Income alone has often been used to measure disadvantage in Australia. Our measure of social exclusion goes further to capture many overlapping factors that may exclude a person from participating fully in social and economic life.

How we measure social exclusion

The Brotherhood of St. Laurence began collaborating with the Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research (MIAESR) in 2008 to find out who experiences social exclusion.

For this work, we focused on seven key areas or ‘domains’ of life: material resources, employment, education and skills, health and disability, social connection, community and personal safety. Across these life domains, we selected 30 key components of disadvantage that are measurable. These are called indicators of social exclusion. Using these indicators we created a composite measure that allows us to measure an individual’s overall level of exclusion.

Bar graph showing percentage of Australians experiencing each social exclusion indicator, average 2009 to 2018
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 2020’.
Notes: From 2010 the material resources domain includes an indicator on household financial status, to ensure that at least two of the common indicators are available every year in all the domains. Little work experience is defined as less than two years' cumulative work history.
As literacy and numeracy data (reported in previous years) were not collected in Waves 8 to 18 of the HILDA survey, these indicators are not measured in the graph above.

See data table for this graph below.

Marginal and deep social exclusion

We classify exclusion into marginal social exclusion and deep social exclusion. For example, an individual counted as deeply excluded will most likely be experiencing at least four of the indicators across at least two domains.

Read more about the depth of social exclusion .

The data we analyse

The data we use is from the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey. This is a nationally representative study of Australian households that began in 2001 (see ). The study aims to follow the same group of more than 13,000 people, aged over 15 years, who are interviewed each year about a wide range of social and economic aspects of life.

Using an annual survey like HILDA allows us to analyse changes in individual and household social exclusion over time to assess trends. We can then examine the prevalence of exclusion, its depth and persistence – and work out who experiences it. The monitor is updated with each new wave of the HILDA survey. The latest data is from Wave 18, collected in 2018.

Although it includes a wide range of data, the HILDA Survey has a few limitations. It does not collect data on homelessness, internet access, lifelong learning, voter enrolment and experiences of discrimination so these issues are not included in our key indicators.

Find out more about measuring social exclusion

Scutella, R, Wilkins, R & Horn, M 2009, Measuring poverty and social exclusion in Australia: a proposed multi-dimensional framework for identifying socio-economic disadvantage , Melbourne Institute Working Paper no. 4/09 (PDF, 494 KB)

Rosanna Scutella, Roger Wilkins and Weiping Kostenko 2009, Estimates of poverty and social exclusion in Australia: a multi-dimensional approach, Melbourne Institute Working Paper no. 26/09 (PDF, 1.2 MB)

Data table

Percentage of Australians experiencing each social exclusion indicator, average 2009–18
Average 2009–18
Low income17.6
Low net worth37.0
Low consumption14.3
Financial hardship5.7
Financial status3.4
Jobless household10.6
Long-term unemployment0.7
Marginal attachment to workforce10.2
Education and skills
Low education21.9
Low literacy---
Low numeracy---
Poor English2.9
Little work experience12.9
Poor general health19.0
Poor physical health11.5
Poor mental health10.6
Long-term health condition or disability27.9
Disabled child3.2
Social connection
Little social support1.7
Infrequent social activity12.4
Low neighbourhood quality1.4
Disconnection from community12.9
Low satisfaction with neighbourhood4.4
Low membership of clubs and associations17.9
Low volunteer activity20.9
Personal safety
Victim of violence1.2
Victim of property crime3.2
Feeling of being unsafe2.5

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 18 of the HILDA Survey in October 2020.