Data on disadvantage shows why Labor’s message is resonating | Greg Jericho

The latest release of the Index of Relative Socioeconomic Advantage and Disadvantage (Irsad) reveals not just the wide disparities of wealth and advantage across the nation but also gives insight into why the ALP’s current policies are finding traction within the electorate and the difficulties for the LNP.

While measures such as income and wealth are more commonly used to record inequality across the nation, the Australian Bureau of Statistics after each census uses the data to estimate levels not just of wealth but advantage and disadvantage area by area.

How socioeconomic disadvantage varies area-by-area in Australia

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It does this by factoring a broad range of indicators, which are generally associated with having a more advantageous life.

For example positive measures of advantage include having a household equivalised income greater than $78,000, but also the size of your mortgage, the percent of people employed as professionals, your education level and the percent of occupied dwellings with four or more bedrooms.

On the other hand measures of disadvantage include such things as a lack of either internet connection or car ownership, and a high proportion of single parent families in the area.

Using these measures, the ABS found the most advantageous local government area was Ku-ring-gai in Sydney’s upper north shore, closely followed by fellow north shore area of Mosman and Woollahra on the southern side of the harbour.

Woollahra is also within the prime minister’s electorate of Wentworth which is apt as Wentworth is also the most advantageous electorate in the nation.

Around 85% of the residents of Wentworth are in the top 10% of the most advantaged people in Australia. And no one is in the bottom 60%.

By contrast the most disadvantaged electorate is the Tasmanian seat of Braddon held by the ALP’s Justine Keay. Nearly a third of its residents are in the bottom 10% of the Irsad index:

Index of relative socio-economic advantage and disadvantage

A higher score = greater levels of advantage. Orange = top 10%; grey = bottom 10% of population


Created with Raphaël 2.1.2



30.0% of electorate

< 600

600 to < 625

625 to < 650

650 to < 675

675 to < 700

700 to < 725

725 to < 750

750 to < 775

775 to < 800

800 to < 825

825 to < 850

850 to < 875

875 to < 900

900 to < 925

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1025 to < 1050

1050 to < 1075

1075 to < 1100

1100 to < 1125

1125 to < 1150

1150 to < 1175

1175 to < 1200

1200 to < 1225

1225 +

Chart: Greg Jericho Source: ABS 2033.0.55.001 Get the data Created with Datawrapper

As a general rule, the ABS data shows that there is not surprisingly a high degree of correlation between areas of socioeconomic advantage and income.

The ABS also provides an index of economic resources. This is a much more targeted index which does not include education and occupation data and has greater emphasis on income and housing status:

Local govt area index of socio-economic advantage & economic resources


Index of Relative Socio-economic Advantage and Disadvantage

Index of Economic Resources

Chart: Greg Jericho Source: ABS 2033.0.55.001 Get the data Created with Datawrapper

But the difference between the two measures does provide some insight into the reasons why the ALP’s policies targeting inequality and housing affordability are having such resonance with voters.

Of the 20 electorates with the greatest level of people in the top 30% of advantage, 16 are held by the Liberal party, three are held by the ALP and one – the seat of Melbourne – is held by the Greens.

And yet those four non-Liberal party seats all score much lower in terms of “economic resources”:

Electorates with the highest rate of residents in the top 3 deciles of socio-economic advantage

Blue = Liberal; Red = ALP; Green = Greens

Index of socio-econ advantageIndex of economic resources

Created with Raphaël 2.1.2




80.0% of residents



North Sydney







Melbourne Ports











Chart: Greg Jericho Source: ABS 2033.0.55.001, derived Get the data Created with Datawrapper

The reason is those seats are all in the inner city, which means they score lowly on measures such as number of four-bedroom homes and the percentage of people who are either paying off a mortgage or who own their house outright.

In effect while such areas do well in terms of advantage of education, occupation and even income, they do less well in terms of house ownership.

These are people for whom housing affordability is the key issue, rather than those who are more concerned about increasing the value of their house.

By contrast the 20 electorates with the highest percentage of people in the bottom 30% of advantage are a mixture of ALP, Liberal party, and very much National party, rural seats:

Electorates with the highest rate of residents in the bottom 3 deciles of socio-economic advantage

Blue = Liberal; Grey = National; Red = ALP; Orange = Indep

Index of socio-econ advantageIndex of economic resources

Created with Raphaël 2.1.2








Port Adelaide













Wide Bay




Chart: Greg Jericho Source: ABS 2033.0.55.001, derived Get the data Created with Datawrapper

This is because of low levels of internet access and education, and higher levels of unemployment.

It is for that reason that despite how much Barnaby Joyce might think that upping sticks and moving to his electorate of New England is the way to go, most people do not. New England incidentally is the electorate with the 21st highest percentage of people in the bottom 30% of advantage.

But where it gets interesting is when we compare the level of advantage across the safe and marginal ALP and LNP seats.

Across the 26 seats the ALP holds with more than 60% of the two-party-preferred vote, there is a skew towards the lower ends of socio-economic advantage. On average 41% of residents in safe ALP seats are in the bottom 30% of advantage.

But the skew in the safe LNP seats is much more obvious and much more at the other end of the scale. Nearly half of residents in 31 safe Liberal party seats are in the top 30% of advantage, with nearly a quarter alone in the top 10%:

Average socio-economic advantage deciles by electorate

ALP safeLNP safeALP marginalLNP marginal

Created with Raphaël 2.1.2



20.0% of electorate











Chart: Greg Jericho Source: ABS 2033.0.55.001, AEC, derived Get the data Created with Datawrapper

Marginal seats however are much more reflective of the national average. Among the ALP and LNP marginally held seats, there is only a slight derivation from the national average of 10% in each decile of advantage.

The biggest drop off is in the highest decile of advantage in marginally held LNP seats. These seats comprise semi-rural/rural seats such as Leichhardt, Flynn and Page which have very low levels of people in the top 10% of advantage.

The LNP policies that speak to its base are thus those aimed more at wealth and high income earners. But the marginal seats of both parties have much more equitable distribution of people with advantage.

Australian housing stuck between a rock and a hard place | Greg Jericho

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In safe Liberal party seats, only 21% of people are with the middle three deciles of advantage – they actually under-represent “middle Australia”. By contrast, 31% of those living in safe ALP seats are with those middle three deciles – a similar level to that in both ALP and LNP marginal seats.

For these seats housing affordability, internet access, and the ability to send their child to higher education are all aspects that resonate as they would deliver higher levels of advantage.

For now, with its emphasis of company tax cuts, the LNP has been speaking much more to its base than its marginal seats, while the ALP with its polices has been able to speak well to both.