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2017 Economic and Social Impact Survey

A new survey of 1380 Salvation Army clients across the nation paints a very bleak picture of what life is like for a huge number of struggling Australians.


The Salvation Army’s national Economic Social Impact Survey (ESIS) reveals a staggering 69% say getting enough food to eat is a daily challenge, revealing the heartbreaking reality that Australian children are going hungry.

The Salvation Army’s ESIS 2017 shows 66% of respondents are living in extreme housing stress and use more than half their income on accommodation expenses. As house prices continue to climb in Australia, The Salvation Army is seeing the flow-on effect – rent increases that are pushing low-income families into homelessness. “Our people can't even afford to pay rent, let alone consider the ‘great Australian dream’ of home ownership,” says Lt C Merrett.

The survey reveals single parents with children are the worst affected when it comes to the cost of living – surviving off just $14.35 per day – with 36% of respondents saying they can’t afford any kind of medical treatment and 34% unable to afford the medicines they need from a doctor. Yearly dental check-ups are also off the table.

A staggering two in five clients cannot afford fresh fruit and vegetables every day and nearly one in four cannot afford three meals a day for their children.

“Children are going to school hungry,” says Lt C Merrett. “Parents cannot provide nutritious food for their growing bodies and minds. This level of poverty doesn’t just have an impact now, it will impact future generations because, through no fault oftheir own, these children aren’t being given the opportunity to reach their full potential. It’s absolutely heartbreaking.”

Other statistics include: 

When respondents run out of money: 

  • 56% cut down on basic necessities 
  • 54% borrow money from family/friends
  • 49% are unable to pay or delay paying bills
  • 45% go without meals
  • 31% sell/pawn their belongings

For households with children aged 17 or under:

  • Almost 1 in 5 cannot afford medical treatment or medicines; half cannot afford up-to-date school items and 56% do not have money to participate in school activities
  • Almost 1 in 3 respondents do not have either a computer or tablet, such as an iPad

Download the Report

Previous Economic and Social Impact Surveys