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Income inequality exists in Australia, but the true picture may not be as bad as you thought

Roger Wilkins writes in The Conversation (20.6.17) about Australian household income statistics, pointing out that while the data show wealth inequality has grown in recent times, income inequality has barely shifted in the same period.

'We hear a lot about inequality in Australia but the true picture is much more complicated than the headlines usually suggest. The data indicate that wealth inequality has grown but is lower now than before the global financial crisis (GFC). And while the personal incomes of the very rich have gone up, overall household income inequality has barely shifted since the start of this century.

'Economic inequality refers to the extent to which material well-being differs across people – how rich are the rich, how poor are the poor. But there are different ways to be rich, and different ways to be poor.

'Income inequality is about the gap between people with high incomes and low incomes. Wealth inequality, on the other hand, looks at the gap between people with high net worth (for example, a lot of houses, stocks or other assets) and people with low net worth (few or no assets). People could have very similar incomes but be at opposite ends of the scale when it comes to their wealth, for example.

'In practice, attention typically focuses on income inequality, although it is also important to consider wealth inequality.'


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