Despite the fact that Australia has enjoyed a quarter-century of uninterrupted economic growth, nearly three million Australians, including 730,000 children, are living in poverty, the Catholic Bishops of Australia have said in a statement released on 7 September, in which they call for a more just and inclusive economy.
Bishop Vincent Long, Chairman of the Australian Catholic Social Justice, spoke at the launch the Australian Catholic Bishop’s 2017-2018 Social Justice Statement (Everyone’s Business: Developing an inclusive and sustainable economy) about the need for Australians to work towards an economy based on principles of justice and equity, at the service of all, especially the most vulnerable and marginalised.
The Bishops point out that despite the recent economic growth, the wealth has not been spread evenly, with the top 20 per cent of households receiving far greater increases in wealth than the poorest 20 per cent.
They provide four examples of economic injustice in Australia today: the growing number of people who are financially insecure, doing poorly-paid work and living below the poverty line despite being employed; those on welfare are likely to living in poverty and face greater bureaucratic hurdles when seeking to improve their situation; low-paid workers, asylum seekers, older renters, those on welfare, and women in particular, are suffering the most from Australia’s housing crisis; and while Indigenous Australians are overrepresented in our prisons, they suffer disadvantages in health, education, employment and income.
The Bishops set out five principles as the foundation of a just and inclusive economy, derived from the Gospels and Catholic social teaching: people and nature are not mere tools of production; economic growth alone cannot ensure inclusive and sustainable development; social equity must be built into the heart of the economy; businesses must benefit all society, not just shareholders; and the excluded and vulnerable must be included in decision-making.