Friday, August 03, 2007

What is it with Canberra households?

We earn more than do residents of other Australian cities, we are the most likely to have a mortgage, and yet we are poorer.

The latest household income survey released yesterday by the Bureau of Statistics points to a paradox. Canberra residents earn 27 per cent more than do residents of other Australian capitals, but we are worth 4 per cent less.

Compared with Sydney residents the difference is more stark. We earn 15 per cent more than residents of Australia’s biggest capital, but on average our wealth amounts to 8 per cent less...

It may be because we are typically younger than are Sydneysiders, it may be because as many of us have secure jobs we are less likely to save, or it may be because our real estate prices haven’t grown nearly as fast (notwithstanding their recent performance), but for whatever reason while we earn more than our counterparts in every Australian city other than Darwin our wealth is well down on that in Sydney and Melbourne.

An average Canberra household has accumulated $573,000 in assets, compared with $697,000 for a typical Sydney household and $597,000 for one in Melbourne.

But before tax we typically earn $1,445 per household, well above the $1,259 and $1,088 earned in Sydney and Melbourne.

Hobart and Adelaide are both Australia’s poorest and lowest-earning cities. A typical Hobart houshold gets just $936 per week before tax, a typical Adelaide houshold $954.

Australians living away from the cities earn even less. The typical before-tax wage in the rest of the country is $898 per week, 21 per cent less than that earned in the cities.

But Australians away from the capitals are more likely to own or be buying their own houses. Only 27 per cent Australians households away from the cities rent, well down on the 32 per cent who rent in Sydney.

Canberra households are about as enthusiastic at buying their homes as those in other cities, but less successful. Only 27 per cent of Canberra households have paid off their mortgage, a smaller proportion than in any city other than Darwin, and 42 per cent – more than anywhere else - making Canberra on that measure the most exposed Australian city to a hike in the mortgage rate.

The Bureau’s survey also shows that while all income groups are better off than they were when the Coalition took office a decade ago, Australia’s highest income earners have benefited the most. Low-income earners are 31 per cent better off after inflation, middle-income earners 32 per cent better off, and Australia’s highest earners 36 per cent better off.

Even in the most recent two-year period surveyed by the Bureau, between 2003-04 and 2005-06 Australia’s highest earners improved their lot by more than any other income group. The Bureau says the buying power of low and middle earners climbed 8 per cent; the buying power of high earners 13 per cent.