Social exclusion and poverty

Income poverty has traditionally been used to measure disadvantage in society. 

Social exclusion is a more effective measurement because it takes into account many factors, not simply income.

The graph below shows the trends of social exclusion, for both marginal social exclusion and deep social exclusion, compared with income poverty from 2005 to 2014.


The widely used income-poverty measure in the graph is calculated not by a fixed amount of income but in relative terms, as household income of less than 60% of the median household income. If everyone’s income increases at the same rate, the level of income poverty stays constant.

Our social exclusion measure, however, includes relative and absolute components. It reflects changes not only in income but also in unemployment, literacy, health and social factors which affect people’s opportunities and quality of life.

Throughout the period from 2005 to 2014, around 18% of adults have been in relative income poverty at any point in time. By contrast, the level of social exclusion fell from 26% in 2005 to 22% in 2008, then rose to 24% in 2010 and has remained fairly steady since then.

Relative income poverty is still an important concern and needs to be tackled. However the broader concept of social exclusion allows policy makers to consider many overlapping issues, such as unemployment, poor health and inadequate education, when trying to reduce disadvantage within the community.

Graph of trends in social exclusion and income poverty, Australia, 2005 to 2014

To copy this graph for your own use, right-click on the image (or control-click on a Mac) and paste the graph into your document. Please credit 'The Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Melbourne Institute 2016'.

See data table for this graph and note on updated indicators


Read also in Measuring social exclusion: Depth of social exclusion » Persistence of social exclusion »


The social exclusion monitor is the work of the Brotherhood of St Laurence and the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research (MIAESR). This page was updated using analysis of Wave 14 of the HILDA Survey in October 2016.

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