The economic wellbeing or standard of living of individuals is largely dependent on the economic and social resources available to provide for their consumption of goods and services and for participation in society. Such resources may be in the form of income received from wages and salaries, investments, income support from government, and the like. However, income does not always accurately indicate command over goods and services, particularly when income is variable or expenditure can be financed through running down assets or acquiring debts. Other resources can also contribute to the level of consumption of goods and services, including the resources of government and welfare organisations which provide services such as aged care, respite care and child care, and the resources of family and friends who provide assistance when needed.
Government programs aim to help the economically disadvantaged to achieve social and economic outcomes and to participate in society. Such programs provide income support for the retired, people with disabilities, carers, unemployed people, students, families with children, and Indigenous Australians. Others provide income support for other special groups, such as war veterans, and war widows and their families. In addition to providing income security, government programs help those with low incomes to meet specific needs. Assistance is also provided for a range of goods and services through pensioner concession and health cards. Other types of programs aim to provide assistance with employment, and advocacy for people with disabilities.
This chapter provides information on the levels and sources of income of Australia's population, on the levels and patterns of expenditure on goods and services and on the levels of wealth. Information is provided on the main income and community support programs of the Australian Government, describing the eligibility requirements, numbers of beneficiaries and government expenditure on these programs. These topics are covered in Income support and other community support programs.