Incidence of missing out by five-percentile income ranges Source: Bray, Figure 6, FACS Occasional Paper No. 4, Hardship in Australia. An analysis of financial stress indicators in the Australian Bureau of Statistics Household Expenditure Survey, J Rob Bray. Tables 2.1 and 2.2 show the expenditure patterns in the lower half of the income distribution for South Australia and for Australia. The income measure used to select the lower half of the income distribution is equivalised income, that is, disposable income adjusted by the equivalence factors now routinely used by the ABS the socalled OECD modified equivalence scale (ABS 2003c). The income measure used to calculate the percentage of income spent on household fuel and power is disposable income. 7

9 Tables 2.1 and 2.2 show that it is extremely rare for low-income households to have an expenditure of less than one per cent of household income on domestic fuel and power. The proportion of expenditure on domestic fuel and power for low-income South Australian households is consistently higher than for Australia as a whole. The median for Australia lies between three and four per cent, while for South Australia it is between four and five per cent. A minority of low-income Australian households (45.6%) spends four percent or more of their income on fuel and power. In South Australia, however, 58.7 percent of low-income households spent four percent or more of their income on fuel and power in 1998/99. Table 2.1 Household Expenditure Survey : Percentage of disposable income spent on fuel and power by households in the lowest five deciles of equivalised disposable income (person weighted) % of households Per cent disposable income South Australia Australia Less than 1% % or more % or more % or more % or more % or more % or more % or more % or more % or more % or more Total Source: Special tables calculated by ABS (Households with zero or negative income omitted) Table 2.2 gives the estimated numbers of households, including those with nil or negative income. South Australia has 9.5 percent of the households in the lower half of the Australian income distribution compared to its overall population share of 7.7 percent. This reflects both the relatively lower incomes in South Australia, and the higher percentage of lone person households in South Australia percent, the highest of any State, and well above the national average of 22.9 percent (ABS 2002b). 8

10 Table 2.2 Household Expenditure Survey : Percentage of disposable income spent on fuel and power by households in the lowest five deciles of equivalised disposable income (person weighted) Estimated No. of Households Per cent disposable income South Australia Australia Nil/negative disposable income 5,794 62,517 Less than 1% 3,784 96,800 1% or more 338,223 3,488,539 2% or more 321,417 3,134,357 3% or more 269,299 2,355,482 4% or more 200,894 1,636,221 5% or more 130,355 1,153,625 6% or more 97, ,825 7% or more 71, ,116 8% or more 41, ,577 9% or more 31, ,534 10% or more 28, ,226 Total 347,801 3,647,856 Source: Special tables calculated by ABS Table 2.1 could serve as a meaningful baseline for the calculation of changes in the level of fuel-driven hardship. It shows that even in , low income South Australians were spending more of their income on household fuel and power than was the case for the nation as a whole. This would be a useful reference line for monitoring changes over time. 2.2 Subsidiary Indicator Based On General Social Survey A question asked both in the 1998/99 HES and in the 2002 General Social Survey (GSS) is whether respondents were unable to heat their home in the past year due to shortage of money. In his analysis of this and similar questions in the 1998/99 HES, Bray classified the item unable to heat home as an indicator of hardship rather than as merely a cash flow problem, or an indicator of missing out (Bray, 2001). Unlike the item referring to payment of utility bills on time, for example, the incidence of this problem is confined overwhelmingly to households with low income. The GSS results for the 2002 have now been released for Australia (December 2003) and for the States (January 2004). Table 2.3 gives the response to this question by income quintile for the whole of Australia and for each State in the 2002 GSS: 9

11 Table 2.3: Incidence of financial stress by equivalised income quintile: Households unable to heat home in past year due to shortage of money Number Of Persons (per cent) Lowest quintile Second quintile Third quintile Top two quintiles All persons Percent unable to heat home in SA * 0.9** 0.4** 1.6 past 12 months because they Victoria 1.2* 1.7* 1.3* 0.3** 0.9 were short of money NSW 0.1** 0.9* 2.2** 2* 0.7 QLD 0.6** 0.2** 4.5* 1.5* 0.7 WA 0.4** 1.5* 2.4* 2* 1.4 Tasmania * 0.9** 1* 2.0 ACT 4.8* 3.7* 0.2** 0.1** 0.9 Australia * 0.3** 0.9 Source: ABS 2003d; 2004 * estimate has a relative standard error of between 25% and 50% and should be used with caution ** estimate has a relative standard error greater than 50% and is considered too unreliable for general use Table 2.3 shows the percentages of persons who answered Yes to the question whether they had been unable to heat their home because they were short of money at some time in the past 12 months. The quintile breakdown refers to household income, adjusted for household size. The first thing to note is that there are so few people in the top half of the income distribution who answer Yes to this question that the top two quintiles have been combined. Even then, most cells in the State breakdown by quintiles of income produce a result that is either quite unreliable (marked **) or a result that should be treated with caution (marked *). Even in the lowest income group, the Yes answers are too few to be reliable in all States except South Australia (4.9 percent) and Tasmania (3.7 percent). The South Australian number is double that of the rate among all Australians living in households in the lowest income quintile. It is worth noting that most of the Queensland and NSW population enjoys relatively mild winters, and so a low response for these States would be expected to a question on home heating, and also tend to result in a relatively low Australian average. Furthermore, as noted above in the comments on Table 2.2, South Australia has a 10

12 higher percentage of lone person households than any other State. People living alone would spend on average a greater proportion of their income on heating than would be the case in larger households. The GSS results show a consistently lower Yes response than those we reported previously, citing Bray s analysis of the Household Expenditure Survey. (Bray 2001). Bray does not give a State breakdown, but his results for each income quintile for Australia are approximately twice as high as the GSS results. There are several possible explanations for this difference: Both the HES and the GSS estimate results for the whole population on the basis of sample responses. All such results are subject to sampling error; The HES survey took place four years earlier than the GSS; The HES survey was conducted over a whole year, whereas the GSS was between March and July. Seasonal factors, such as whether a person was interviewed on a particularly cold day rather than a particularly hot one can influence answers; The HES covers all people aged 15 and over, whereas the GSS covers those aged 18 and over; Bray s results were of percentages of households, whereas the GSS tables give percentages of people. This would not make any difference if all households contained the same number of people. There are in fact many more singleperson households in the lowest income group than in any others. The context within which the question is asked can vary, as does the knowledge and attitudes of the person who is answering the question, and the skill of the interviewer. In view of these differences in methodology and the large variability between responses to this question in the 2002 GSS and the 1998/99 HES, we would recommend caution in drawing conclusions based on a direct comparison between the GSS and the HES. It would be preferable if direct comparisons were made, rather, between the 1998/99 HES and later HES results due to be published in 2005, or between the various rounds of the GSS. 11

13 3. Changes in Income 3.1 The ABS Survey of Income and Housing Costs The most reliable source of income data in Australia is the ABS Survey of Income and Housing Costs (SIHC). In recent years the survey has been annual, but from it will be biennial, with a larger sample size than previously. Results from the survey have only just been published, and results from the latest survey will not be published until later in The reason for the delay in publishing the survey is that revisions were being made to these and to earlier results in an attempt to achieve greater consistency. For some time the ABS and other researchers have recognised difficulties in achieving consistency in income data over time. This is in part due to changes in survey methodology and field procedures that occurred beginning with the SIHC (ABS 2003a). There has also been significant undercoverage of government cash transfers, particularly since (ABS 2003b). The ABS together with the Social Policy Research Centre has been addressing these issues and a series of reports will be forthcoming. The July 2003 publication of the SIHC gives an important revision that addresses the problem of undercoverage of social security payments. The time series set out below incorporates these revisions. To correct for under-reporting, the survey weights assigned to respondents reporting benefits have been increased for and In addition, a process of demographic benchmarking was applied to all surveys back to to ensure the data accords with known demographic characteristics of the population. Finally, the one-off payment to seniors in was modelled and added to respondent records (ABS 2003a, p. 51). This means that the Tables set out below can be treated with greater confidence than previous reports of income distribution time series. Even though there is still undercoverage of reporting of benefits, the series can now be regarded as consistent. 12

14 3.2 Equivalised Household Income The income measure used in these Tables is equivalised household income. The ABS has recently announced that it will from now on use equivalised disposable income instead of gross income for most analysis (ABS 2003b). Equivalised disposable income is an income measure that deducts direct taxes from gross household income and which also takes account of both the varying needs of different sized households and of economies of scale in expenditure within the household. The aim is that when two households are said to have similar equivalised income, then they have similar current material standard of living (although there is no account taken of differences in assets). Equivalised income is obtained by dividing after-tax income by an equivalence factor. The one used by the ABS is the OECD modified scale, which allocates a value of 1 to the first adult in the household; 0.5 for each additional adult; and 0.3 for each child. This is illustrated in Table 3.1 where the after-tax income of each household is divided by 1, 1.5 and 1.8 respectively, resulting in each having an equivalised income of $ The three households in Table 3.1 would thus be assumed to have a similar standard of living. Table 3.1 Disposable income and equivalised income Household composition Disposable Income Equivalised Income Single adult $10000 $10000 Couple $15000 $10000 Couple and one child $18000 $10000 Figures below show the time series for income distribution for Australia and for South Australia over the period covered by the six surveys between 1994/95 and 2000/01. The data on which the charts are based is set out in Tables 3.2 and 3.3. Note that the quintile cut-off points for Australia are used in both the Australian and South Australian data. This means that direct comparisons can be made, but it also has the implication that the South Australian quintiles are not of equal size. In addition to the five quintiles, the second and third income deciles have also been included in the Tables in keeping with recent ABS practice of using this category as being the most suitable for defining the low income group (ABS 2003c, p.6). Real average income 13

15 has risen for all income-groups, but most sharply in the case of the richest quintile. This is reflected in the Tables showing the income share of each group: only the highest income quintile has increased its share. Not surprisingly, this translates into a rise in the Gini coefficient, a measure of inequality that has a value of 1 where one person receives all income, and 0 where income is equally shared. Figure 3.1: Australia: Average household equivalised weekly income dollars Highest quintile Fourth quintile Third quintile Second and third deciles Lowest quintile $ per week Source: ABS Cat Survey of Inc and Housing Costs, , Table 1 14

16 Figure 3.2: Australia: Income share, household equivalised weekly income 45.0 Highest quintile Fourth quintile Third quintile Second and third deciles Lowest quintile Percent Source: ABS Cat Survey of Inc and Housing Costs, , Table 1 Figure 3.3: Australia: Inequality in distribution of household equivalised weekly income Gini coefficient Source: ABS Cat Survey of Inc and Housing Costs, , Table 1 15

17 Figure 3.4: South Australia: Average household equivalised weekly income dollars Highest quintile Fourth quintile Third quintile Second and third deciles Lowest quintile $ per week Source: ABS Special Tables derived from Survey of Inc and Housing Costs, Figure 3.5: South Australia: Income share, household equivalised weekly income Highest quintile Fourth quintile Third quintile Second and third deciles Lowest quintile Percent Source: ABS Special Tables derived from Survey of Inc and Housing Costs,

18 Figure 3.6: South Australia: Inequality in distribution of household equivalised weekly income Gini coefficient Source: ABS Special Tables derived from Survey of Inc and Housing Costs, Table 3.2: Australia: Income distribution to ( dollars) Average weekly income Highest quintile Fourth quintile Third quintile Second quintile Lowest quintile Second and third deciles Income share Highest quintile Fourth quintile Third quintile Second quintile Lowest quintile Second and third deciles Gini Coefficient Source: ABS Cat Survey of Inc and Housing Costs, , Table 1 17

19 Table 3.3: South Australia: Income distribution to ( dollars) Average weekly income Highest quintile Fourth quintile Third quintile Second quintile Lowest quintile Second and third deciles Income share Highest quintile Fourth quintile Third quintile Second quintile Lowest quintile Second and third deciles Gini Coefficient Note: The Australian quintile cutoff-points are also used for the SA quintiles Source: ABS Special tables derived from Survey of Income and Housing Costs, On the face of it, households in the lowest quintiles have maintained their position in absolute terms, but not in relative terms. However, a problem arises in translating this into an accurate indicator of living standards owing to the introduction of the New Tax System in 1 July The New Tax System contained three elements: 1. A marked increase in government cash transfers; 2. A lowering of tax rates; 3. The introduction of a new indirect tax the GST. The changes in cash transfers (including the one-off payment in July 2000 to compensate for the inflationary effects of the GST) and to the direct tax rates are incorporated in the figures given above, but not the GST itself. We will have to wait until 2005 when the results of the HES are released to see the net impact of these changes. As the ABS points out, the net impact could be higher or lower for different groups, depending on their different expenditure patterns. 18

20 In the meantime, it is relatively simple to obtain the changes in the rates of payments for government cash transfers. Of households with what the ABS defines as low incomes (the Second and Third Decile category in Figures above), just over 75 per cent have government pensions and allowances as their principal source of income (ABS 2003b, p.6). The Common Pension Rates are indexed twice yearly (20 March and 20 September) according to changes in the higher of the CPI or Male Total Average Weekly Earnings (MTAWE) for the previous June to December, or December to June. The single rate benchmark is set at 25 per cent of MTAWE, and the single rate in turn is 60 per cent of the combined married rate. The Common Benefit Rates, which apply to various allowances (such as those paid to the unemployed) as distinct from pensions, are indexed according to the CPI only. As is clear from Figure 3.7 and from Tables 3.4 and 3.5 below, these payments have diverged substantially since In the five years since September 1998, the pension has gone from being 10.5 per cent higher than the allowance to 17.6 per cent higher. The pension and allowance rates shown here apply throughout the whole of Australia. Figure 3.7: Index of adjustments to weekly allowances and pensions, : Australia A llo w a n ce Pension Special GST adjustm ent Mar-98 Jun-98 Sep-98 Dec-98 Mar-99 Jun-99 Sep-99 Dec-99 Mar-00 Jun-00 Sep-00 Dec-00 Mar-01 Jun-01 Sep-01 Dec-01 Mar-02 Jun-02 Sep-02 Dec-02 Mar-03 Jun-03 Sep-03 Source: Graphical representation of Table

21 Table 3.4: Adjustments to weekly allowances and pensions (current dollars): Australia Allowance Pension 20/03/ /09/ /03/ /09/ /03/ /07/ /09/ /03/ /09/ /03/ /09/ /03/ /09/ Table 3.5: Index of adjustments to weekly allowances and pensions : March 1998=100: Australia Allowance Pension 20/03/ /09/ /03/ /09/ /03/ /07/ /09/ /03/ /09/ /03/ /09/ /03/ /09/ Source: Derived from the Common Pension Rate (see Common Benefit Rate (see and the Definition of all FACS payments and benefits (refer to 20

22 Summary of section 3: Changes in Income Figures 3.1 to 3.3 represent three ways of illustrating the same point: using the best income data available, we can say for Australia that though average incomes at each income level rose between and , they rose much more sharply in the highest income quintile. This translates into the highest quintile increasing its share of total income (Figure 3.2), and a higher level in income inequality at the end of the period than at the beginning (Figure 3.3). The situation of those in the second and third income deciles is worthy of special note, since most of those receiving pensions or allowances fall into this category. This group improved their situation in real terms by a small amount (7.9 percent), but had a smaller share of total income at the end of the period. Figures , and Tables show the results for South Australia. The picture here is more complex. Average incomes in the highest quintile have risen at about half the rate as for Australia as a whole, while those for the lowest income groups show very little difference from their counterparts for Australia as a whole. This is no doubt due to the high proportion of people receiving government cash transfers in these categories for whom income is similar throughout Australia. The upshot of this is that the income share of the poorest groups in South Australia actually rose over the period, while that of the richest quintile fell, with a corresponding fall in overall income inequality within South Australia. Even though the income data cited here is the best currently available, it does not include the effect of the GST on the living standards of low-income households. We will get an indication of that when the next HES is published in Figure 3.7 and Tables 3.4 and 3.5 give a further breakdown within the category of those receiving government cash transfers. While all payments are indexed, pensions move according to the higher of average incomes and the CPI, whereas allowances are indexed only according to the CPI. The two types of payment are diverging sharply and can be expected to continue to diverge over time. Changes in the indexation of the two payments are published twice yearly and would serve as a useful proxy to changes in the incomes of the low-income population. 21

23 References Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2002a, Catalogue No , Special Article on Household Income, Living Standards and Financial Stress. Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2002b, Catalogue No , Census of Population and Housing Selected Social and Housing Characteristics. Australian Bureau of Statistics, June 2003a, Catalogue No , Feature Article on Revised Household Income Distribution Statistics. Australian Bureau of Statistics, July 2003b, Catalogue , Survey of Income and Housing Costs, Australian Bureau of Statistics, July 2003c, Catalogue , Household Income and Income Distribution, Australian Bureau of Statistics, December 2003d, Catalogue No General Social Survey, Australia Australian Bureau of Statistics, January 2004, Catalogue No General Social Survey, States Bray, R, 2001, Hardship in Australia, Occasional Paper No. 4, Department of Family and Community Services, Canberra. Common Pension Rate: Common Benefit Rate: Definitions of all FACS payments and benefits: 22

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