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4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2001  
Previous ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 06/06/2001   
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Contents >> Income and Expenditure >> Income support: Income support among people of workforce-age

Income support: Income support among people of workforce-age

The proportion of people of workforce-age receiving income support increased from 4% in 1969 to 21% in 1999.

The proportion of the Australian population receiving income support has increased significantly in the last 30 years, making the provision of income support one of the most important functions of the Commonwealth Government today.1 For most of its history, one of the main roles of Australia's income support system has been the provision of a safety net to prevent individuals (and their families) from involuntarily falling into poverty. This means that eligibility for income support payments is generally means tested to ensure assistance is targeted towards those in genuine need. At the same time, the government encourages those who can to make private provision for adequate income during their working lives (e.g. through continuous employment) and in retirement (e.g. through superannuation, investments, home ownership, etc.).

The government provides a wide range of income support payments (e.g. age pension, service pension, disability support pension, carer payment, unemployment payments and parenting payments), each targeted to meet the needs of different groups within the community, in different circumstances and at different life stages.


Income support statistics
This article is based on the Income Support Numbers and Expenditure, 1901-1999 Database, and on analysis of trends in income support recipients, provided by the Department of Family and Community Services.

Rates of income support receipt are calculated using the ABS Estimated Resident Population series. Employment estimates are drawn from the ABS Labour Force Survey.

Income support recipients included in this article are those receiving payments which are intended to provide for the core requirements of a person (e.g. age pension, disability support pension, unemployment payments, parenting payments, wife/carer/partner payments, student assistance, veteran's service pension). People receiving only supplementary payments (e.g. family allowance, child care assistance) are excluded.

Workforce-age population is, for the purposes of this article, defined as men aged 15-64 years and women aged 15-59 years.

Pension-age population is, for the purposes of this article, defined as men aged 65 years and over and women aged 60 years and over.


Increase in workforce-age recipients of income support
For most of the 20th century, the majority of income support recipients were of ‘pension age’ (men aged 65 years and over and women aged 60 years and over) and receiving either an age pension or a veteran's service pension. However, during the last three decades the balance changed, as a result of the strong growth in the numbers of income support recipients of ‘workforce-age’ (men aged 15-64 years and women aged 15-59 years), particularly during the periods of economic downturn in the early 1980s and early 1990s.

NUMBER OF INCOME SUPPORT RECIPIENTS

Source: Department of Family and Community Services, Income Support Numbers and Expenditure, 1901-1999 Database; Population by Age and Sex, Australian States and Territories (ABS cat. no. 3201.0).


Between 1969 and 1999, the number of Australians receiving income support payments increased from 1.1 million to 4.7 million. Almost two thirds (2.3 million) of this increase was among the workforce-age population. The proportion of the workforce-age population receiving income support increased considerably from 4% to 21% during the period.

This increase is largely associated with: sustained declines in full-time employment and increased levels of unemployment, particularly among young people and those just below retirement age; increasing proportions of people without partners in general, and lone parents in particular; and increasing levels of education participation among young people. These social changes have impacted differently on men and women, and while both have had similar overall increases in the take-up of income support payments, there are some key differences in the types of payments taken up.


WORKFORCE-AGE MALES
WORKFORCE-AGE FEMALES
(a) Number of full-time employed expressed as a percentage of the civilian population aged 15 years and over.
(b) Income support data is at June. Employment data is at August.

Source: Department of Family and Community Services, Income Support Numbers and Expenditure, 1901-1999 Database; ABS Labour Force Surveys, August 1969 to 1999 (Data have not been revised to reflect definitional changes introduced in April 2001); Population by Age and Sex, Australian States and Territories (ABS cat. no. 3201.0).


For example, the increase in the proportion of workforce-age men receiving income support payments is primarily associated with the decline in rates of full-time employment (seeAustralian Social Trends 2001, Trends in employment population ratios). Between 1969 and 1999, the proportion of workforce-age men who were unemployed or working part-time, and receiving unemployment payments, increased from less than 1% to 8%, accounting for almost half of the overall increase (from 4% to 19%) in workforce-age men receiving income support. In addition, the proportion of workforce-age men who were unable to work, and were receiving disability or sickness payments, increased from 2% to 6%, accounting for more than a quarter of the overall increase between 1969 and 1999.

PROPORTION OF WORKFORCE-AGE POPULATION RECEIVING INCOME SUPPORT PAYMENTS

Males
Females
Persons



1969
1999
1969
1999
1969
1999

Selected types of payment
%
%
%
%
%
%
Unemployment(a)
0.3
7.7
0.2
3.7
0.2
5.8
Disability/sickness(b)
1.9
5.9
1.6
3.3
1.7
4.7
Student assistance(c)
0.5
3.0
0.5
3.6
0.5
3.3
Parenting Payment (Single)(d)
. .
0.4
1.1
6.0
0.5
3.1
Parenting Payment (Partnered)(e)
. .
0.3
. .
3.5
. .
1.8
Wife, carer, partner(f)
. .
0.4
0.6
2.9
0.3
1.6
Total receiving income support(g)
3.5
18.6
4.9
23.8
4.2
21.1

‘000
‘000
'000
'000
'000
‘000
Total receiving income support(g)
139.8
1,187.6
174.3
1,411.3
314.1
2,598.9

(a) Refers to Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance in 1999 and to Unemployment Benefit in 1969.
(b) Refers to Disability Support Pension and Sickness Allowance in 1999 and to Invalid Pension, Sheltered Employment Allowance and Sickness Benefit in 1969.
(c) Refers to Austudy, Abstudy and Youth Allowance (Full-time Student) in 1999 and to Commonwealth Scholarships in 1969.
(d) Refers to Widow A Pension in 1969.
(e) Refers to Parenting Payment (Partnered) - Additional Rate.
(f) Refers to Wife Pension, Carer Payment and Partner Allowance in 1999 and to Pensioner's/Beneficiary's Additional Pension/Allowance in respect of dependent spouse in 1969.
(g) Includes Veteran's Service Pension; Widow B Pension/Allowance and Bereavement Allowance; Mature Age Allowance and Mature Age Partner Allowance; Special Needs Pension and Special Benefit in 1999. Includes Veteran's Service Pension, Widow B Pension and Widow C Pension in 1969.

Source: Department of Family and Community Services, Income Support Numbers and Expenditure, 1901-1999 Database; Population by Age and Sex, Australian States and Territories (ABS cat. no. 3201.0); Department of Family and Community Services, 2000, Income Support Customers: a statistical overview 1999.


In contrast to men, the proportion of workforce-age women receiving income support increased in spite of an increase in the rates of full-time employment. This is because the growth in full-time employment has occurred mainly among women with partners, many of whom would not have been eligible for income support (regardless of their employment status) because of their partner's income.

The largest single contributing factor to the increase in the proportion of workforce-age women receiving income support payments has been the growth in the proportion of women who are lone parents. Between 1969 and 1999, the proportion of women receiving parenting (single) payments increased from 1% to 6%, accounting for more than a quarter of the overall increase in the period.


PROPORTION OF WORKFORCE-AGE PEOPLE RECEIVING UNEMPLOYMENT PAYMENTS
PROPORTION OF WORKFORCE-AGE PEOPLE RECEIVING STUDENT ASSISTANCE
Source: Department of Family and Community Services, Income Support Numbers and Expenditure, 1901-1999 Database; Population by Age and Sex, Australian States and Territories (ABS cat. no. 3201.0).Source: Department of Family and Community Services, Income Support Numbers and Expenditure, 1901-1999 Database; Population by Age and Sex, Australian States and Territories (ABS cat. no. 3201.0).


The proportion of women receiving unemployment payments and disability/sickness payments also increased, reflecting the increasing proportion of women who do not have a partner whose income may otherwise have made them ineligible for income support regardless of their own health or employment status. The increase in the proportion of workforce-age women receiving wife, carer or partner payments reflects the decline in full-time employment among their partners.

The proportion of both men and women receiving student assistance increased considerably between 1969 and 1999, from less than 1% for both men and women to 3% and 4% respectively, reflecting trends in full-time participation in education during the period (see Australian Social Trends 2000, Beyond compulsory schooling).

WORKFORCE-AGE RECIPIENTS OF INCOME SUPPORT PAYMENTS, 1999

Males
Females
Persons
Males
Females
Persons
Selected types of payment
‘000
‘000
‘000
%
%
%

Unemployment(a)
491.0
221.4
712.5
41.3
15.7
27.4
Disability/sickness(b)
378.7
196.2
575.0
31.8
13.9
22.1
Student assistance(c)
192.0
213.2
405.3
16.2
15.1
15.6
Parenting Payment (Single)
27.1
357.5
384.6
2.3
25.3
14.8
Parenting Payment (Partnered)(d)
20.3
207.2
227.5
1.7
14.7
8.8
Wife, carer, partner(e)
24.9
171.1
196.1
2.1
12.1
7.5
Total receiving income support(f)
1,187.6
1,411.3
2,598.9
100.0
100.0
100.0

(a) Refers to Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance.
(b) Refers to Disability Support Pension and Sickness Allowance.
(c) Refers to Austudy, Abstudy and Youth Allowance (Full-time Student).
(d) Refers to Parenting Payment (Partnered) - Additional Rate.
(e) Refers to Wife Pension, Carer Payment and Partner Allowance.
(f) Includes Veteran's Service Pension; Widow B Pension/Allowance and Bereavement Allowance; Mature Age Allowance and Mature Age Partner Allowance; Special Needs Pension and Special Benefit.

Source: Department of Family and Community Services, Income Support Numbers and Expenditure, 1901-1999 Database; Department of Family and Community Services, 2000, Income Support Customers: a statistical overview 1999.


Profile of workforce-age income support recipients
Notwithstanding considerable social change in the past 30 years, the primary role of most men of workforce-age continues to be engaging in paid employment and providing the main family income, while women remain the primary carers of children and other family members. Differences in the overall proportion of workforce-age men and women receiving income support, and the types of payments they receive, are related to their different social roles.

Women of workforce-age are more likely than men to receive income support. In 1999, 24% of workforce-age women were receiving income support payments, compared with 19% of men. Of the 1.4 million workforce-age women receiving income support payments in 1999, over half (52%) were receiving payments associated with their roles as parents, partners or carers, compared with 6% of men. Women represented 91% of all recipients of these kinds of payments. In contrast, 41% of the 1.2 million workforce-age men receiving income support payments in 1999 were receiving unemployment payments. Men accounted for 69% of all recipients of unemployment payments.

The various types of income support payments tend to be targeted towards specific life-stage groups or people in specific circumstances. Consequently, the age profile of income support recipients varies across different types of payment and reflects the age profile of the eligible population.

In 1999, the vast majority of all recipients of student assistance (93%) were under 30 years of age, with more than half (61%) aged under 20 years, reflecting the age profile of full-time students.

Those receiving unemployment payments were more widely distributed across all ages but were still concentrated in the younger age groups, reflecting higher rates of unemployment and part-time employment among young people. In 1999, 43% of all people receiving unemployment payments were in the 20-29 years age group. Recipients of parenting payments were concentrated in the 20-39 years age group, reflecting the age profile of women with dependent children.

Disability support pensioners tended to be older overall, with over half (53%) aged 50 years and over in 1999, consistent with the age profile of people with disabilities (see Australian Social Trends 2001, Disability among adults). Recipients of wife, carer or partner payments tended to be older still, with 69% aged 50 years and over in 1999. This is because this group was comprised largely of the wives, carers or partners of age pensioners and disability support pensioners.

AGE PROFILE OF RECIPIENTS OF SELECTED INCOME SUPPORT PAYMENTS, 1999

Age group (years)
Total

Under 20
20-29
30-39
40-49
50 and over
workforce-age recipients
Selected types of payment
%
%
%
%
%
%

Unemployment(a)
(e)2.7
(f)42.8
21.8
18.1
14.7
100.0
Disability Support Pension
2.5
8.8
14.1
21.5
53.0
100.0
Student assistance(b)
60.5
32.0
4.8
2.1
0.5
100.0
Parenting Payment (Single)
2.8
30.4
41.5
22.4
3.0
100.0
Parenting Payment (Partnered)(c)
1.6
26.4
45.9
22.8
3.3
100.0
Wife, carer, partner(d)
0.2
1.6
6.3
22.8
69.1
100.0

(a) Refers to Newstart Allowance and Youth Allowance.
(b) Refers to Austudy and Youth Allowance (Full-time Student) only.
(c) Refers to Parenting Payment (Partnered) - Additional Rate.
(d) Refers to Wife Pension, Carer Payment and Partner Allowance.
(e) Under 18 years.
(f) 18-29 years.

Source: Department of Family and Community Services, 2000, Income Support Customers: a statistical overview 1999.


Endnotes
1 Kim Bond and Peter Whiteford, 2000, ‘Income Support Payments in Australia’ in Year Book Australia, 2000, ABS cat. no. 1301.0, pp. 185-190, Ausinfo, Canberra.



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