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Anti-Poverty Week - Why are children living in poverty?

Anti-Poverty Week (14 to 20 October 2018) is an opportunity to consider the issues of poverty and hardship here in Australia and overseas. It was established in Australia as an expansion of the UN's annual International Anti-Poverty Day on October 17.  To mark the event, Catholic Social Services Victoria hosted a lunchtime conversation facilitated by Brian Lawrence, who posed the question: “How many children have to live in poverty before the Fair Work Commission takes decisive action?”

In his presentation, Brian detailed his research and advocacy for the Australian Catholic Council for Employment Relations in annual wage reviews conducted by the Fair Work Commission. These reviews are especially important to low income working families who rely on minimum wage rates to keep them out of poverty and provide them with a decent standard of living. 
Many working families are living in poverty. The Commission has accepted that about one third of those living in poverty are in households where wages are the main source of income and that about half of these families have children. For many families a full time job is not a pathway out of poverty. The position of working families has worsened as a result of the recent cuts to family payments.

Since 2011, not one extra dollar has been provided to those most in need. Brian highlighted the failure of the Commission to take appropriate action to alleviate the plight of families living in poverty. He discussed the Commission's policy and practice of awarding the same percentage increase to all minimum wage rates: from the National Minimum Wage to the highest wage rate under the award system. The Commission's decisions show that, in effect, it sets minimum wage rates on the basis of the needs of the single worker without family responsibilities. It does this knowing that the Commonwealth Budget will not provide the level of family payments required to lift low income working families out of poverty.

The Fair Work Commission needs to take poverty seriously in their annual wage review process to ensure that children are not the victims of this unjust system.

Following the conversation, the Social Questions Commission of the Victorian Council of Churches held an Ecumenical Anti-Poverty Week Prayer Service in solidarity with all who are living with and responding to poverty in its many forms in our society.

Click on the link to access Brian’s paper How many children have to live in poverty before the Fair Work Commission takes decisive action?

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