Better health and ageing for all Australians

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework - 2010

2.08 Income

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Why is it important?:

There is strong evidence, from Australia and other developed countries, that low socioeconomic status is associated with poor health (Turrell & Mathers 2000). Low income is associated with a wide range of disadvantages including poor health, shorter life expectancy, poor education, substance abuse, reduced social participation, crime and violence. People with lower socioeconomic status, including many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, bear a significantly higher burden of disease (Begg et al. 2007). The level of income inequality within a society has been suggested as a determinant of differential health outcomes (Wolfson et al. 1999). There are several competing explanations as to how income affects socioeconomic status and the reason why low income contributes to poor health (Wagstaff & van Doorslaer 2000).

Disparity in income is one aspect of socioeconomic status through which Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples face disadvantage. Income is closely linked to other measures but most particularly employment status (measure 2.07), single-parent families (measure 2.12) and educational attainment (measures 2.04, 2.05 and 2.06).

In measuring and comparing income, it is important that various factors, such as the number of people living in a household, particularly children and other dependants, are taken into account. The statistical measure adopted here is equivalised gross household income which adjusts reported incomes to take these factors into account.

Findings:

In 2008 an estimated 49% of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults had incomes in the bottom 20% of equivalised gross weekly household incomes (i.e. adjusted for the numbers of adult and child occupants). The corresponding rate in 2006 was 40%. This compares with 20% of non-Indigenous adults. Only 5% of Indigenous adults lived in households with an equivalised gross weekly income in the top quintile (over $1,380 per week) compared with 22% of non-Indigenous Australians.

In 2008, the mean equivalised gross weekly household income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians aged 18 years and over was $580—less than two-thirds of the corresponding figure for non-Indigenous Australians ($983).

After adjusting for inflation, there was an increase in the mean equivalised gross household income for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander households between 1994 and 2002 ($24; 5% increase) and between 2002 and 2008 ($111; 24% increase).

These national estimates mask considerable geographic variation. For example, the mean equivalised gross income for Indigenous adults in 2008 ranged from $990 in the Australian Capital Territory to $489 in the Northern Territory.

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in the lowest quintile of equivalised household income varied across jurisdictions, from 60% in the Northern Territory to 21% in the ACT. In all other jurisdictions, the proportion of Indigenous adults in the lowest quintile of equivalised household income was in the range 44% to 52%.

A much higher proportion of Indigenous adults living in remote areas, than in non-remote areas, were in the lowest quintile of equivalised household income (58% compared with 46%).

NATSISS 2008 found that 47% of Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over were living in households which reported they could not raise $2,000 within a week. Indigenous Australians in remote areas were more likely to report that they could not raise $2,000 within a week than Indigenous Australians in major cities and regional areas (64% compared with 40% and 43% respectively). Approximately 28% of Indigenous Australians aged 15 years and over were living in households that had experienced days without money for basic living expenses in the last 12 months.

A clear indication of the relationship between low income and poorer health is provided by the 2008 NATSISS, which found that 46% of Indigenous people who assessed their health as fair or poor were in the lowest equivalised household income quintile. Relationships between income and educational attainment and employment are also evident. A higher proportion of non-Indigenous Australians reported better health in each income quintile compared with Indigenous Australians (see measure 1.15).

Implications:

The large disparity in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ income compared with the non-Indigenous population has important implications for health. These include the capacity to access goods and services required for a healthy lifestyle, including adequate nutritious food, housing, transport and health care. Other factors that may exacerbate the situation faced by low income households include resource commitments to extended families and visitors (SCRGSP 2007).

Income discrepancies between states/territories and by remoteness are also an indicator of an uneven capacity to access services. Factors influencing the average levels of income and its distribution are generally beyond the influence of the health sector including education (measures 2.04, 2.05, 2.06) and employment (measure 2.07). A cross-portfolio approach is necessary for improving income distribution for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.

Figure 89 – Proportion of persons aged 18 years and over in each equivalised gross weekly household income quintile, by Indigenous status, 2008


Figure 89 – Proportion of persons aged 18 years and over in each equivalised gross weekly household income quintile, by Indigenous status, 2008
Source: ABS analysis NATSISS 2008 and Survey of Income and Housing 2007–08
Text description of figure 89 (TXT 1KB)

Figure 90 – Persons aged 18 years and over in the lowest quintile of equivalised gross weekly household income, by Indigenous status and remoteness, 2008


Figure 90 – Persons aged 18 years and over in the lowest quintile of equivalised gross weekly household income, by Indigenous status and remoteness, 2008
Source: ABS analysis NATSISS 2008 and Survey of Income and Housing 2007–08
Text description of figure 90 (TXT 1KB)

Figure 91 – Percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons aged 18 years and over who were in the lowest quintile of equivalised gross weekly household income quintiles, 2008


Figure 91 – Percentage of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander persons aged 18 years and over who were in the lowest quintile of equivalised gross weekly household income quintiles, 2008
Source: ABS analysis of NATSISS 2008
Text description of figure 91 (TXT 1KB)

Figure 92 – Mean gross weekly equivalised household income, Indigenous Australians aged 18 years and over, by state/territory, 1994,2002 and 2008


Figure 92 – Mean gross weekly equivalised household income, Indigenous Australians aged 18 years and over, by state/territory, 1994,2002 and 2008
Note: Data for 1994 and 2002 are CPI-adjusted to 2008 dollars.
Source: ABS analysis of NATSISS 2008
Text description of figure 92 (TXT 1KB)

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