Inequality in Australia
Task: Explore inequality in Australia.
Research: In this task you need to examine a report by the Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) on inequality in Australia. Your task is to examine how inequality has changed in Australia over the last twenty years. You should discuss whether inequality is rising (and on what measures), and how different groups of people are fairing. Are people better off or worse off? Which groups have benefited most? And who might be left behind?
The primary source for this assignment is the report by the Australian Council of Social Services. A key part of the assignment is showing that you understand what the report is saying – what conclusions does it draw and what evidence does it use to draw these conclusions?
But this is also a research assignment. You are expected to look to other sources as well. Some sources may offer different evidence, or they may interpret the evidence differently. Other sources may compare Australia to other countries, and this might influence what implications they draw from the evidence. For example, they might note that Australians have become richer than those in other countries over the same period, and this might influence whether they think changes in inequality are important.
Remember to be careful in analysing data that the events you are examining correspond to the time when the measures of inequality were taken (not the time the reports were published).
Finally, this task also involves critical analysis. You should reflect on the nature of the debate about inequality. What does it tell us? Are changes in inequality concerning? Do they show that policy is working well or poorly? Linking your analysis of changes in inequality to the implications of these changes should be a part of the paper.
Primary Source: Australian Council of Social Services (ACOSS) 2015, Inequality in Australia: A nation divided, ACOSS: Sydney.
Two other important sources of information you may wish to consult are:
Productivity Commission\’s 2013 report Trends in the Distribution of Income in Australia.
Report: OECD 2011, Divided We Stand: Why inequality keeps rising.
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