Australians are busier than ever but many are struggling to keep a roof over their heads and an alarming 25 per cent say they suffer from loneliness, according to a national report out today.
The annual overview of our wellbeing by the government’s Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIWH) reports we are not merely a hardworking population, we are getting smarter in our jobs.
We are doing our democratic duty in greater proportions, with 97 per cent of eligible people enrolled to vote in 2019, compared to 90 per cent in 2010.
But many Aussies are struggling to remain housed and a shock one in four people has to deal with being lonely, particularly those who live alone, young adults, males and people with children.
Between 2008 and 2018 the proportion of students staying in school until Year 12 rose from 69 per cent to 81 per cent for boys, and from 80 per cent to 89 per cent for girls, the AIHW reports.
In 2018, some 65 per cent of Australians aged 25—64 had a non-school qualification at Certificate III level or above, a substantial increase from 55 per cent in 2009.
And in 2018 some 74 per cent of people aged 15—64 were employed — the highest annual employment rate recorded in Australia, and in July, 2019 the female and total employment rates remain at record levels.
We are not just putting in a big effort on regular jobs. Australians also contributed 743 million hours of volunteer work.
Working harder and smarter doesn’t mean being tied to our jobs all day.
The proportion of Australians working very long hours — 50 hours a week or more — dropped from 16 per cent to 14 per cent over the year. And Australians are using part-time positions to balance work with other activities including caring for family members.
But some workers have no choice by part-time labour and the AIHW also reports unwanted factors of national life.
In December, 2018, more than nine per cent of workers were underemployed, or unable to find as many hours of work as they wanted, and one in nine households with children had no family member employed.
Finding affordable housing remains a challenge for many Australians, with more people spending a higher proportion of their incomes on housing than in the past and fewer younger people owning their own homes.
More than one million low-income households were in housing stress in 2017-18, where they spent more than 30 per cent of their income on rent or mortgage repayments.
There has been little change in income inequality since the mid-2000s, though it is higher now than it was in the 1980s — and wealth is more unequally distributed than income.
Most crime rates have fallen in recent years but Australians ranked in the bottom third of countries for feeling safe walking alone at night.
If you or someone you know needs help, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14. There is also an anonymous online chat service available between 8pm and 4am AEST at Lifeline.org.au, or visit Beyond Blue’s website.
For crisis assistance, call triple-0.