Source: The Mercury, Thursday, 20 April, 1995, pp.1-2


Aussies live it up

By BEN ENGLISH
in Canberra

AUSTRALIANS are
wealthier and healthier
than 20 years ago, a
wide-ranging study of
living standards has
found.

What seemed like luxury
in the 1970s is now treated
as necessity after income
rises for both the rich and
poor during the past two
decades.

The study by the Economic
Planning Advisory Comm-
ission, a Federal Govern-
ment think-tank, says
Australians eat more, drink
and smoke less and work
longer hours than in the
1970s.

They are also more edu-
cated and more likely to own
a car.

"If you talk about the poor
getting poorer, it does not
add up with our findings,"
report author Ross Clare
said.

"But it does appear that
the rich are getting richer
faster than the poor are
improving their lot."

But the nation was paying
for it with a much higher
unemployment rate-from
2.5 per cent in 1972 to 10.4
per cent in 1992.

The study said contrary to
common perceptions the
plight of Australia's low-
income groups had improved
markedly during the past 20
years.

Even the most economical-
ly deprived households had
colour TVs and most had
videos, and microwaves, in
stark contrast to the
Australian home of the
1970s.

Today 99 per cent of
homes had a colour TV com-
pared with 49 per cent 20
years ago.

Four in five households,
had a video now compared
with one in 1000 in the
1970s, and 62 per cent had
microwaves' which were not
invented 20 years, ago.

The EPAC report, handed
to the Federal Government
yesterday, revealed vast
improvements in life
expectancies, infant mortal-
ity rates and disposable
income.

Real disposable income-
income less tax for all men,
women and children -
jumped 43 per cent to
$13,990 per capita.

But the rises were more
pronounced for higher
income earners.

Workers in the top 10 per
cent of income earners
enjoyed a 16.2 per cent rise
in real income while those in
the bottom 10 per cent suf-
fered a 1.8 per cent fall.

However, since 1990 low-
income earners' real income
has risen 6.5 per cent.

"We suspect the rises are
being driven by productivity
growth and structural
change to the economy," the
report said.

The report found the lot of
some disadvantaged groups,
such as indigenous
Australians and sole par-

Continued Page 2

Aussies' lot improves over 20 years

FROM PAGE 1

ents, had hardly improved.
Despite slight gains Aboriginal
men still earned vastly lower
wages than their non-indigenous
counterparts.

In 1980, 81 per cent of indi-
genous workers had incomes
equivalent to the bottom 40 per
cent of non-indigenous workers.
In 1990 the comparative figure
was 72 per cent.

Mr Clare said although these
groups received adequate funding
they still lacked appropriate
employment opportunities.

Business groups said the fig-
ures showed unemployment was
the biggest challenge facing the
Government this decade.

Australian Chamber of Manu-
factures chief executive Allan
Handberg said: "The economy is
absorbing an enormous cost
through funding the jobless."

The report said the proportion
of school-leavers undertaking
tertiary studies had more than
doubled to 13.7 per cent.

But trade union membership
had plunged from 55 per cent of
the workforce to 39 per cent.

More startling, however, was a
dramatic fall in spending on alco-
hol and cigarettes.

Spending on alcohol dropped
from 6.4 to 3.4 per cent of house-
hold expenditure while spending
on tobacco fell from 2.7 to 1.4 per
cent.


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