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Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Hard times. We're no better off than in 2009

If you think you are worse off despite a raft of economic statistics saying things are getting better, you're probably right.

Australia's longest-running household survey finds home ownership is increasingly out of reach for many of us, one in eight families don't have $500 in savings in case of emergency, and that real household disposable incomes peaked in 2009.

Australia's longest-running Seven Up! style longitudinal survey of Australian households finds that real household disposable incomes peaked in 2009 and still aren't back to where they were.

The finding is different from those of other studies that survey different Australians at different times.

The Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey (known as HILDA) tracks the same 17,000 Australians each year to find out whether their particular living standards have improved rather than those of the population on average.

Beginning in 2001, the survey finds that the typical household was better off each year until 2009, with the typical real household disposable incomes climbing from $57,704 to $76,264 - a gain of 32 per cent.

The gain includes more than what happened to households on average, it includes promotions and increased employment opportunities for household members surveyed.

Between 2009 and 2011 the global financial crisis pushed down typical household income 5 per cent to $72,260 as household members lost jobs, worked fewer hours and lost pay rises.

Since 2012 household income has recovered slowly, climbing to $75,731 in 2014, still 0.7 per cent worse than in 2009, meaning typical Australian families are no better off than they were five years ago.

Household disposable income is the combined income of all household members after receipt of government pensions and benefits and after taxes. It is adjusted for inflation.

Household wealth has also been slipping, sliding 3.3 per cent since 2010. Between 2006 and 2010 it climbed 4.8 per cent.

Superannuation is the most important household asset after property, but it is a long way behind.

In 2014 the average household owned a home worth $392,241, secured with a debt of $100,689 and a second property worth $138,718 secured with a debt of $42,226.

The average superannuation balance was $168,011, average share ownership $44,116 and average cash in the bank $51,118.

But in this survey, 12 per cent of households surveyed were unable to lay their hands on $500 of savings in the event of an emergency.

Almost 80 per cent said they believed that savings of at least $500 were essential.

Five per cent were unable to afford dental treatment when needed. Almost all believed that dental work was essential.

Seven per cent were unable to afford new clothes for their school-aged children. Sixty per cent believed new clothes were essential each year.

Professors Peter Saunders of the University of NSW and Roger Wilkins of the University of Melbourne used the answers to construct a "deprivation score" which counted the number of essential items the individual could not afford.

Twelve per cent of Australians were deprived of at least two essential items. Seven per cent were deprived of at least three.

Single parents had the worse deprivation score, with almost 20 per cent unable to afford three or more essential items.

Singles were much worse off than couples regardless of whether they had children.

Nine per cent of single non-elderly men were deprived of three or more essential items and eight per cent of women.

Retirees were much better off with only 3.5 per cent of singles deprived of three or more essential items and less than 1 per cent of retired couples.

Fourteen per cent of unemployed Australians were unable to afford three or more essential items.

In The Age and Sydney Morning Herald