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