Source: The Weekend Australian, 16 August, 1997, (Australia Today: An 8-page special) p.4


Household services
bite into the budget

 AUSTRALIANS are spending a 
greater proportion of their 
income on recreation and 
household services such as 
cleaning, ironing and gardening 
than in the past, according to the 
latest analysis of household 
expenditure. 
 
   Families now spend an average 
of $78 a week on recreation 
compared with $59.37 in 1988- 
89 and $43.13 in 1984. 
 
   They also spend $31.61 on the 
upkeep and maintenance of their 
house, compared with $24.11 in 
1988-89 and $15.70 in 1984. 
 
   But household expenditure data 
from the Australian Bureau of 
Statistics shows that the greatest 
expenses remain food ($111), 
transport ($91) and housing 
($82). 
 
   The average food bill includes 
$17 a week on dining out, $12 a 
week on take-away food, $18 on 
meat and seafood and $14 on 
fruit, nuts and vegetables. 
 
   The transport budget, 
especially when compared with 
the amount spent on housing, at 
first appears to be very high. But 
under the ABS definition it 
includes car repayments ($27 a 
week), petrol ($26), registration 
and insurance ($15), and taxi and 
public transport fares ($6). 
 
   Conducted from July 1993 to 
June 1994, the survey reveals 
that families spend an average of 
$593 a week on goods and 
services, an increase of 18 per 
cent from the previous survey in 
1988-89. 
 
   Other main expenditure items 
are medical and health expenses 
($27.16 a week), clothing and 
footwear ($33.72), alcohol 
($71.47) and fuel and power 
($16.77). 
 
   There is, of course, an 
enormous difference between the 
spending patterns of the rich and 
poor, with families in the lowest 
income quintile spending an 
average of $301 a week and 
households in the highest quin- 
tile, $983 a week. 
 
   According to the ABS, low- 
income families spend a greater 
proportion of their income on 
food, housing, fuel and power, 
while high income families spend 
comparatively more on transport, 
clothing, alcohol and recreation. 
 
   These differences are partly 
explained by the socio-economic 
status of those surveyed-low- 
income earners have little left 
over for luxuries-but it is also 
explained by the demographic 
characteristics of the households 
concerned. 
 
   Almost two-thirds of people 
with the lowest income are living 
by themselves, many of them 
aged pensioners who have very 
low housing costs (because they 
own their homes) and generally 
modest spending habits. 
 
   Not surprisingly, couples with 
dependent children spend the 
most on household services- 
about $45 a week. 
 
   Couples aged 45 to 55 with 
grown children spend the most on 
recreation-more than $120 a 
week. 
 
   An analysis of spending across 
the States and Territories yields 
less predictable findings as 
Northern Territor-ians and 
residents of the ACT have the 
highest levels of expenditure 
($698 and $742 respectively), 
followed by NSW at $611 and 
Victoria at $596. The lowest were 
Tasmania ($530) and South 
Australia ($546). 
 
-MICHELLE GUNN


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