Here's Everything You Need To Know About The Update To The Huge Survey Monitoring Australians For Over A Decade

Getty/Lisa Lake

Melbourne University today released the latest update on its huge Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) survey which has been following thousands of Australians since 2001.

Here’s what we’ve learned about Australians and Australian households in today’s update.

  • Australians are less reliant on welfare now (or at least in 2011 when this data was collected) than they were in 2001;
  • But a spokesman for Joe Hockey doesn’t agree saying, “That mining boom is now disappearing and there is a growing reliance on welfare in the next decade.”;
  • The report’s editor, Associate Professor Roger Wilkins of the Melbourne Institute doesn’t agree with the Treasurer, noting “I’m absolutely bewildered by Hockey’s obsession on welfare reliance in Australia.”;
  • Salary seems to be correlated with stomach girth but we’d hypothesise that the the causality might run the other way from longer hours, less exercise more stress and worse food choices due to the forgoing list;
  • There are more female breadwinners growing from 23.5 per cent in 2000 to 24.5 per cent in 2011. It’s small steps but the wealthier women tend to be older and in longer term relationships. University degrees are also part of the mix as well.
  • The mining boom has benefited households around the country, lifting both incomes and the Australian standard of living substantially since the survey’s inception;
  • Lower income earners benefited with the lower quintiles, as the researchers like to call them, were not overly disadvantaged relative to the top quantile of wage earners across the survey period.
  • Australia seems to be a risk averse population no matter what their income level;
  • Even though there is a popular feeling that the “casualisation” of the workforce leads to less happiness the survey just doesn’t support this argument. While those in enduring or fixed term employment were amongst the happiest, other workers weren’t that far behind. Although the older age groups seem much happier than those below 45;
  • The pressure of living longer, and having enough income, has seen a big fall in the number of men in the 60-64 age bracket in retirement together with females in the 55-59 cohort.

The strength of this survey is that “the same households and individuals are interviewed every year, allowing us to see how their lives are changing over time”.

It is a survey that speaks of an economy that is serving and has served its citizens well with mean household disposable income growing $18.163 to $79,763 over the period since the original survey in 2001.

However when household disposable income is adjusted for household needs to give a “standard of living” measure the increase is a less, but still healthy increase in mean income from $36,753 to $47,406 in 2011.

But what the report shows at its essence is that across many measures, income, like health, cannot be separated from well being in the modern Australian economy.

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