Source: The Australian, 25 June, 1996, p.1, 4
By social affairs writer MICHELLE GUNN AUSTRALIANS are getting older, wealthier, moving to capi- tal cities and increasingly living alone. We're also shunning public transport, having fewer chil- dren, becoming more educated, relying more on Medicare and still striving to buy our own quarter-acre block. And despite the view that retirees usually head north in search of the sun, a snapshot of Australian social trends released yesterday shows that Adelaide boasts the largest pro- portion of the nation's elderly. Darwin has the youngest population, despite Brisbane recording the highest popu- lation growth rates in the eight years to 1994. The national snapshot, titled Australian Social Trends 1996, shows we spend an average of 1 hour and 27 minutes each day in our cars driving to work, visiting friends and doing the shopping. Released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, the 187-page report also shows declining fer- tility and mortality levels, increasing urbanisation, improvements in school reten- tion rates and a decline in the use of nursing homes for the aged. The annual report, which includes unpublished data gath- ered by the ABS, also indicates: · 70 per cent of the nation's families own or are purchasing their own homes, giving Aust- ralia one of the highest levels of home ownership in the OECD. · The population living in Continued-Page 4 More reports-Page 4 Older, wealthier and alone in the cities From Page 1 capital cities grew by 10 per cent in the eight years to 1994, with Brisbane and Perth growing by almost 20 per cent each. While Sydney and Melbourne grew by less than 8 per cent, they remain our two largest cities, boasting 3.7 million and 3.2 million residents respectively. · The number of cars, station wagons and four-wheel drives has doubled since 1965, with 84 per cent of households now having at least one vehicle. More than 70 per cent of Aust- ralians use a car each day, compared to 33 per cent who walk, 9 per cent who take public transport and two per cent who ride a bike. · Falling fertility rates and an ageing population will mean that Australia's population growth will fall for at least the next 50 years. · More than 10 per cent, or 1.5 million Australians, live alone -almost a third of whom are widowed women who have out- lived their husbands. A growing number of men also live alone, after suffering divorce or separ- ation. The report, which also exam- ines Australia's growing relationship with Asia, shows that Asian-born Australians now number 866,000, or account for more than one fifth of the nation's overseas-born popu- lation. Last year, 4700 Australians left permanently to live in Asia, almost 20,000 left to spend a year or more, and 939,000 trav- elled to Asia on short-term visits. The ABS report also includes an evaluation of the first 10 years of Medicare in Australia and shows an increase in the use of Medicare services from an average of seven each year 10 years ago, up to 10 each year in 1994. The report shows women use their Medicare cards more than men, while NSW has far higher rates than other States. The three most common services are general practitioner (45 per cent), pathology (24 per cent) and specialists (9 per cent). The report paints a disturb- ing picture of the health, income, education and housing conditions of the nation's indi- genous population, with almost 60 per cent of Aborigines recording an income of less than $12,000 per year. This com- pares to 46 per cent for white Australians. The life expectancy of Abor- iginal people is also estimated to be 15 to 20 years less than others and their death rates are more than double those of non- indigenous Australians. The report, which will be used by social policy makers, also shows the number of accidental deaths involving children has declined, probably as a result of laws on baby capsules in cars and compulsory fencing around swimming pools. Despite this, 127 children died in motor vehicle accidents in 1994 and 64 children drowned.
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