Australia's Welfare Report for 2019

September 19th, 2019
The latest Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report has just been released, with lots of positive news spread among some very worrying statistics. The 2019 edition of this report is the 14th iteration, as the government attempts to gain insight into our work life, home life, education and income among other key issues. This report goes well beyond the scope of welfare payments and support services, as it looks into numerous factors that are likely to affect our collective wellbeing.

Among other things, the report looked into home ownership rates, which are declining rather rapidly among young people due to unsustainable price growth. Just 50% of people aged 30-34 own their own home, which is down from 64% in 1971. While the overall proportion of people who own their own home remains within the 67-70% range where it has been since the mid-1960s, more young people are renting than ever before. In just the last decade, the percentage of 35-54 years olds renting has risen from 21% to 27%.

More than 1 million households experience housing stress, which is when someone spends more than 30% of their income on rent or mortgage payments. In addition, an increasing number of Australians are struggling to remain housed in rental accommodation, with 804,000 people living in social housing and 116,000 experiencing homelessness. Specialist homelessness services support about 1% of the Australian population, from people living rough through to people living in temporary and severely overcrowded accommodation.

Despite issues with housing, employment rates are up in the latest report, with 74% of Australians aged 15-64 currently employed, which is the highest level since the report began. The number of people working very long hours is dropping, however, with people working 50 hours a week or more dropping from 16% to 14%. More than 9% of workers say they're underemployed, which means they would like but are unable to find additional employment. Volunteer work is also on the rise, with Australians contributing 743 million hours of unpaid work throughout the year.

Australians are more involved in the democratic system, with the proportion of people enrolled to vote jumping from 90% in 2010 to 97% today. More homes also have internet access, from 67% a decade ago to 87% today. While fewer people are receiving unemployment or parenting payments, the ageing population has dramatically increased the number of elderly Australians on income support from 1.6 million to 2.6 million since 2001. 30% of older Australians, or 1.2 million people, currently use age care services.

In some of the most worrying statistics, 25% of people are currently experiencing loneliness, 50% feel lonely at least once a week, and 10% say they lack adequate social support. While loneliness is more common among people who live alone, it is certainly not limited to this demographic. In other bad news, 25% of unemployed people have been long-term unemployed for at least a year, which is up from 15% a decade ago. We are also more fearful of the world around us, often without good reason. While most crime rates have fallen in recent years, Australians ranked in the bottom third of OECD countries for our perception of safety in the community.