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Australia's Classless Pandemic

One thing Australians believe about their country is that it is a classless society. Contrary to this belief, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought into sharp relief the contemporary class lines which run right through the nation. These class lines are delineated by people’s access to disposable income, for in a capitalist society like Australia disposable income determines what options you are able to pursue. It is the modern determinant of class.

Australia, despite being a resource-rich country, has over 700,00 children living in poverty and 1 in 3 people living wholly on social security benefits to survive. These meagre payments leave little disposable income over once basic needs are met and we have witnessed how the Commonwealth was forced to lift the rate of payment of some of these benefits at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis as more Australians became unemployed. This is one class of people in contemporary Australia.

Then we have another group comprising around 50-55% of Australians, which can be called the ‘working class’. Once their ever-increasing costs of living are met, they too have little disposable income left over. This group has been hit hard by the COVID-19 crisis as they are often employed in jobs and services which have shut down to avoid the spread of the virus. The Commonwealth has needed to introduce the Jobkeeper payment to keep these workers afloat and to avoid major dislocation.

The third group has done exceptionally well in contemporary Australia. They would have been traditionally defined as ‘middle class’ and they have disposable income at the end of the week. They make up around 8% of the population and have benefited from policies which have enabled them to invest in housing (negative gearing) and buy stocks and shares (franking credits).
The last group is the 1%. They own the means of production, distribution, exchange and communication. They are an exceptionally powerful group in society. They dominate the parliamentary agenda. They own over 40% of the wealth in Australia.

Therefore, when you think about class in the COVID-19 era, think about these four groups. Think about disposable income.

The corona pandemic has revealed how economically fragile most Australians are. This is not the kind of society we want. Visit the Public Interests Before Corporate Interests (PIBCI) website, download the application form and join us. Let’s have a real impact on the debate in this country.