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We're living longer, working harder and using more energy: ABS
People in their 50s can expect to live longer than the same group 20 years ago, are more highly educated and less likely to own their home outright, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) flagship publication, Australian Social Trends, 2006, released today.
The publication also says the last two decades have seen an increase in working hours for both full-time and part-time workers and in the energy used per person in the home.
Australian Social Trends 2006 provides a snapshot of life in Australia and how it is changing over time, including for the first time, an examination of the wealth of Australians.
Australia's children and their education
In 2003, more than 1 million children aged under 18 years lived with one parent and apart from their other natural parent. This represented 22% of children in this age group, a similar proportion to that in 1997. Most (87%) of these children lived apart from their fathers and 13% from their mothers.
In reading and writing, girls generally outperform boys but have similar levels of numeracy skills. The latest figures (2004) show that 89% of boys and 93% of girls in Year 7 achieved national benchmark levels for reading, while 91% of boys and 96% of girls achieved these levels for writing. For numeracy, 82% of Year 7 boys and girls achieved the benchmarks.
The proportions of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children achieving Year 7 national literacy benchmarks in 2004 remained well below the proportions for all students, despite some improvements in achieving reading benchmarks in recent years. In Western Australia in 2002, more than half of Indigenous students aged 4-16 years were rated by their teachers as having low overall academic performance. Three key factors were found to be significantly associated with Indigenous students' academic performance: risk of emotional or behavioural difficulties, absence from school and education of their primary carers.
Families and work
Fathers of children under 15 years who worked full-time in 2004-05 spent an average of 43 hours per week at work and one-third (33%) worked more than 50 hours per week. However, fathers are increasingly using flexible working arrangements to help care for their children. In 2002, 30% of fathers used such arrangements, up from 24% in 1993.
Average weekly hours worked for full-time and part-time workers have increased over the last two decades. Full-time working hours for men increased by 1.9 hours per week to 43.2 hours between 1985 and 2005 and for women by 1.7 hours to 39.3 hours. Part-time hours worked by men increased 0.7 hours to 16.4 hours over the same period and for women by 1.4 hours to 16.9 hours per week.
More women are working, with 53% of women aged 15 years and over working in 2004, up from 40% in 1979. The growth in women's employment has been mainly in part-time work. In 2004, 24% of women aged 15 years and over were employed part-time, an increase from 14% in 1979.
Australians growing older
Many aspects of life today for people in their 50s are different from 20 years ago. People at age 50 now can expect to live longer with men living to 80.6 years and women to 84.6 years (an additional 5.5 years for men and 3.9 years for women between 1980-82 and 2002-04). Both men and women are far more highly educated and many more women in their 50s are in the labour force than 20 years ago (37% in 1984 increasing to 62% in 2004). People in their 50s are less likely to have children living with them (35% in 2001 compared with 43% in 1981) and are less likely to own their home outright in (46% in 2003-04 compared with 56% in 1982).
Australia's population is ageing, but not as fast as some other countries, including Japan, which in 2005 had the highest median age of all countries in the world (42.9 years). In comparison, Australia's median age in 2005 was 36.7 years. Projections are that Japan's median age in 2050 will be 53.4 years compared with 45.2 years in Australia.
Our spending patterns, wealth and homes
Almost half (49%) of household spending on goods and services in 2003-04 was on food and non-alcoholic beverages, current housing costs and transport. This proportion was unchanged from 1984.
The wealth of households is commonly accumulated over the working years and utilised during retirement. In 2003-04, the average net worth (wealth) of all Australian households was $468,000. The median was substantially lower at $295,000, reflecting the relatively large proportion of households at the lower end of the wealth distribution.
The home is the biggest asset for a large proportion of Australians. In capital cities, the home accounted for 49% of the assets of households in 2003-04 and 40% of assets for households outside capital cities.
Despite new homes becoming more energy efficient, Australians are using more energy per person. Average household energy consumption per person increased by 17% between 1983-84 and 2003-04.
More details are in Australian Social Trends, 2006 (cat. no. 4102.0).
Australian Social Trends 2006 - State/Territory Supplementary Information
The following table provides some state/territory specific information related to highlights in the national Australian Social Trends media release.
(a) p.33 Family and community indicators.
(b) p.116 Work indicators.
(c) p.150 Distribution of household wealth article.
(d) Estimates for balance of territory other than Darwin are not considered reliable.
(e) Capital city estimates for the ACT relates to total ACT.
(f) p.154 Components of household wealth article.
Media Note: while most of the articles in Australian Social Trends 2006 present a national picture, state/territory tables for a range of social indicators are included at the start of each chapter.
Australian Social Trends 2006: List of Contents Chapters and Articles
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