Deprivation is increasing among Australians. More and more of them miss out on even one substantial meal a day, a new national survey reveals.
And it doesn't seem to have anything to do with the global recession. The development pattern is skewed, that is the conclusion.
"This snapshot was taken when the Australian economy was still booming. If none of that growth trickled down to the poor, one wonders how badly they are faring now that the economy is slowing down," says Professor Peter Saunders with the Social Policy Research Centre (SPRC) at the University of New South Wales.
The study found that levels of deprivation and social exclusion had worsened on several counts since similar research was undertaken two years earlier.
The report, titled Still Doing It Tough, was co-authored by Prof.Saunders and Melissa Wong. It was released Wednesday last at the Australian Social Policy Conference hosted by the varsity.
It identifies those who cannot afford each of the 26 items regarded by the community as being crucial for all Australians.
These items were selected as the "essentials of life" in a major survey of the general population conducted by the researchers in 2006.
It says more and more people lack savings for emergencies, a telephone and heating in the home, and are unable to buy medicines prescribed by a doctor.
Among families, sole parents faced the highest level of deprivation, almost 35 per cent above the national average and higher than the average experienced by Indigenous Australians and those with an ongoing disability.
The biggest jump in deprivation - close to 24 per cent - was experienced by the unemployed, while the deprivation gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians narrowed slightly.
The study found no evidence of a decline in levels of social exclusion over the period.
More than three-quarters of respondents experienced five or more forms of social exclusion ranging from a lack of participation in social and community activities, lack of access to key services and restricted access to economic resources.
Prof.Saunders felt that the findings could have an impact on policy development under the Federal Government's social inclusion agenda, which identifies social inclusion as a first-order issue.