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2. Summary results for Australia
3. How do Australians feel about their life as a whole?
4. Case Study 1 - Tasmania
5. Case Study 2 - People who have experienced homelessness
In 2014, the fourth General Social Survey (GSS) was conducted with Australians aged 15 years and over. The main purpose of the survey was to provide an understanding of the multi-dimensional nature of relative advantage and disadvantage across the population, and to facilitate reporting on and monitoring of people's opportunities to participate fully in society. Many of the key factors that influence an individual's social inclusion have been collected across the series of the GSS. This release provides an update on Australia's progress.
These summary findings provide a snapshot of the data collected in the GSS, highlighting several themes emerging from the 2014 survey. The themes include how Australia has progressed on aspects of social capital such as participation, support, feelings of safety and trust.
The GSS covers a wide range of topics, many of which are collected in other surveys. The analysis draws on data from complementary sources, and considers factors that may be driving changes in selected measures. It also draws attention to overall life satisfaction, focusing on characteristics of population groups with low reported life satisfaction - people with a mental health condition, people with disability, recent and other migrants, people living in one parent families, and those with different sexual orientations.
To further illustrate the analytical potential of this survey, these summary findings include a case study on Tasmania. When compared with national rates, Tasmania has a higher unemployment rate, lower labour force participation rate, lower average weekly earnings and a lower proportion of people with non-school qualifications. However, the case study will show that Tasmania has a similar overall life satisfaction score to other states and territories. Tasmanians are still participating and having a say in their communities, and experiencing strong levels of trust. A case study on people who have experienced homelessness is also featured.
The release is complemented by detailed data and explanatory materials including: a glossary where concepts are defined; explanatory notes; the survey questionnaire; a data item list. Additional commentary on the survey data will be released separately, including more detailed analysis of voluntary work and an investigation of multiple social disadvantage.
All differences described in this summary of findings are statistically significant unless otherwise stated.
SUMMARY RESULTS FOR AUSTRALIA
The GSS measures resources that reflect the wellbeing of individuals and communities, with social capital being a particular focus. Social capital is conceived as a resource available to individuals and communities, and founded on networks of mutual support, reciprocity and trust. Research links strong social capital to increased individual and community wellbeing. It includes elements such as community support, social participation, civic participation, network size, trust and trustworthiness, and an ability to have a level of control of issues important to them. The 2014 GSS results show changes in the levels of involvement in activities connecting people to their broader community and the way people are interacting with the community outside their household. These changes appear broadly consistent with ABS Measures of Australia's Progress, 2013 (cat. no. 1370.0) data showing a decrease in the time and opportunity that Australians have for recreation and leisure, and social and community interaction (ABS, 2013).
VOLUNTEERING RATE DECLINES
Voluntary work is one indicator of community support. This is unpaid help that is willingly given in the form of time, service or skills to a formal organisation. In 2014, volunteering rates declined for the first time since the ABS began national voluntary work surveys in 1995. Between 1995 and 2010, volunteering rates increased, reaching a peak of 36% in 2010, but in 2014, the proportion of people aged 18 years and over who were volunteering fell to 31%. Both men and women were less likely to volunteer in 2014 than they were in 2010. This decline is also seen in a drop in the proportion of people providing less formal help and assistance to others outside their household, although this difference was not statistically significant. In 2014, 46% of people helped those in other households, such as their neighbours, with activities including home maintenance jobs, gardening, running errands and unpaid child care, compared with 49% in 2010 (Table 1).
OTHER FORMS OF SUPPORT AND PARTICIPATION DECLINE OR REMAIN STABLE
The GSS collects information on a range of forms of social participation, including involvement in formal activities provided by organised groups, or informal activities with family or friends. In 2014, people were less likely than in 2010 to be involved in social groups such as sport or physical recreation groups, arts or heritage groups, and religious or spiritual groups or associations. Participation in sport and recreational activities also decreased from 74% in 2010 to 70% in 2014, a movement that is consistent with the ABS's latest Participation in Sport and Physical Recreation (cat. no. 4177.0) data (ABS, 2015) (Table 1).
Related to social participation is civic participation, which refers to involvement in a union, professional association, political party, environmental or animal welfare group, human and civil rights group, or body corporate or tenants' association. In 2014, people were less likely to be involved in civic and political groups than they were in 2010 (14% compared with 19%) (Table 1).
While some forms of social participation measured in the GSS show a general decline, traditional forms of social and civic participation continue to play an important role in Australian society. It is also important to recognise societal shifts in the ways in which people meet and interact. Digital forms of communication and social networking have provided new opportunities for some people to connect with others, including those who are less mobile or geographically isolated. Some have suggested that young people, in particular, prefer forms of online activism to engage in politics, such as joining online advocacy groups, and using social media to collect and disseminate information (Evans, Halupka, and Stoker, 2014). While the GSS 2014 did not collect data on these forms of online advocacy, it did show that the ways people used the Internet were changing. More people were accessing and interacting with government services online, including lodging applications for, or claiming benefits; paying bills; or seeking information relating to pensions or other benefits (Table 1).
The GSS shows that other ways that people support each other have been more stable across time. In 2014, the proportion of people caring for someone with a disability, illness or old age in the last four weeks (19%) was similar to that in 2010 and 2006. Additionally, the proportion of people providing support to other relatives living outside the household (31%) was similar to that in 2010 and 2006, following an increase between 2002 and 2006. The stability in these forms of support may be explained by the ageing of the population and the resulting demands this places on people to assist older family members and others in their friendship networks (Table 1).
The number and variety of attachments that people have remained high. Nearly everyone (95%) in 2014 felt able to get support from outside their household in a time of crisis (similar to in 2010, 2006 and 2002). Weekly non face-to-face contact with family or friends, such as voice calls, text messaging and calls made using a video link, also remained high at 92%. In contrast, weekly face-to-face contact with family and friends living outside the household was lower in 2014 compared with 2010 (76% compared with 79%) (Table 1).
Participation in social and civic activities can be influenced by a sense of efficacy, which involves having a say about or control over particular outcomes. People with a weak sense of efficacy may participate less in groups and the communities to which they belong (ABS, 2004). In 2014, people were less likely than they were in 2010 to feel able to have a say within their community all or most of the time (25% compared with 29%) (Table 1 and Graph 1).
Graph 1: All persons, Proportion of people who felt able to have say within their community on important issues by year
Source(s): Graph data GSS 2014
A sense of efficacy and participation in groups are both interconnected with feelings of trust (ABS, 2004). Building a sense of efficacy can lead to active participation in groups and a development of trust between members of those groups. However, despite decreases in participation and efficacy, levels of generalised trust in Australia have been relatively stable since the GSS began asking questions about trust in 2006. Compared with 2010 and 2006, there was no change in the proportion of people who agreed that most people could be trusted (Table 1).
Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) data suggest that, compared with other OECD countries, Australia is below average in work-life balance (OECD, 2014b). The GSS data below supports the suggestion that Australians are feeling time-poor, showing that in 2014, 45% of women and 36% of men were always or often rushed or pressed for time, compared with 21% of women and 28% of men who were rarely or never rushed or pressed for time.
PROPORTION OF MALES AND FEMALES FEELING RUSHED OR PRESSED FOR TIME - 2014 GSS DATA
PEOPLE EXPERIENCING LESS VIOLENCE AND FEELING SAFER
Crime victimisation impacts levels of wellbeing experienced by an individual and a community. The proportion of people aged 18 years and over who had experienced physical or threatened violence in the last 12 months declined from 10% in 2010 to 8% in 2014. As was the case in 2010, men were more likely to be victimised than women. This reduction in violence is consistent with Crime Victimisation Survey (cat. no. 4530.0) data showing a generally downward trend in victimisation in recent years. The New South Wales Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (2012) has suggested that factors impacting on violent crime rates include changes in income levels and, to a lesser extent, changes in the criminal justice system such as increased arrest rates (Table 1).
Personal experience of crime victimisation may play a role in how safe people feel in different contexts, though it is not the only factor impacting on feelings of safety (ABS, 2010). In 2014, people were more likely to feel safe or very safe walking alone in their local area after dark (53% in 2014 compared with 48% in 2010), and more likely to feel safe or very safe at home alone after dark (89% in 2014 compared with 85% in 2010). Both males and females felt more confident about their safety (Table 1).
EXPOSURE TO PERSONAL STRESSORS AND SELF-ASSESSED HEALTH STAY CONSTANT
The proportion of people experiencing at least one personal stressor did not significantly change between 2010 and 2014. Survey respondents were asked whether selected issues had been a problem for them or their family or close friends in the last 12 months. These issues included serious illness, death of a family member or close friend and not being able to get a job. Women were more likely than men to have experienced a stressor (Table 1).
Whereas personal stressors relate to health and other problems experienced by an individual or people close to them, self-assessed health is a subjective measure of how people consider their own overall health. Following declines in the proportion of people assessing their health as excellent or very good since 2002, the proportion increased from 53% in 2010 to 57% in 2014. Women were slightly more likely than men to assess their health as excellent or very good (Table 1 and GSS 2010 Table 1.3).
LOWER EDUCATIONAL ATTAINMENT LINKED TO LESS SOCIAL PARTICIPATION
In 2014, people with lower levels of education were less likely to engage in forms of community support, to feel they could have a say, and to participate in social activities. People aged 18 years and over with a qualification below year 12 were less likely than people with a bachelor degree or higher to have done voluntary work in the last 12 months (22% compared with 41%) and less likely to provide help to others living outside their household in the last four weeks (38% compared with 52%). People with a qualification below year 12 were also less likely than those with a bachelor degree or higher to feel they could have a say within the community on important issues (22% compared with 26%), to have participated in sport or recreational physical activity (52% compared with 83%) and to have attended selected cultural venues and events in the last 12 months (71% compared with 96%) (Table 13).
For the first time, the 2014 GSS asked people under the age of 70 years about the level of highest educational qualification of their parents or guardians. These data show that people whose parents or guardians had a bachelor degree or higher were more likely themselves to gain a bachelor degree or higher as their highest qualification, rather than year 12. Parents with high educational attainment may serve as role models for their children, and may be more likely to have the financial resources to provide support for their children while they are studying (ABS, 2009a) (Table 13).
REMOTENESS LIMITS ACCESS TO SERVICES
An important issue for people who live in outer regional and remote Australia is access to services and activities. In 2014, people aged 15 years and over living in outer regional and remote Australia were more likely than people living in major cities to experience difficulty accessing service providers. A third of people (33%) in outer regional and remote Australia had some difficulty, compared with about a quarter (23%) of people in the major cities. The main services people had difficulty accessing were doctors, dentists, telecommunication services and government services such as Centrelink (Table 4).
Of those people in outer regional and remote Australia who had difficulty accessing services, nearly half (45%) said the main reason was that they were waiting too long, or that an appointment was not available at the time required, while just over a third (35%) said it was because there were no services or inadequate services in their area. People living in outer regional or remote Australia were also less likely than those in major cities to have participated in sport or recreational activities in the last 12 months. They also had lower attendance rates at cultural venues or events in the last 12 months such as movie theatres, public libraries, botanic gardens, zoos or aquariums, and museums or art galleries (Tables 4 and 7).
In contrast, people living in outer regional or remote Australia had greater levels of involvement with their community on certain measures. They were more likely than their urban counterparts to participate in a community support group, and to feel they could have a say within the community on important issues all or most of the time. The greater distances between neighbours in outer regional and remote Australia did not prevent individuals in these areas interacting in person, as they were more likely than people in major cities to have had daily face-to-face contact with family or friends outside the household. However, their access to communication services varies according to geography, with people in outer regional or remote Australia less likely than people in major cities to have used technology in the last three months to maintain contact with family and friends via text messaging, email, web-based chat or calls made using a video link. These differences may also reflect a reduced financial capacity to access technologies in outer regional and remote Australia due to lower household income levels in these areas (Table 4).
BEING IN WORK LIKELY TO SHIELD PEOPLE FROM FINANCIAL STRESS
The level of financial stress a household experiences is strongly influenced by the employment status of the people who live there. The GSS provides information on differences in the financial status of households where the responding person was employed, unemployed, retired or not in the labour force for other reasons (such as not working due to caring responsibilities or own health issues). In 2014, people who reported they were unemployed (27%), retired (29%) or not in the work force for other reasons (26%) were much more likely than those who reported they were employed (4.3%) to live in households in the lowest weekly household income quintiles (Table 14).
One indicator of financial stress is whether a household has experienced a cash flow problem in the last 12 months, such as being unable to pay bills on time or seeking help from family and friends. Nearly half of unemployed people lived in a household with at least one cash flow problem, as did almost a third of people not in the labour force for reasons other than being retired. In contrast, about one in five employed people lived in a household with at least one cash flow problem in the last 12 months (Table 14 and Graph 2).
Another indicator of financial stress is the inability to raise $2,000 within a week for something important. About a third of unemployed people and a quarter of people not in the labour force for other reasons lived in a household with this source of financial stress. Employed people and retired people, however, were much less likely to live in households unable to raise $2,000 quickly (Table 14 and Graph 2).
Unemployed people were also more likely to live in a household that took a dissaving action in the last 12 months, compared with people not in the labour force for other reasons and retired people. Dissaving actions include drawing on savings, increasing a credit card balance by $1,000 or more and taking out a personal loan (Table 14 and Graph 2).
Although retired people often relied on government payments and many lived in households in the lowest income quintiles, they tended to show signs of greater financial security. More than four fifths (83%) of retired people lived in a household with no consumer debt - such as credit or store cards that are not paid off, car loans or personal loans - and they were up to five times more likely than other groups to live in a household where the mortgage had been paid off (Table 14).
Graph 2: All persons, Indicators of financial stress by labour force status (a)
HOW DO AUSTRALIANS FEEL ABOUT THEIR LIFE AS A WHOLE?
Footnote(s): (a) Not in the Labour Force has been split into retired and other (b)Includes Intends to look for full-time work, Intends to look for part time work, Has never worked for 2 weeks or more and never intends to work.
Source(s): Graph data GSS 2014
Overall life satisfaction measures how people evaluate their life as a whole, rather than how they feel at present or how they feel about particular aspects of their life. In 2012, when asked to rate their life satisfaction, on a scale from 0 to 10, people in countries across the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) gave it a 6.6 average (where 0 means 'not at all satisfied' and 10 means 'completely satisfied') (OECD, 2014a).
In 2014, GSS data showed that on average, Australians aged 15 years and over rated their overall life satisfaction as 7.6, putting Australia higher than it was in 2012 and higher than the OECD average. However, overall life satisfaction is not the same across all population groups. Average life satisfaction was relatively high for people aged 75 years and over (8.1), people aged 15-24 years (7.7), people in couple family households with children (7.7) and recent migrants (7.7). Satisfaction levels were low for people with a mental health condition (6.6), households with people who were unemployed (6.8), people living in one parent families with children (7.0) and people with disability (7.2). People in one parent families with children were almost four times more likely than people in a couple family with children to report low levels of overall life satisfaction (between 0 and 4). GSS data also showed that men rated their life satisfaction as 7.6 and women rated it as 7.7. Additionally, people who were gay or lesbian rated their life satisfaction as 7.5, whereas people who had an other sexual orientation, aside from heterosexual, gay and lesbian, rated it as 6.6 (Table 2 and Graph 3).
Graph 3: Selected population groups, Average overall life satisfaction
Footnote(s): (a) Includes both dependent and non-dependent children living in household. (b) Refer to Glossary for definition of Mental health condition. (c) Includes Profound core activity restriction, Severe core activity restriction, Moderate core activity restriction, Mild core activity restriction, Schooling/employment restriction, and No specific restriction. (d) Persons aged 18 years and over. (e) Persons aged 18 years and over. Includes persons identifying as bisexual or other sexual orientations.
Source(s): Graph data GSS 2014
Overall life satisfaction is determined by a broad range of factors. The next section discusses a selection of social and economic outcomes that may contribute to how people evaluate their life, for each of the population groups identified above.
SOCIAL ISSUES THROUGH THE LIFE COURSE
Particular issues emerge as important to people at different times in their lives. In 2014, the GSS collected information from people aged 15-17 years for the first time - in addition to other age groups. People in the 15-17 year old age group are in a developmental phase, transitioning to independence, and experiences during this time can significantly shape their future. In 2014, issues that were important for this age group included contact with family or friends, volunteering and social participation.
In 2014, people aged 15-17 years had high levels of daily face-to-face contact with family or friends living outside their household (51%) relative to other age groups. The majority of young people are at school and have the opportunity for regular face-to-face interactions with other students. These high rates of in-person contact coincided with high levels of other forms of daily contact for this age group, reflecting the rising use of communication devices such as mobile phones and tools such as social media (Table 5).
More than two in five (42%) people aged 15-17 years had done voluntary work in the last 12 months and two in three had participated in social groups. Just over a third (36%) also reported taking part in community support groups. Nine in ten people aged 15-17 years had participated in sport or recreational physical activity in the last 12 months, and close to three-quarters (71%) of people aged 15-17 years assessed their health as excellent or very good (Table 5).
As young people continue with higher education and transition to paid employment, the levels of support and participation they engage in declines. In 2014, people aged 18-24 years were less likely than people aged 15-17 years to have done voluntary work in the last 12 months (26% compared with 42%) and to have participated in social groups (49% compared with 66%) (Table 5).
Results also show that frequent contact with others tends to decline as young people leave high school to begin further study or enter the workforce. This applies to face-to-face contact in particular, but also to non face-to-face contact. In 2014, people aged 18-24 years were about half as likely as people aged 15-17 years (24% and 51% respectively) to have daily face-to-face contact with family or friends living outside their household (Table 5).
For people aged between 25 and 64 years who are often balancing work and family responsibilities, different circumstances emerge that play a factor in their lives, such as providing support and unpaid assistance to family members and others. In 2014, about two thirds of people in these age groups reported experiencing personal stressors such as a serious illness or death of a family member or close friend. Volunteering rates were also high for people in the 35-44 year age group, which is likely to be an outcome of parents providing assistance to groups in which their children are involved (Table 6).
Everyday face-to-face contact rises again when people move into retirement (from 55 years). However, most in these older age groups have a long-term health condition and many assess their own health as fair or poor. People in older age groups also experience declining rates of participation in sport and physical activity, and declining rates of attendance at cultural venues and events (Table 6).
LABOUR FORCE STATUS OF PEOPLE AGED 15-64 YEARS-By whether has a mental health condition
People with a mental health condition also reported that they had experienced greater difficulty than those without a mental health condition in accessing healthcare and other services. Over one-third (38%) of people with a mental health condition had difficulty accessing service providers, compared with 22% of people without a mental health condition. They were also more than three times more likely than those without a mental health condition to experience a barrier to accessing healthcare when needed. Some of the most common types of healthcare that could not be obtained by people with a mental health condition were:
Social isolation, sometimes associated with caring responsibilities, is a factor that can contribute to mental health issues. People with a mental health condition were more likely than those without to have provided unpaid assistance to people living outside the household and to have cared for a person with a disability, long term health condition or old age in the last four weeks (Table 10).
People with a mental health condition were almost twice as likely as those without to have experienced some form of discrimination (29% compared with 16%) and twice as likely to have experienced two or more incidents of crime in the last 12 months (12% compared with 5.9%) (Table 10).
Relationships and engagement in the community are important for mental wellbeing as they provide people with networks of support. Many people with a mental health condition and many people without had similar levels of connectedness with family and the community. Contact with family or friends appears to be as strong for people with a mental health condition as for those without. People with a mental health condition also enjoyed similar levels of support in times of crisis from people living outside the household. People with a mental health condition were also just as likely as people without to have done voluntary work in the last 12 months (Table 10).
PEOPLE WITH DISABILITY
Disability can impact a person's access to services and participation in social or community activities. In this analysis, people with disability include those who identified some restriction to their core activities, a schooling or employment restriction as well as those without a specific restriction. In the 2014 GSS, one of the issues to emerge as significant for this group was access to services.
In 2014, about three in ten people with disability had difficulty accessing service providers compared with about two in ten people without disability. People with disability were far more likely than those without to experience a barrier to accessing healthcare (11% compared with 2.8%) (Table 11).
For those with disability who could not get healthcare when they needed it, medical specialists and doctors/general practitioners were the most common types of healthcare that could not be obtained most recently. The cost of the healthcare service and waiting times that were too long or having no available appointments were the main reasons people with disability could not obtain healthcare most recently (Table 7).
People with disability were also less likely than those without to have participated in sport or recreational activities or to have attended a sporting event as a spectator. They were also less likely than people without disability to have attended a selected cultural venue or event in the last 12 months (Table 11).
When compared with people who did not have disability, people with disability were also:
Graph 4: All persons, Self-assessed health status by whether has disability
Source(s): Graph data GSS 2014
RECENT AND OTHER MIGRANTS
From the variety of information collected by the GSS, migrants who arrived in Australia in the past 10 years (described here as recent migrants) reported different social and economic outcomes relative to people born in Australia. On some measures, there were also differences between migrants who spoke English only and those who spoke other languages. In 2014, almost a third of Australia's population aged 15 years and over were born overseas, with recent migrants representing 28% of these people (Table 12).
In 2014, recent migrants were less likely than people born in Australia to have done voluntary work in the last 12 months (22% compared with 34%) and less likely to have cared for a person with disability, a long term health condition or old age in the last four weeks (5.7% compared with 21%). These findings seem to be connected to the relatively short length of time that recent migrants have been in Australia. This is reflected in GSS data showing that migrants who had been in Australia longer (other migrants) were more likely than recent migrants to have done voluntary work in the last 12 months (28%) and to have cared for a person with disability, a long term health condition or old age in the last four weeks (18%). Other migrants were also more likely than recent migrants to have participated in civic and political groups (13% compared with 8.6%). These changes suggest migrants accrue more social capital as their networks in Australia develop over time. ABS research using GSS 2010 data has shown that the extent to which migrants participate in social and support groups is greater the longer they reside in Australia (ABS, 2012a) (Table 12).
In 2014, recent migrants were less likely than people born in Australia to have someone outside the household they could confide in. Additionally, they were more likely to have experienced some form of discrimination, but less likely to have experienced two or more incidents of crime in the last 12 months (Table 12).
For some measures, outcomes were different for migrants who spoke English only, compared with those who spoke other languages. For example, recent migrants who spoke other languages were less than half as likely to actively participate in civic and political groups than recent migrants who spoke English only (6.3% compared with 14%) (Table 12).
ONE PARENT FAMILIES
Australian families and households are structured in diverse ways, including single and multi-family households, families with and without children, couple and one parent families, and lone person households. These different types of families and households experience varying levels of disadvantage. This section focuses on one group with relatively high levels of disadvantage on various measures - people living in one parent families with children (AIHW, 2012; ABS, 2009b).
In 2014, people in one parent families with children were more than twice as likely as people in couple families with children to have ever experienced homelessness (25% compared with 10%) and almost twice as likely to have had a mental health condition (30% compared with 16%). People in these families were also more likely than people in couple families with children to have experienced two or more incidents of crime in the last 12 months, and to feel unsafe or very unsafe when walking alone in their local area after dark and when at home alone after dark. They also had lower levels of general trust than people in couple families with children. Discrimination was also a problem for one in four of these individuals. The reasons they reported for their most recent incident of discrimination included their nationality, race or ethnic group (5.8% of people in one parent families with children), the way they dressed or their appearance (4.9%), their age (4.6%) and their gender (4.5%) (Table 8).
People in one parent families with children were more likely than people in couple families with children to assess their health as poor (7.9% compared with 2.8%) or fair (14% compared with 8.4%). In addition to experiencing health problems themselves, they were more likely to have cared for a person with a disability, long term health condition or old age in the last four weeks. They were also more likely to have experienced at least one personal stressor in the last 12 months, and were less likely to have done voluntary work in this time (Table 8).
Barriers to services was another area of concern for this population group. More than half (56%) of people in one parent families with children who could not get healthcare when they needed it said the main reason was the cost of the service. People in one parent families with children also experienced barriers to other services, such as Centrelink (54% of people who had difficulty accessing services), telecommunication services and dentists (both 22%) (Table 7).
In 2014, people were asked about their sexual orientation in the GSS for the first time. The question was asked of respondents aged 18 years and over. They could identify as: heterosexual; gay or lesbian; bisexual; or other sexual orientation. Because of the relatively small proportion of the population identifying as non-heterosexual, people who identified as bisexual or other sexual orientation are grouped together and discussed as 'other' in this analysis. This allows for some comparison of outcomes with the larger group identifying as gay or lesbian.
In 2014, over half a million people or 3.0% of the adult population identified as gay, lesbian or 'other'. This includes 268,000 people who identified as gay or lesbian and 255,000 people who identified as having an 'other' sexual orientation. Just under 17.0 million adults identified as heterosexual. Identification as gay, lesbian or 'other' varied by age, with high rates in younger age groups (Table 18).
On some measures, when compared with the heterosexual population, people with different sexual orientations have similar outcomes. For example, they had similar levels of contact with family and friends, and similar proportions who felt able to have a say on important issues most or all of the time. Gay or lesbian people were more likely to participate in civic or political groups (31% compared with 14%), and were also more likely to have participated in sport or recreational activities (79% compared with 70%), although this latter difference was not statistically significant (Table 18).
However there are also indications of increased vulnerability in some areas. Experience of discrimination was higher for people who were gay or lesbian (38%) or 'other' sexual orientations (31%) compared with people who identified as heterosexual (18%) - although the difference between 'other' and heterosexual was not statistically significant. Gay or lesbian people (34%) and people with 'other' sexual orientations (21%) were also more likely to report at least one past experience of homelessness compared with heterosexual people (13%). People who were gay or lesbian and those with an 'other' sexual orientation were also more likely to self report a mental health condition (29% and 38% respectively) compared with people who were heterosexual (18%) (Table 18).
On several measures, people with an 'other' sexual orientation reported increased levels of disadvantage. They assessed their health as fair or poor at higher rates (27%) than people who were heterosexual (16%). They also reported lower rates of an ability to confide in friends or family outside of the household (79% compared with 97% for people who were gay or lesbian and 92% for people who were heterosexual). People with an 'other' sexual orientation were also more likely to feel unsafe or very unsafe walking at night alone in their local area (27% compared with 10% for people who were gay or lesbian and 14% for people who were heterosexual) and to experience multiple crime victimisation (15% compared with 6.8% for people who were heterosexual) (Table 18).
CASE STUDY 1 - TASMANIA
Where people live is connected to the types and levels of advantage or disadvantage they experience. This case study focuses on the inclusion and exclusion experienced by people living in one state with a mixture of outcomes, Tasmania. In terms of overall life satisfaction, Tasmanians rated their life at a similar level as the rest of Australia at 7.7. Compared with national rates, Tasmania has a higher unemployment rate, lower labour force participation rate, lower average weekly earnings and a lower proportion of people with non-school qualifications (ABS, 2012b). However, the GSS also shows that many Tasmanians enjoy high levels of social capital such as participation, having a say in their community, and general trust (Graph 5).
Graph 5: All persons, Average overall life satisfaction by state and territory
Source(s): Graph data GSS 2014
In 2014, Tasmanian households had the highest dependance on government welfare, with about a third of households citing government pensions and allowances as their main source of household income. Tasmanian households were also least likely to be in the highest equivalised household income quintile. Additionally, Tasmanians experienced high levels of difficulty accessing service providers (32%) and low proportions of people whose female parent/guardian or male parent/guardian had completed Year 12 (17% and 15% respectively) (Tables 3 and 15).
Compared with other states and territories, people living in Tasmania were more likely to have a long term health condition (67%). On other health indicators, Tasmania had a relatively high proportion of people with a disability restricting their core activities (24%) and a high proportion of people who self reported a mental health condition (23%) (Table 3 and Graph 6).
Graph 6: All persons, Measures of health by state and territory
Footnote(s): (a) Includes Profound, Severe, Moderate, or Mild core activity restriction
Source(s): Graph data GSS 2014
However, despite this relative disadvantage, Tasmania fared better on some aspects of social capital. In 2014, people living in Tasmania had relatively high volunteering rates and a high proportion of people who felt able to have a say within their community. More than three-quarters of people in Tasmania were also likely to know someone in an organisation who they could ask for information - a measure of people's networks with those in power. Additionally, 58% of Tasmanians were likely to strongly agree or agree that most people could be trusted. In terms of feeling safe when walking alone in their local area after dark, 57% of Tasmanians felt safe, higher than all other states and territories except the Australian Capital Territory (Table 3).
CASE STUDY 2 - PEOPLE WHO HAVE EXPERIENCED HOMELESSNESS
Homelessness can have a large impact on individuals, families and communities. People who are experiencing, or who have experienced, homelessness can face reduced opportunities to interact with other individuals and groups, and to participate in activities such as employment or education. These reduced opportunities may be temporary, or they may continue to affect people after their experience of homelessness.
There are many complex issues involved in measuring homelessness, as outlined in Information Paper - A Statistical Definition of Homelessness, 2012 (cat. no. 4922.0). The GSS provides information about people who have been homeless in the past, but who are now usual residents of private dwellings. As the GSS only enumerates usual residents of private dwellings, it will not include: people currently living in shelters; people sleeping rough; people 'couch surfing' (staying temporarily with other households); nor people staying in boarding houses. It may include some people staying in transitional housing (including Transitional Housing Management programs) if the resident considers the dwelling as their usual residence. The GSS does not specifically ask about the experience of living in severely crowded dwellings.
The GSS asked people about episodes in their lives where they had been homeless and the reasons for those circumstances. In 2014, 2.5 million people aged 15 years and over had experienced homelessness at some time in their lives. About 1.4 million of these people had experienced at least one episode of homelessness in the last 10 years, of which 351,000 had experienced homelessness in the last 12 months. In 2010, the GSS: Summary Results, Australia (cat. no. 4159.0) showed that an estimated 1.1 million people aged 18 years and over had experienced homelessness in the previous 10 years (Tables 3 and 17, and GSS 2010 Table 40.1).
In situations of homelessness, 68% of people had stayed with a relative, 52% with a friend, 13% had slept rough or in an abandoned building, and 7.7% had stayed in a shelter or refuge (Table 17).
The most common reason for experiencing homelessness in the last 10 years was family, friend or relationship problems, affecting about 622,000 (44%) people in their most recent experience of homelessness. Other reasons included a tight housing or rental market and financial problems (14% and 13% respectively). These reasons were also commonly cited in the 2010 GSS (Table 17 and GSS 2010 Table 39.3).
Far fewer people aged 65 years or more had experienced homelessness in the last ten years (52,600) than people aged 35-64 years (612,200) and people aged less than 35 years (759,900). People aged 15-34 years were more likely to have last experienced homelessness within the last 12 months (31%) compared with people aged 35-64 years (17%) (Table 17).
About 28% of people who had experienced homelessness in the last 10 years had been homeless for six months or more during their most recent experience. A further 15% had been homeless for three to six months and 23% had been homeless for one to three months (Table 17 and Graph 7).
Graph 7: People homeless in the last 10 years by length of time homeless
Source(s): Graph data GSS 2014
LIST OF REFERENCES
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Australian Bureau of Statistics 2010, Australian Social Trends, June 2010, cat. no. 4102.0, ABS, Canberra.
Australian Bureau of Statistics 2011, General Social Survey: Summary Results, Australia, 2010, cat. no. 4159.0, ABS, Canberra.
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