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6523.0 - Household Income and Income Distribution, Australia, 2009-10  
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SUMMARY OF FINDINGS


INTRODUCTION

The economic wellbeing of individuals is largely determined by their command over economic resources. People's income and reserves of wealth provide access to many of the goods and services consumed in daily life. This publication provides indicators of the level and distribution of after tax (disposable) household income, after adjusting for household size and composition.

The estimates of disposable income in this publication are derived by deducting estimates of income tax liability, the Medicare levy and Medicare levy surcharge from the gross income data collected in the Survey of Income and Housing (SIH). Gross income is defined as receipts available for, or intended to support, current consumption, and are collected in respect of employment income (including non-cash benefits, bonuses, termination payments and irregular overtime), profit/loss from own unincorporated business, investment income (including interest, rent and dividends), lump sum workers' compensation receipts, private transfers (including superannuation, child support), other transfers from other households and cash transfers from government pensions and allowances. Some limits have been placed on items included as income, where the magnitude of the individual amounts received exceed that likely to be used to support current consumption e.g. termination payments, workers compensation payments.

While income is usually received by individuals, it is normally shared between partners in a couple relationship and with dependent children. To a lesser degree, there may be sharing with other members of the household. Even when there is no transfer of income between members of a household, nor provision of free or cheap accommodation, members are still likely to benefit from the economies of scale that arise from the sharing of dwellings. The income measures shown in this publication therefore relate to household income.

Larger households normally require a greater level of income to maintain the same material standard of living as smaller households, and the needs of adults are normally greater than the needs of children. The income estimates are therefore adjusted by equivalence factors to standardise the income estimates with respect to household size and composition, while taking into account the economies of scale that arise from the sharing of dwellings. The equivalised disposable income estimate for any household in this publication is expressed as the amount of disposable cash income that a single person household would require to maintain the same standard of living as the household in question, regardless of the size or composition of the latter.

Appendix 3 provides a more detailed explanation of equivalised disposable household income. It shows the differences in income measures when calculated from data at different stages in progression from gross household income, through disposable household income, to person weighted equivalised disposable household income.

The ABS has revised its standards for household income statistics following the adoption of new international standards in 2004 and review of aspects of the collection and dissemination of income data. These new standards were introduced for the first time in the 2007-08 reference period. The 2009-10 income estimates presented in this publication also apply the new income standards.


KEY RESULTS

Some of the key income results from the 2009-10 SIH are:

  • in real terms, average equivalised disposable household income did not show any significant change between 2007-08 ($859) and 2009-10 ($848) (Table 1)
  • since 2007-08 there has been a decline in the number of households whose main source of income is unincorporated business income and an increase in the number of households whose main source of income is government pensions and allowances (Table 3)
  • for households with middle and high income levels in 2009-10, wages and salaries were the main source of income for more than 80% of households, while for low income households (i.e. those people with household income in the second and third deciles) government pensions and allowances were the main income source for more than 60% of households (Table 6)
  • people living in households where the reference person was aged 65 and over had the lowest mean equivalised disposable household incomes per week at $598 (Table 14) in 2009-10
  • people aged 65 and over who were living alone were more likely than couples where the reference person was aged 65 and over to have government pensions and allowances as their main source of income (76% compared to 65%) (Table 13)
  • people aged 65 and over who were living alone were less likely than older couples to own their own home without a mortgage (72% compared to 84%) (Table 13)
  • average equivalised disposable household incomes in the capital cities in Australia were 19% above those outside the capital cities (Tables 15 and 16)
  • average equivalised disposable household incomes in the Australian Capital Territory ($1,101), Western Australia ($966), and the not very remote parts of the Northern Territory ($938) were above the national average ($848) (Table 17)
  • average equivalised disposable household incomes in Tasmania and South Australia were below the national average by 17% and 6% respectively (Table 17).

Some of the key net worth results from the 2009-10 SIH are:
  • the wealthiest 20% of households in Australia account for 62% of total household net worth, with an average net worth of $2.2 million per household (Table 7)
  • the poorest 20% of households account for 1% of total household net worth, with an average net worth of $31,829 per household (Table 7)
  • the households in which the 20% of people with the lowest equivalised household incomes live account for 15% of total household net worth, similar to the shares of net worth held by the households with people in the second and third equivalised household income quintiles (Table 6)
  • the households in which the 20% of people with the highest equivalised household incomes live account for 40% of total household net worth (Table 6).


HOUSEHOLD INCOME

In 2009-10 average (mean) equivalised disposable household income for all persons living in private dwellings (i.e. the income that a single person household would require to maintain the same standard of living as the average person living in all private dwellings in Australia) was $848 per week (Table 1). There were approximately 21.6 million people living in private dwellings (Table 2).

In real terms, average equivalised disposable household income did not show any significant change between 2007-08 ($859) and 2009-10 ($848). In 2007-08 there was a break in series due to the improvements in measuring income introduced in this cycle. Adjusting for this break in series the net increase between 1994-95 and 2009-10 was 48%.

In real terms, there was no significant change in average equivalised disposable household income from 2007-08 to 2009-10 for low, middle or high income households.

S1. Changes in Mean Real Equivalised Disposable Household Income(a)
Graph: S1. Changes in Mean Real Equivalised Disposable Household Income(a)



Household characteristics

Households with different characteristics tend to have different income levels, as shown in Table 6, and summarised in the following table. Wages and salaries were the main source of income (MSI) for over 80% of households with middle and high income levels in 2009-10 while government pensions and allowances dominated for low income households. However, low income households had the highest incidence of full ownership of their home, reflecting the high proportion of older people in the low income category.

S2. HOUSEHOLD CHARACTERISTICS 2009-10, by income group

Low income(a)
Middle income(b)
High income(c)

Mean equivalised disposable household income per week $
429
721
1 704
Has MSI of wages and salaries(d) %
26.1
80.1
86.0
Has MSI of government pensions and allowances(d) %
64.4
4.0
-
Owns home without a mortgage %
45.1
28.2
23.3
Owns home with a mortgage %
17.8
42.4
52.4
Rents from state/territory housing authority %
7.2
1.3
*0.3
Rents from private landlord %
25.5
25.1
20.9
Average number of persons in the household no.
2.4
2.8
2.5
Average number of employed persons in the household no.
0.6
1.6
1.9

* estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
(a) Persons in the second and third income deciles
(b) Persons in the middle income quintile
(c) Persons in the highest income quintile
(d) Main source of income (MSI)


Middle income households contained more people on average than high income households (2.8 compared to 2.5) but contained fewer employed persons (1.6 compared to 1.9). In part, this reflects the different age profiles of the two groups. Table 6 shows that middle income households had an average of 0.8 persons under the age of 18 and 0.2 aged 65 and over, compared to 0.4 and 0.1 respectively for high income households. Low income households had an average of 0.6 employed persons, and housed an average of 2.4 persons. Of these, on average 0.7 were under 18 years, 1.1 were 18 to 64 years, and 0.7 were aged 65 years and over.

The characteristics of Australian households are changing over time. Table 3 shows that the average number of persons per household declined from 2.69 to 2.57, or about 4%, between 1994-95 and 2009-10. The proportion of couple only households increased from 23.7% to 26.2%, a higher increase than with any other family composition type. Each main source of income retained its relative importance between 1994-95 and 2009-10 with 60.8% of households primarily dependent on wages and salaries in 2009-10. The proportion of households reliant on government pensions and allowances was 25.2% in 2009-10 down from 28.5% in 1994-95. Since 2007-08 there has been a decline in the number of households whose main source of income is unincorporated business income and an increase in the number of households whose main source of income is government pensions and allowances. Over the last decade, home ownership remained relatively stable at around 70%.


Life cycle stages

Income levels across the population partly reflect the different life cycle stages that people have reached. A typical life cycle includes childhood, early adulthood, and the forming and maturing of families, as illustrated in Table 13. Other family situations and household compositions are shown in Table 12. The following table compares households in different life cycle stages.

S3. Income and household characteristics for selected life cycle groups, 2009-10

Number of households
Average number of persons
Average number of employed persons
Average number of dependent children
Proportion with government pensions and allowances as MSI(a)
Mean equivalised disposable household income per week
Proportion owning home without a mortgage
'000
no.
no.
no.
%
$
%

Lone person aged under 35
330.5
1.0
0.9
-
9.1
938
*3.5
Couple only, reference person under 35
469.1
2.0
1.8
-
*1.0
1 162
*1.7
Couple with dependent children only
Eldest child under 5
446.2
3.4
1.5
1.4
7.4
822
5.9
Eldest child 5 to 14
846.8
4.2
1.6
2.2
7.5
865
10.6
Eldest child 15 to 24
551.7
4.1
2.3
2.1
6.7
912
23.3
Couple with
Dependent & non-dependent children only
283.3
4.7
3.0
1.4
*5.9
896
22.8
Non-dependent children only
473.3
3.3
2.2
-
10.9
995
50.4
Couple only, reference person 55 to 64
542.4
2.0
1.1
-
19.8
925
57.4
Couple only, reference person 65 and over
741.6
2.0
0.3
-
64.6
594
84.0
Lone person 65 and over
742.0
1.0
0.1
-
76.1
473
71.8
One parent, one family households with dependent children
535.2
3.1
0.9
1.8
50.0
547
11.7

* estimate has a relative standard error of 25% to 50% and should be used with caution
- nil or rounded to zero (including null cells)
(a) Main source of income (MSI)


Younger couples without children had the highest mean equivalised disposable household income of $1,162 per week (Table 13), with an average of 1.8 employed persons in the household. For couples with dependent children only, and with the eldest child being under five, mean equivalised disposable household income was $822 per week (29% lower than for the young couples without children). This lower income principally reflects the lower average number of employed persons in these households (1.5) and the larger average number of persons in these households (3.4) over which incomes are shared.

Average incomes were higher for households with non-dependent children, reflecting higher proportions of employed persons in these households, but were lower for households comprising older couples and lone persons, where the numbers of employed persons were substantially lower.

People living in households where the reference person was aged 65 and over had the lowest mean incomes, with lone persons' incomes at $473 (Table 13) per week. This was lower than for older couple only households where the reference person was aged 65 and over and the mean income was $594 per week. Older lone persons were more likely than older couples to have government pensions and allowances as their main source of income (76% compared to 65%), while older couples were more likely to fully own their home (84% compared to 72%).

Households comprising one parent with dependent children had a mean income of $547 per week (Table 12). Only 12% fully owned their home and therefore a substantially greater proportion were making mortgage or rental payments from their income. Of these households, 50% had government pensions and allowances as their main source of income. On average there were 0.9 employed persons in the household.


States and territories

There were differences in the average levels of income between the states and territories (see Table 17). Tasmania's mean equivalised disposable household weekly income was 17% below the national average and South Australia was 6% below. In Table 17, the Australian Capital Territory, Western Australia and the Northern Territory are shown to have the highest mean incomes (30%, 14%, and 11% above the national average respectively). The high income levels reflect in part the younger age profile of the ACT and NT and the greater number of employed persons per household. The results for the Northern Territory also reflects the exclusion from the results of households in collection districts in the NT defined as very remote which, if included, would be likely to reduce the mean income in that territory. This potential for an overestimated mean income in the NT is based on the large relative size of the very remote population for that territory.

New South Wales, with the largest state population, recorded a mean equivalised disposable household weekly income only 1% above the national average, which is not a statistically significant difference (Table 17).

There are also differences between the equivalised disposable household incomes recorded in capital cities compared to those earned elsewhere in Australia. At the national level, mean incomes in the capital cities were 19% above those in the balance of state (Tables 15 and 16), with all states (separate information is not available for the ACT and NT) recording capital city mean incomes above those in the balance of state except in WA where the mean incomes were not significantly different. The largest differences recorded were for Victoria and South Australia where the capital city incomes were 23% and 22% respectively, above the mean incomes across the rest of the state.


INCOME DISTRIBUTION

While the mean equivalised disposable household income of all households in Australia in 2009-10 was $848 per week, the median (i.e. the midpoint when all people are ranked in ascending order of income) was somewhat lower at $715 (shown as P50 in Table 1). This difference reflects the typically asymmetric distribution of income where a relatively small number of people have relatively very high household incomes, and a large number of people have relatively lower household incomes, as illustrated in the following frequency distribution graph.

S4. DISTRIBUTION OF EQUIVALISED DISPOSABLE HOUSEHOLD INCOME, 2009-10
Diagram: S4. DISTRIBUTION OF EQUIVALISED DISPOSABLE HOUSEHOLD INCOME, 2009–10


Percentile ratios are one measure of the spread of incomes across the population. P90 (i.e. the income level dividing the bottom 90% of the population from the top 10%) and P10 (i.e. dividing the bottom 10% of the population from the rest) are shown on the above graph. In 2009-10 P90 was $1448 per week and P10 was $344 per week, giving a P90/P10 ratio of 4.21. Changes in these ratios can provide a picture of changing income distribution over time (Table 1).

Another measure of income distribution is provided by the income shares going to groups of people at different points in the income distribution. The following table (S5) shows that, in 2009-10 10.1% of total equivalised disposable household income went to people in the 'low income' group (i.e. those people with household income in the second and third deciles) with 40.2% going to the 'high income' group (i.e. the 20% of the population in the highest income quintile) (Table 1).

The Gini coefficient is a single statistic that lies between 0 and 1 and is a summary indicator of the degree of inequality, with values closer to 0 representing a lesser degree of inequality, and values closer to 1 representing greater inequality. For 2009-10 the Gini coefficient was 0.328.

Some of the change in the income distribution measures between 2005-06 and 2007-08 reflects the most recent improvements made in the 2007-08 cycle. The estimates presented in Tables 1-3 for 2003-04 and 2005-06 have been revised to be as comparable as possible with 2007-08 and 2009-10 estimates.

For more information on analysing income distribution please refer to Appendix 1.

S5. SELECTED INCOME DISTRIBUTION INDICATORS, Equivalised disposable household income

1994-95
1995-96
1996-97
1997-98
1999-2000
2000-01
2002-03
2003-04(a)
2005-06(a)
2007-08(a)
2009-10(a)

Percentage share of total income received by persons with
Low income(b) %
10.8
11.0
11.0
10.8
10.5
10.5
10.6
10.6
10.4
10.0
10.1
Middle income(c) %
17.7
17.7
17.8
17.7
17.7
17.6
17.6
17.6
17.4
16.9
17.0
High income(d) %
37.8
37.3
37.1
37.9
38.4
38.5
38.3
38.4
39.2
41.0
40.2
Ratio of incomes at top of selected income percentiles
P90/P10 ratio
3.78
3.74
3.66
3.77
3.89
3.97
4.00
3.87
4.05
4.35
4.21
P80/P20 ratio
2.56
2.58
2.54
2.56
2.64
2.63
2.63
2.55
2.58
2.66
2.70
P80/P50 ratio
1.55
1.57
1.56
1.56
1.57
1.56
1.57
1.53
1.55
1.58
1.60
P20/P50 ratio
0.61
0.61
0.61
0.61
0.59
0.59
0.60
0.60
0.60
0.59
0.59
Gini coefficient no.
0.302
0.296
0.292
0.303
0.310
0.311
0.309
0.306
0.314
0.336
0.328

(a) Estimates presented for 2007-08 and 2009-10 are not directly comparable with estimates for previous cycles due to the improvements made to measuring income introduced in the 2007-08 cycle. Estimates for 2003-04 and 2005-06 have been recompiled to reflect the new treatments of income, however not all new components introduced in 2007-08 are available for earlier cycles
(b) Persons in the second and third income deciles
(c) Persons in the middle income quintile
(d) Persons in the top income quintile



IMPUTED RENT

Including imputed rent as part of household income and expenditure conceptually treats owner-occupiers as if they were renting their home from themselves, thus simultaneously incurring rental expenditure and earning rental income. Imputed rent is included in income on a net basis i.e. the imputed value of the services received less the value of the housing costs incurred by the household in their role as landlord.

Table 18 presents the estimates of gross and net imputed rent for owner-occupied dwellings and other housing tenures where a rent imputation has been made for 2005-06, 2007-08 and 2009-10. The effect of adding net imputed rent to disposable household income is also shown (on an equivalised basis). The estimated mean gross imputed rent for owner-occupiers was higher than the mean imputation for subsidised renters or other tenure types. When housing costs were subtracted from gross imputed rent to derive net imputed rent, households who occupied their dwelling rent-free (2% of all private households) had the highest mean net imputed rent. Owners without a mortgage, who account for about a third of all private households, had the next highest mean net imputed rent.

In 2009-10 the addition of net imputed rent to disposable household income contributed, on average, an extra $57 (7%) to the income of all households. The effect in 2005-06 and 2007-08 was similar. For some housing tenures the addition of net imputed rent to disposable household income saw a significant increase in their mean equivalised disposable household incomes. The largest effect was seen for households who occupied their dwelling as owners without a mortgage (20% increase in 2009-10). Consistent with previous years, there was also a significant increase in 2009-10 for tenants of state / territory housing authorities (17%). The overall effect of the addition of net imputed rent to disposable income is a reduction in the mean income disparities between housing tenures, with a significant decline in the ratio between tenures with the highest and lowest incomes. For example, in 2009-10 the ratio of the mean income of owners with a mortgage to the mean income of tenants of state/territory housing authorities declined from 2.3 to 2.0 when net imputed rent was included.


Impact on Income Distribution

The addition of net imputed rent to disposable household income has a partial equalising effect on the distribution of household income. This result reflects that, for many home owners in lower income ranges the family home that they own is the largest asset held by the household, and the net imputed rent income from that asset is a relatively large proportion of the household's incomes. In higher income ranges the net imputed rent income is a relatively smaller proportion of the household's incomes. This equalising effect of accounting for net imputed rent in income analysis is illustrated in the following frequency distribution graph, table and discussion of a range of distribution measures. (Note: Persons with an income between $50 and $2500 are shown in $50 ranges on the graph).

S6. DISTRIBUTION OF EQUIVALISED DISPOSABLE HOUSEHOLD INCOME (EDHI), WITH AND WITHOUT IMPUTED RENT, 2009-10
Diagram: S6. DISTRIBUTION OF EQUIVALISED DISPOSABLE HOUSEHOLD INCOME (EDHI), WITH AND WITHOUT IMPUTED RENT, 2009–10


Table 19 shows that in 2009-10 P90 for equivalised disposable household income was $1,448 per week and P10 was $344 per week, giving a P90/P10 ratio of 4.21. When net imputed rent was added to income the P90/P10 ratio fell to 3.76. The addition of net imputed rent saw a decrease in the Gini coefficient from 0.328 to 0.309, a decrease of 5.8%. This further indicates that the inclusion of net imputed rent to income results in a more equal distribution.


WEALTH DISTRIBUTION

The distribution of net worth across households is much more unequal than for income, partly reflecting the common pattern of people gradually accumulating wealth throughout their working life. In 2009-10 the 20% of households with the lowest net worth accounted for only 1% of total household net worth, with an average net worth of $31,829 per household (Table 7). The wealthiest 20% of households in Australia account for 62% of total household net worth, with an average net worth of $2.2 million per household.

The picture of wealth is more equally distributed when viewed from the perspective of the distribution of incomes. The households in which the 20% of people with the lowest equivalised household incomes live account for 15% of total household net worth, similar to the shares of net worth held by the households with people in the second and third household income quintiles (13% and 14% respectively) (Table 6). The households in which the 20% of people with the highest equivalised household incomes live account for 40% of total household net worth (Table 6).

The distributional pattern of net worth is also marked when considered in terms of sources of household income and household tenure. Households where the main source of household income is 'other' income (principally investment income) had average household net worth of $1.8 million, while for those where the main source of household income was government pensions and allowances the average household net worth was $368,588 (Table 9). Net worth in renter households was on average only about 13% of the net worth in owner households with no mortgage, and about 21% of the net worth of owner households with a mortgage (Table 11).


CHILD CARE

In this publication, the child care use and cost estimates are based on data collected from child care questions being asked of households in the survey where children 12 years of age or less were resident. Table 8 provides key child care information by specific household characteristics. The cost of care estimates are also shown on a household basis.

In SIH 2009-10 respondents were asked to report child care use for the month prior to interview. On this basis, the proportion of children using care may be smaller than a measure based on a usual (or regular) attendance basis due to temporary absences, and larger than the proportion attending in a shorter reference period (such as a school term week). The largest difference will reflect the numbers of school children who will attend vacation care but no other formal care during a school term.

The number of households with children aged 0-12 years using only formal care in the month prior to interview was 247,200 (12% of households with children of this age).

For informal care, 658,200 households with children aged 0-12 years were using only this type of care in the month prior to interview (32% of households with children of this age). Of households with children aged 0-12 years, 366,000 (18%) used both formal and informal child care.

For households using only formal child care, the average weekly cost per household for formal child care before the Child Care Benefit or Child Care Rebate was deducted was $153. For households using only formal child care, the average amount received per week for the Child Care Benefit and Child Care Rebate was $39 and $23 respectively.


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