Per Capita launches The Australian Inequality Index

May 30, 2023

At the Communities in Control conference in Melbourne on Monday morning, Per Capita unveiled The Australian Inequality Index: a ground-breaking policy tool that provides a multidimensional measure of inequality across a range of economic, social and demographic indicators.

The over-reliance of policy makers on traditional measures of prosperity such as Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is understandable: it has been the dominant measure of economic progress for the better part of a century. Yet there is a shift afoot, with many policy thinkers and political leaders now acknowledging its limitations as a tool to measure genuine social wellbeing.

This shift can be seen in the rise of movements advocating the implementation of wellbeing budgets as a core part of government policy processes. That the Australian Federal Government has recently embraced the wellbeing framework underscores the utility and timeliness of the Index.

The Australian Inequality Index goes beyond simple economic measures of progress to look at the intersecting and multifaceted causes of inequality in Australia. It is comprised of sub-indices that analyse inequality levels according to:

  • Wealth
  • Income
  • Gender
  • Ethnicity
  • Disability
  • Generation
  • First Nations

The composite Index and detailed sub-indices provide a better measure of progress than do purely economic methods: they offer insight into whether the benefits of growth and prosperity are equitably shared between different demographic cohorts, and whether our society is becoming more or less equal overall.

By tracking changes in inequality over time, we hope to enable a richer, more nuanced understanding of the root causes of inequality and help to develop targeted solutions to address them.

While no measure or index will be perfect, the Australian Inequality Index looks beyond traditional measures that focus on economic growth, and too often disregard the distribution of that growth and its consequent prosperity.

The Australian Inequality Index is an open source, interactive online data tool that can be accessed here.

It is intended to democratise data and information, to empower people and communities to understand the complex causes and effects of inequality.

The Index will provide community and not-for-profit organisations with access to the kind of data that informs policy making and is too often inaccessible to individuals and groups without significant resources.

Key Findings

  • Australia is now less equal that it was in 2010, with a marked increase in overall inequality since 2016.
  • The major driver of growing inequality is a significant growth in the value of assets held by the wealthiest Australians over recent years. The wealth divide in Australia is growing at a rate not seen for generations.
  • Younger Australians saw no real wage growth for the decade from 2010, and although it has recently started to improve it lags well behind the growth in the value of assets, particularly property.
  • First Nations inequality is stubbornly high, largely due to persistently high rates of incarceration and suicide, and lower life expectancy.
  • Discrimination faced by people with disabilities and those from racially and culturally diverse backgrounds is a major source of inequality, particularly in relation to labour market participation and income.
  • Gender inequality has improved slightly, but this is primarily due to a fall in the male rate of crime victimisation. Women’s rate of crime victimisation has increased over the same time. The gender pay gap and lifetime wealth gap remain stubbornly high, although women’s political representation has improved.

In compiling the Index, we encountered significant data gaps, especially in relation to First Nations communities, people with disabilities and people with diverse genders. As data gathering is improved, we will expand the scope of the Index to account for different experiences of inequality in Australia.

Quotes Attributable to Emma Dawson, Executive Director of Per Capita

“The Australian Inequality Index reveals a deeply concerning trend: wealth inequality in Australia has reached staggering levels. The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few poses significant challenges to social cohesion and trust in democratic institutions.”

“We cannot ignore the stark reality of growing inequality in Australia. It erodes social cohesion, exacerbates economic disparities, and limits the potential of our nation. It is high time we prioritize policies that promote inclusive growth and bridge the wealth divide.”

“Growing economic inequality is not inevitable; it is a consequence of policy choices. The Australian Inequality Index compels us to re-evaluate our priorities and commit to comprehensive reforms that ensure wealth is shared equitably, leaving no one behind.”

“Addressing inequality is not just a matter of fairness, it is a fundamental step towards building a stronger and more resilient society. The Australian Inequality Index provides the evidence to support reforms that will reshape the economic systems that perpetuate inequality.”

Media enquiries: Emma Dawson on 0400372738 or