Better health and ageing for all Australians

Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Performance Framework (HPF) 2012

Tier 2—Socio-economic factors—2.08 Income

Up to OATSIH Publications

prev pageTOC |next page

Table of contents

Why is it important?:

There is strong evidence, from Australia and other developed countries, that low socioeconomic status is associated with poor health (Turrell et al. 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 bear a significantly higher burden of disease (Begg et al. 2007). The level of income inequality within a society has been identified 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 et al. 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 (see measure 2.07) and educational attainment (see 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 peoples 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 gross weekly equivalised income for Indigenous adults in 2008 ranged from $990 in the ACT to $489 in the NT.

The proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander adults in the lowest quintile of equivalised household income varied across jurisdictions, from 60% in the NT to 41% in the ACT/Tasmania. 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 were in the lowest quintile of equivalised household income compared to non-remote areas (58% compared with 46%).

The 2008 NATSISS 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 in an emergency. 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 62% 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).Top of page

Implications:

The large disparity between equivalised gross weekly household incomes for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and non Indigenous Australians 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 uneven access to education and employment opportunities and the capacity to access services. Factors influencing the average levels of income and its distribution are generally beyond the influence of the health sector. A cross-portfolio approach in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples is necessary if incomes are to be improved.
Figure 104—Proportion of persons aged 18 years and over in each equivalised gross weekly household income quintile, by Indigenous status, 2008
Figure 104—Proportion of persons aged 18 years and over in each equivalised gross weekly household income quintile, by Indigenous status, 2008Top of page
Note: Equivalised gross weekly household income ranges for non-Indigenous vary slightly and are: first (0 to $423); second ($424 to $666); third ($667 to $925); fourth ($926 to $1,341); and fifth ($1,342 or more).
Source: ABS analysis NATSISS 2008 and Survey of Income and Housing 2007–08
Figure 105—Persons aged 18 years and over in the lowest quintile of equivalised gross weekly household income, by Indigenous status and remoteness, 2008
Figure 105—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

Top of page
Figure 106—Proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples aged 18 years and over who were in the lowest quintile of equivalised gross weekly household income quintiles, 2008
Figure 106—Proportion of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples 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

Figure 107—Mean equivalised gross weekly household income, Indigenous Australians aged 18 years and over, by state/territory, 1994, 2002 and 2008
Figure 107—Mean equivalised gross weekly 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

Top of page

prev pageTOC |next page