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NCOSS has released its annual Cost of Living in NSW research, investigating cost-of-living pressures for people living below the poverty line and low-income households in NSW.

Undertaken by the Institute of Public Policy and Governance at the University of Technology, Sydney in April of 2023, this research engaged 1,134 NSW residents through an online survey, 23 focus groups, and interview participants.

Barely Hanging On: The Cost-of-Living Crisis in NSW explores the experiences across a range of issues such as housing, employment, income and financial hardship. It also analyses these experiences by demographic groups including household type, income group and location, with some findings available at Statistical Area 4 level.

The compounding effects of COVID-19, sky-high inflation and successive disasters have had severe impacts. Interest rate rises and surging rental prices over the last 12 months are a big part of the story, substantially reducing housing affordability and the ability to pay for other essentials. We have seen a notable increase in the number of low-income households experiencing housing stress. This is most pronounced for renters, one third of whom are now in extreme housing stress, with more than half their income being consumed by rental costs.

Groups who were already facing more than their fair share of challenges are being hit the hardest – people with disabilities, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, single parent families, households below the poverty line and those from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

We’ve seen more people taking ‘last resort’ measures to cover costs - skipping meals and going without prescribed medication and health care; an increase in those relying on Buy Now Pay Later to cover the essentials, and a sharp rise in the number of households with no savings set aside for emergencies.

This year’s additional focus on multicultural communities is illuminating. It shows that these households tend to be younger, raising families, and working full-time or juggling multiple jobs. They are far more likely to be experiencing housing stress, to have relocated or moved in with family and friends in the last 12 months, and to have tried unsuccessfully to find a new job or negotiate a pay rise.

Our recommendations to the NSW Government, set out in the supplementary paper, highlights the urgent and targeted measures that need to be taken to ensure that NSW does not leave people behind and risk further entrenching poverty for generations to come.

Read the report Barely Hanging On: The Cost-of-Living Crisis in NSW

Read the supplementary paper with recommendations

Read the Executive Summary of the report in Arabic

Raw data from Cost-of-Living in NSW 2023 survey

Breakdown of Cost-of-Living in NSW survey data at Statistical Area 4 level