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Inequality and Redistribution in the Australian Welfare State

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Presentation on theme: "Inequality and Redistribution in the Australian Welfare State"— Presentation transcript:

1 Inequality and Redistribution in the Australian Welfare State
Peter Whiteford, Crawford School of Public Policy

2 Acknowledgements Research supported as part of the GINI project – “Growing Inequalities’ Impacts” EU Seventh framework programme cooperation, Theme 8, Socio-economic sciences and humanities, SSH social inequalities, their implications and policy options “The project focus is inequalities in income/wealth and education and their social, political and cultural impacts. It highlights potential effects of individual distributional positions and increasing inequality for a host of ‘bad outcomes’ (both societal and individual) and allows feedback from these impacts to inequality itself in a frame of policy-oriented debate and comparison across 25 EU countries, the USA, Japan, Canada and Australia.” Also based on work undertaken and to continue with Gerry Redmond (Flinders University), Philip Hayes and Elizabeth Adamson (UNSW), “Supporting families: Horizontal and vertical equity in the Australian tax-benefit system in historical and comparative perspectives “, funded by ARC (LP ). 1. Since 2004, Treasury’s mission is ‘to improve the wellbeing of the Australian people by providing sound and timely advice to the Government, based on objective and thorough analysis of options, and by assisting Treasury Ministers in the administration of their responsibilities and the implementation of Government decisions’. Developing a consistent and robust understanding of wellbeing is thus critical to Treasury’s work. In this regard, Treasury has developed a wellbeing framework to underpin analysis and advice across the full range of our public policy responsibilities. The framework is drawn from broadly applicable economic principles, which are Treasury’s comparative advantage in the provision of policy analysis and advice to Government. The dimensions chosen for the wellbeing framework are: (i) the level of opportunity and freedom that people enjoy; (ii) the level of consumption possibilities; (iii) the distribution of those consumption possibilities; (iv) the level of risk that people are required to bear; and (v) the level of complexity that people are required to deal with. These dimensions are not necessarily comprehensive, unique or independent. They have been chosen simply because they describe the aspects of wellbeing that are considered to be most relevant to Treasury’s responsibilities. 2. Questions about the contribution of growing income inequality in USA to financial crisis (R.G. Rajan, “Fault Lines”, 2010) 3. “Occupy” movement and 1%. According to the ATO’s tax statistics, if you earned $ or more in , you were part of the top 1%. The average income for an individual in the top 1% of taxpayers was $ The median income for that year was $45 200, so the average income for someone in the top 1% was more than 12 times the median.

3 Background and outline
Increasing interest internationally and in Australia in trends in inequality. Questions about the contribution of growing income inequality in USA to financial crisis (R.G. Rajan, “Fault Lines”, 2010) This presentation is primarily descriptive – what has happened to income inequality in Australia over recent decades, and what factors appear to be associated with these trends. Data and methods; measures of inequality Situating Australia internationally Income inequality: trends and driving forces Redistribution through taxes and benefits Discussion and conclusions 3. “Occupy” movement and 1%.

4 Data and methods Data are from Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) income surveys from to and in some cases The ABS has changed and improved income measures over time; for consistency we use the “unimproved” income measure, showing lower inequality after , but effects on earlier trends uncertain. Income measure is current weekly income of income units (nuclear family), adjusted for household size using “revised OECD equivalence scales”. Income is conventionally made up of market income (earnings, self-employment, investment and property income, private transfers); the addition of transfers from government (social security benefits) or privately (e.g. child support) produces gross income; direct taxes are deducted to estimate cash disposable income. Also important to bear in mind what is not included in cash disposable income – e.g. imputed income from housing, indirect taxes, non-cash benefits, superannuation - or is/maybe included but is not easily identifiable – e.g. tax expenditures (concessions) . the new income measures now include non-cash benefits, bonuses, termination payments and payments for irregular overtime. Commencing with SIH 2007–08, interest paid on money borrowed to purchase shares or units in trusts has been netted off income earned from these sources when deriving net income estimates, with a similar revision applied to results for 2003–04 and 2005–06. While regular workers' compensation receipts have been included in previously published results, lump sum receipts were not. Commencing in SIH 2007–08, both forms of workers' compensation are included in the published estimates. In SIH 2007–08, a wider range of data on financial support received from and paid to family members resident outside the household was collected. Previously these were mainly limited to regular payments for spousal maintenance and child support. In 2007–08, respondents were asked to include other forms of financial support, including goods and services received which were purchased by others e.g. rent, education, food, clothing, car registration and utilities. implementation of the broader measure of income in 2007–08 resulted in an $85 increase in mean weekly gross household income, compared to the previous definition. The additional inclusions affected 3.4m households in total (43%). Most of the impact was on employment income, which increased by $89 per week on average. The inclusion of non-cash employment benefits and bonuses had the most impact ($43 and $32 per week respectively). worked.

5 How is inequality measured?
What inequalities are we interested in or concerned about – inequality of income, inequality of opportunity, inequality of wealth? Inequality is often thought of as disparities or gaps – what is the distance between a low income and a high income household, or what is the ratio of their incomes, e.g. what is the gap between the richest 10% and the poorest 10% (decile) or the richest and poorest 20% (quintile)? A lot of inequality is at the extremes, i.e. within the richest and poorest income groups The measure of inequality most commonly used is the Gini coefficient, which varies between zero – when all households have exactly the same income and one – when one household has all the income. Preferred because it is calculated for everyone in the population. Other measures are sensitive to inequality at the extremes. In 2003 the Gini coefficient for Australia was and the 90/10 ratio was around 4 to 1; in the USA, the Gini was and the 90/10 ratio was about 6 to 1; in Denmark the Gini was and the 90/10 ratio was 2.7 to 1. The ratios of the average incomes of the top decile to the average incomes of the bottom decile were 4.6 to 1 (Denmark), 7.2 to 1 (Australia) and 16 to 1 (USA).

6 Previous studies A notable recent study of income inequality trends in Australia is the 2011 Fay Gale lecture by Professor Denise Doiron, UNSW. There are a number of similarities between our results and hers, but also some differences. Because our work is interested in long-term trends, we exclude the effects of the improvements made to surveys from Also this work looks mainly at households of working age, rather than all households as in Professor Doiron’s analysis. Despite this, overall trends fairly similar – except Figure 4 in the Fay Gale lecture which shows a decline in real income for the poorest 20% between As shown below we find significant real increases. Note also recent OECD studies, Growing Unequal and Divided We Stand, which also use unadjusted ABS figures.

7 Situating Australia Internationally

8 Level of inequality in OECD countries
2008 2005

9 Change in inequality, OECD countries, 1995 to 2007-08

10 Sen welfare index, OECD countries, 2008 Mean equivalised income, adjusted to USD (PPPs) and adjusted for inequality

11 Change in real GDP, Australia and selected OECD countries, 2008 to 2011 Q4 2007=100

12 Median Australian households have fared extremely well 1998=1
USA Australia

13 Income inequality: trends and driving forces

14 Trends in income inequality in Australia, 1981-82 to 2009-10 Gini coefficient

15 Trends in alternative inequality indicators for working age households, 1981-82 to 2009-10

16 Patterns of income growth by decile and period, Australia, to Average annual percentage change in real equivalent household income, working age

17 Components of change in real disposable income, working-age households, 2003-04 to 2007-08

18 Trends in income inequality in different income components among working age households, Australia, 1982 to Gini coefficient

19 Redistribution

20 Assessing redistribution
Redistribution refers to the outcomes of different tax and benefit systems – how much do the benefit and tax systems actually change the distribution of household income? Conventionally measured by comparing measures of income inequality at different stages in the income accounting framework: Difference between inequality in market and gross incomes is measured as the impact of social security benefits, Difference between inequality in gross and disposable incomes is measured as the impact of taxation. Redistribution is the product of the volume of taxes and benefits and their distribution across income groups (progressivity). Possible to disaggregate inequality by income sources, type of household (family composition) or location.

21 Trends in income inequality in different income measures among working age households, Australia, 1982 to

22 Reduction in inequality among households of working age, Australia, 1982 to Point difference in Gini coefficient

23 Trends in progressivity of transfers and taxes for working age households, 1982 to Concentration coefficient Transfers Taxes

24 Average tax rates (%) by deciles of household income, 1982, 1996-97 and 2007-08

25 Assessing income inequality trends
Trends in inequality differ by time period, income components and income measures. Thus, there is no single trend, but the complex interaction of multiple influences. Market income inequality rose in period of Labor government, mainly reflecting higher joblessness and wider wage dispersion. Disposable income inequality rose significantly less (about 1/3 as great), reflecting both transfer and tax changes. Despite increasing wage dispersion, market income inequality fell from to , mainly because of increased family earnings, particularly for women. Capital income inequality rose significantly after 2003, but insufficient to offset lower inequality in earnings. The effectiveness of the tax system in reducing inequality was stable in the 1980s and early 1990s, but reduced after Average tax rates fell most for the highest decile (about 4 percentage points). The effectiveness of the transfer system in reducing inequality increased by about 40% in the period of the Labor government, but fell back to its original level by This does not necessarily reflect explicit policy change, but rising earnings among lower income groups lead to a scaling back of income support , heightened by indexation of key benefits to prices.

26 Joblessness is a major source of inequality in Australia
Earnings represent around three-quarters of total pre-tax household income, the largest single component. In 1983, a full-time worker at the 90th percentile earned 2.0 times as much as a worker at the 10th percentile- this disparity increased to 2.3 in 1996, 2.5 in 2004, and 2.8 in In 1982 a working-age family at the 90th percentile earned 112 times as much as a family at the 10th percentile – this disparity reduced to 56 times as much in 1996 and 49 times as much in Benefits reduce inequality more than taxes When social security benefits are added in, this disparity was reduced to 9.8 times as much in 1982, 10.2 times as much in 1996 and 11.4 times as much in Taxes reduced the disparity to 8.0 to 1 in 1982, 7.5 to 1 in 1996 and 9.6 to 1 in But you also need taxes to pay for benefits

27 Income measures and concepts are important
Inequality is lower the longer the time period over which it is measured – between 2001 and 2009 the Gini coefficient went from in 2000, in 2003, in 2007 and 2008 and in 2009; inequality over a two-year period varied between and 0.295; inequality over a four year period varied between and 0.282; inequality over the 9 years was Broader measures of resources also suggest lower inequality, particularly the addition of non-cash benefits (health, education, community services) even after subtracting indirect taxes. For example, the 90/10 ratio for disposable income in was 3.9 to 1, but for “final income” it was 2.65 to 1. Inequality is mainly reduced by raising the bottom not reducing the top: Direct taxes and cash transfers increase the incomes of the 10th percentile by 231% and lower the income of the 90th percentile by 19%; The net effect of Indirect benefits and taxes is to raise the 10th percentile by a further 50% and raise the 90th percentile by 1%.

28 Additional material

29 Inequality is lower the longer the time period over which it is measured

30 Inequality of earnings among households of working age, 2005 Gini coefficients for different earnings measures

31 Trends in earnings inequality for full-time workers, Australia, 1975 to 2008

32 Trends in poverty, Australia, 1982 to 2009-10

33 Trends in income inequality (Gini coefficient) among households with a head aged 65 years and over, Australia, to

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