Aussies living and working longer, but some doing it tough

Australians are living longer, are better educated and extending their stay in the workforce, but some people continue to be disadvantaged, according to the latest welfare report card from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

From the latest figures available, Australian governments spent an estimated $119 billion on welfare in 2010-11-$90.0 billion in cash payments and $29.4 billion for welfare services.

Welfare services spending, at an average of $1,308 per Australian resident in 2010-11, was nearly 30% more than the $90.1 billion governments spent on health in the same year.

The biennial Australia's welfare report for 2013 was launched in Sydney today by the Minister for Human Services, Senator Jan McLucas.

AIHW Director and CEO David Kalisch said that Australia's welfare 2013 highlighted that while our population continued to grow and many of us enjoyed a very good standard of living, some groups faced social and economic difficulties.  

'Where we live, our family structure and our levels of education all affect the quality of our lives and how long we can expect to live,' Mr Kalisch said.

In 2009, 13% of the Australian population was classified as being in relative income poverty and in 2009-10, government pensions and allowances were the main source of income for 1 in 4 households.

There are relatively high levels of persistence or recurrence of poverty in Australia for particular individuals or groups. Elderly single males and elderly single females were more likely to experience poverty for 5 or more years over a 9-year period than couples with children and one-parent families with children.

According to the report, of the 23 million people living in Australia, 70% are in major cities, 3% are Indigenous and 27% were born overseas.

Mr Kalisch said that the ageing of the population was one of the key factors in Australia's changing demographic profile. People aged 65 and over now comprise 14% of the population, or about 3.2 million people, compared with 8% in 1972. The proportion of those aged under 25 has fallen from 46% to 32% over the same period.

'Older Australians can expect to live longer than ever before, are enjoying more years of life without disability, and are increasingly remaining in the workforce.

'But while overall there is a large and growing group of older people who are generally well, living independently and actively participating in society, the number of older, and younger, Australians who are unable to care for themselves at home, or who require support to do so, is also growing.'

'An estimated 4 million Australians of all ages have some form of disability-18.5% of the population-which includes 1.3 million people who need help with core activities.'

Mr Kalisch said informal carers, such as family members and friends, played a vital role in the lives of people who sometimes or always needed help to do tasks because of disability, long-term health conditions or frailty due to ageing.

'In 2009, 2.6 million Australians were informal carers, and about 20% were aged 65 and over. Of the 770,000 primary carers, 303,000 had disability themselves.' 

The report shows that, in 2011, 72% of Australia's 7.8 million households were family households (with or without children), 24% were lone-person households and the rest were group households. In 2009-10, 1 in 5 children lived in a one-parent family, and this rate has not changed for more than 10 years.

The proportion of jobless families dropped from 13.0% in 2005 to 11.6% in 2011-but the 2011 proportion was higher than the low of 10.2% immediately before the global financial crisis of 2008.

In 2011, the majority of Australian households were buying or owned their own home outright (5.2 million). About 2.3 million were renting either private or social housing dwellings, with this number rising over the last five years. About 105,000 people were homeless.

Mr Kalisch said that while more people in their 60s were choosing to work rather than retire, many adults struggled to gain a foothold in employment, especially young adults and people with disability.

In 2012, 7% of 15-19 year olds, and 12% of 20-24 year olds were not in employment, education or training, which was similar to levels in 2003.

Almost 1 in 3 (30%) employed people worked part-time in 2012, compared with 17% in 1982. Women were almost 3 times as likely as men to be employed part-time (46% and 16% respectively) and this is likely to be related to caring responsibilities.

Mr Kalisch said the report confirmed several areas of disadvantage for Indigenous Australians, although there had been some improvements.

'Indigenous Australians have a shorter life expectancy than other Australians, are over-represented in the prison and youth justice systems, and Indigenous children are 10 times as likely as non-Indigenous children to be in out-of-home care,' he said.

'And although death rates for Indigenous adults have fallen, among those aged 25-54 they were 4 to 5 times as high as for non-Indigenous people between 2007­ and 2011.'

Mr Kalisch said areas where there were signs of improvement included rises in Indigenous home ownership, falls in overcrowding among Indigenous households, and improving education and labour force participation rates.

The report shows that people outside major cities also experience several areas of disadvantage, including higher death rates, higher disability rates, lower educational attainment, and higher unemployment rates.

Other Australia's welfare 2013 fast facts:

  • Australians are better educated than a decade ago: 67% of people aged 25 to 64 held a non-school qualification in 2012 compared with 54% in 2002.
  • Adoptions have fallen to their lowest level ever-at just 333 in 2011­-12 compared with around 9,800 in 1972.
  • The number of children in substantiated (confirmed) abuse and neglect cases rose by 18% between 2007-08 and 2011-12. The number of children living in out-of-home care increased by 27% between 2008 and 2011.
  • Just over half (52%) of children aged 0 to 12 usually attended child care in 2011.
  • House prices were more than 7 times the average household income in 2011 compared with 4 times at the start of 2002, and houses are increasing in size.


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