11 July 2013 — Strong economic and income growth has played a critical role in improving living standards and employment opportunities, but some people continue to experience deep and persistent disadvantage, a report has found.

A Productivity Commission Staff Working Paper on Deep and Persistent Disadvantage in Australia found there was no single agreed way to define and measure disadvantage but it was clear that disadvantage was about impoverished lives, rather than just low income.

Authors Rosalie McLachlan, Geoff Gilfillan and Jenny Gordon found many Australians experienced disadvantage at some point in their lives but fewer experienced deep disadvantage.

The Social Exclusion Monitor shows that around 5 per cent of Australians aged 15 years plus experienced deep social exclusion in 2010, down from 7 per cent in 2001. The rate of very deep exclusion over the decade remained at around 1 per cent.

The main findings were:

  • a child’s early years were fundamental to shaping their life chances
  • education was a foundation capability – it improves a person’s employment prospects and earning capacity, and can lead to better health, improved life satisfaction and higher levels of social engagement
  • employment was the route out of disadvantage for most people of working age.