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Being unemployed, a lone parent or a recently arrived migrant
Employment has a direct bearing on the material wellbeing of individuals and their families. It is also one means by which individuals contribute to their community, use and develop their skills, and enhance their social networks. Unemployed people can therefore be at a higher risk of experiencing financial and/or social disadvantage. In particular, long periods of unemployment can deplete savings and other family resources, and may lead to problems with morale, motivation and physical health.(endnote 2) Families in which no parent has paid employment can be particularly at risk (see Australian Social Trends 2004, Families with no employed parent, pp. 46-50 ).
At the 2001 Census, 611,00 Australians were unemployed, a decrease from 873,500 in 1991. Many Australians are out of work for substantial periods of time. The median duration of unemployment in 2003 was 19 weeks for males and 14 weeks for females. As at November 2003, some 81,300 men and 42,000 women had been unemployed for a year or more.(endnote 3)
In 2003, the unemployment rate was higher for males (6.2%) than females (6.0%) and higher outside the capital cities (6.7%) than in the capitals (5.8%) (see Australian Social Trends 2004, Work: national summary, pp.102-103). Unmarried people had a higher unemployment rate (8.9%) than people who were married or in a de facto relationship (3.0%).(endnote 3)
The circumstances of unemployed people differ from those of the total population, in a range of areas. However, some of these differences may relate to the younger age profile of the unemployed population compared with the adult population in general. In 2001, the median age (among those 18 years and over) was 33.3 years for unemployed people, compared with 43.8 years for the total adult population.
Unemployed people also experienced potential barriers to participation in the community when compared with others. For example, relatively fewer unemployed people aged 18 years and over had access to a motor vehicle (66%) than the adult population generally (85%), and fewer could easily get to the places they needed (67% compared with 84%). In 2002, relatively more unemployed people had been the victim of physical or threatened violence or actual or attempted break-in (26%) in the last year, than among the total population (18%).
Immediate family and household members provide social and financial support to one another. While lone parents may receive ongoing support, for example from extended family, friends or the non-resident parent, the lack of a resident partner can still impact on social and financial wellbeing. For example, responsibility for raising children may impact on a lone parent’s capacity to participate in paid employment and other aspects of community life.
One-parent families are the fastest growing type of family in Australia. In 2001, there were 528,000 lone parents aged 18 years and over with dependent children. Of these, 88% (462,100) had no other adults (such as extended family members or members of a second family) resident in the household with them. In 2001, lone parents were predominately women (83%), and lone mothers tended to have younger children living with them than lone fathers. Around one-fifth (22%) of lone mothers had at least one child aged 0-4 years living with them, compared with one-tenth (9%) of lone fathers (see Australian Social Trends 2003, Changing families, pp. 35-39).
As with unemployed people, the circumstances of lone parents differ to others in a range of areas of life. For example, in 2002, more lone parents aged 18 years and over (52%) relied on Government cash pensions and allowances as their principal source of income, than did all adults (22%). Consequently, lone parents were over-represented in the lower income groups, with 43% in the bottom quintile of equivalised household income and 30% in the second lowest quintile, compared with 20% and 19% of all adults.
In 2001, 62% of lone parents aged 18 years and over rented their dwelling, compared with 25% of adults generally, and among renters proportionally more lone parents were renting from a State or Territory Housing Authority (31% compared with 17% of all renters). Relatively more lone parents felt unsafe or very unsafe at home alone after dark (19%) than adults in general (8%); and 34% of lone parents had been a victim of physical or threatened violence, or actual or attempted break in over the year prior to interview, compared with 18% of all adults.
RECENTLY ARRIVED MIGRANTS
The government’s immigration policy aims to balance social, economic, humanitarian, and environmental objectives,(endnote 4) so the social and economic situation of migrants coming to live in Australia can vary substantially. For example, some migrants arriving in Australia may have more established social support networks, as they have the close family relationship with an Australian citizen or permanent resident sponsor necessary for eligibility in the Family Stream migration category;(endnote 5) while others may have a strong economic position on arrival in Australia, as they have arrived under the Skill Stream which focuses on the applicant’s occupational skills, outstanding talents or business skills.(endnote 5) In contrast, those arriving under Australia’s Humanitarian Program, including people in need of resettlement due to persecution or human rights violations,(endnote 5) may have relatively disadvantaged social and economic circumstances on arrival.
In 2001, there were 477,900 recently arrived migrants aged 18 years and over living in Australia. The largest group (17%) were those born in the Oceania region, which was primarily comprised of migrants from New Zealand (79%) who are free to come to Australia without a visa. The second most common birthplace groups were South-East Asia, North-East Asia, and North-West Europe, each comprising 16% of recently arrived migrants.
PRINCIPLE SOURCE OF HOUSEHOLD INCOME - 2002
Recent arrivals to Australia have a younger age structure than the general Australian population. In 2001, the median age (for those aged 18 years and over) of recently arrived migrants was 32.3 years, compared with 43.8 years for the total population. The majority of recently arrived migrants to Australia live in the capital cities (86% in 2001, compared with 64% of the total population).
While recently arrived migrants have relatively disadvantaged circumstances in some areas of life, they also have positive circumstances relative to other groups in many areas. A relatively larger proportion lived in rented dwellings (58% compared with 25% of all adults). This may relate to the length of time they have been in Australia, and reflect shorter term housing choices rather than long-term outcomes. A higher proportion of recent arrivals experienced transport difficulties than the total adult population. Fewer had access to a motor vehicle (63% compared with 85% of the total population), and more had difficulties getting to the places they needed to (30% compared with 16% overall).
However, recently arrived migrants aged 18 years and over were more likely to have used a computer at home in the last 12 months (67%) compared with Australian adults generally (55%), and have non-school qualifications (66% compared with 50%). Relatively fewer assessed their health as fair or poor (8% compared to 16% of the total population) and fewer had a disability or long-term health condition (19% compared with 40%). These health differences may reflect both the younger age structure of recently arrived migrants, and the standard health criteria migrants have to meet as part of the migration process.
The patterns described above indicate that the social and economic circumstances of unemployed people, lone parents and recently arrived migrants differ from those of the total population. However, there are many complex, often interrelated factors which influence people’s social and economic experiences and outcomes. As such, it is not always clear how much a given attribute (i.e.being unemployed, a lone parent, or a recently arrived migrant) relates to particular social or economic circumstances. Other characteristics, such as age and life stage, educational background or location may also be contributing to people’s circumstances, to a greater or lesser extent. When other characteristics were accounted for through multivariate analysis, the attributes of being unemployed, a lone parent or a recently arrived migrant remained significantly associated with some social and economic circumstances, but not with others.
In a range of areas of wellbeing, unemployed people were found to have disadvantaged circumstances compared with their employed counterparts, after controlling for other characteristics. For example, in the area of social attachment, unemployed people were more likely than employed people (other characteristics being equal) to experience transport difficulties, feel unable to ask others for small favours and feel that they had no support in a time of crisis.
In the area of financial stress, unemployment was associated with an increased likelihood of experiencing cash flow problems, being unable to raise money in an emergency and having to reduce assets or increase debt in order to pay for basic living expenses. However, unemployment was not associated with a significant increase in the likelihood of reporting fair or poor health (after accounting for other characteristics such as age).
Compared with being employed, the outcomes for unemployed people were somewhat different to those of people not in the labour force. For example, although being unemployed was not associated with an increased likelihood of reporting fair or poor health, those not in the labour force were significantly more likely to assess their health in this way. Like unemployed people, those not in the labour force were more likely than employed people (other characteristics being equal) to experience the negative outcomes measured in relation to social attachment - such as having transport difficulties.
Compared with couples with children, lone parents were not significantly more likely to have negative social attachment outcomes, indicating that lone parents access networks outside their immediate family household to the same extent as couples with children. For example, lone parents were no more likely than couples with children (other characteristics being equal) to have transport difficulties, to feel unable to ask others for small favours or have no support in a time of crisis. Further, lone parents were less likely than couples with children to have less than weekly contact with family and friends.
However, lone parents had an increased likelihood of experiencing all three of the measured indicators of financial stress. That is, lone parents were more likely than couples with children, other characteristics being equal, to have experienced cash flow problems, felt unable to raise money in an emergency or needed to take a dissaving action to pay for basic living expenses.
When other characteristics such as age and education were controlled for, lone parents were more likely than couples with children to not be in the labour force or to be unemployed. Among those who were employed, lone parents were more likely to be employed on a casual basis, but there was not a significant difference in their likelihood of being employed part-time.
In terms of health, after other characteristics were accounted for, lone parents were not significantly more likely than couples with children to assess their health as fair or poor.
...RECENTLY ARRIVED MIGRANTS
Reflecting the diverse economic and social circumstances of migrants arriving in Australia, recently arrived migrants had an increased likelihood of disadvantage in some areas, but a decreased likelihood in other areas, after controlling for demographic and other characteristics. For example, while recently arrived migrants were more likely than their Australian-born counterparts to experience the negative circumstances measured in the area of social attachment, they were less likely to rate their health as fair or poor, even after controlling for age.
In the area of employment, recently arrived migrants were more likely than people born in Australia to be unemployed or not in the labour force (other characteristics being equal). Among those in employment, recently arrived migrants were more likely to be employed part-time or on a casual basis. The employment outcomes of other (non-recent) migrants were somewhat different, indicating that the length of time migrants have lived in Australia can influence their social and economic circumstances.
As with recent migrants, other migrants were more likely than Australian-born people (other characteristics being equal) to be unemployed or not be in the labour force. However, in contrast to recent migrants, other migrants were not significantly more likely to be employed part-time or on a casual basis.
1 Department of Family and Community Services 2003, Goals of Welfare Reform <http://www.facs.gov.au/internet/facsinternet.nsf/aboutfacs/programs/esp-welreform_goals.htm>, accessed 27 January 2004.
2 Gregory, B and Sheehan, P 1998, ‘Poverty and the Collapse of Full Employment’ Australian Poverty: Then and Now. eds Fincher, R and Nieuwenhuysen, J, University Press, Melbourne.
3 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2004, Australian Labour Market Statistics, January 2004, cat. no. 6105.0, ABS, Canberra.
4 Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs 2003, Fact Sheet 20. Migration Program Planning Levels
<http://www.immi.gov.au/facts/20planning.htm>, accessed 12 February 2004.
5 Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, 2003, Immigration Update, July–December 2002
<http://www. immi.gov.au/facts/statistics/ publications/immigration_update/update_ dec02.pdf>, accessed 12 February 2004.
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