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Housing and Lifestyle: Household amenities
Households in areas of relatively high disadvantage (i.e. those in the lowest SEIFA quintile) are likely to have a lower material standard of living than households in areas with relatively low levels of disadvantage (i.e. those in the highest SEIFA quintile). This is because they tend to have poorer housing conditions and fewer amenities.
Although 96% of Australian households had a sufficient number of bedrooms in 1999, 6% of households in areas of high disadvantage did not have a sufficient number of bedrooms (compared with 3% in areas of low disadvantage). Households in areas of high disadvantage were less likely to have spare bedrooms and their dwellings were also in greater need of repair, with 11% in essential need of repair (compared with 7% in areas of low disadvantage).
Households in areas of high disadvantage were less likely to own a registered motor vehicle (81%) than those in areas of low disadvantage (93%) in 1999. Those in areas of high disadvantage who did own a registered motor vehicle were more likely to have just the one, as was the case with televisions (although 99% of all households had at least one television). Almost two thirds of households in areas of low disadvantage had two or more motor vehicles, compared with one third of those in areas of high disadvantage.
Households in areas of high disadvantage were also less likely than households in areas of low disadvantage to have many other amenities. In particular, they were unlikely to own amenities which save time and effort. For example, in 1997, 74% had a microwave (compared with 84% in areas of low disadvantage) and under 20% had a dishwasher (compared with almost 50% in areas of low disadvantage).
SELECTED AMENITIES OF HOUSEHOLDS IN AREAS OF HIGH AND LOW DISADVANTAGE
(b) Households in areas in the highest SEIFA quintile.
(c) Data from the ABS 1999 Household Use of Information Technology Surveys are not available for SEIFA quintiles, however figures from these surveys show that in 1999, 48% of all households owned a computer and 22% had access to the Internet.
Source: ABS 1999 Australian Housing Survey; ABS 1997 Time Use Survey; ABS 1999 Environmental Issues Survey.
Over time, the composition and needs of a household change, reflecting the different life-cycle stages of its members (see Australian Social Trends 2001, Housing experience through life-cycle stages). Associated with these changes are a range of factors which influence the standard of living of a household. In particular, as financial circumstances change, so do access to amenities and overall standard of living.
Generally households in the earlier life-cycle stages have fewer amenities, with ownership increasing as they progress through different life-cycle stages and their income increases (see Australian Social Trends 1998, Income distribution and life cycle). However, lone-parent households are an exception to the tendency for households to accumulate amenities as their members progress through various life stages, as these households have generally been disrupted by the dissolution of a marriage, resulting in the division of household assets, and do not fit the general pattern of ownership of household amenities.
Young lone-person households had low ownership levels of many amenities. Ownership was higher for couples and higher again for couple households containing children (which had the highest ownership levels). However, ownership of amenities was lower for one-parent families. Older couple only, and especially older lone-person households, were also less likely to have certain amenities than couples with children, particularly newer technologies, such as computers and Internet access.
SELECTED HOUSEHOLD AMENITIES BY SELECTED LIFE-CYCLE GROUPS
(b) Includes life-cycle groups not defined above.
Source: ABS 1997 Time Use Survey; ABS 1999 Australian Housing Survey.
Two of the key attributes for a dwelling to be considered appropriate for a household are that it has enough space for all members and is in reasonable condition. Using the Canadian National Occupancy Standard, it is possible to obtain an idea of the adequacy of dwelling sizes.
According to this standard, in 1999, 96% of Australian households had enough or more than enough bedrooms in their dwelling. Over three quarters of young lone-person and young couple only households and couple households with the eldest child aged under 5 years had one or more bedrooms spare. However, couple families with the eldest child aged 15-24 years were less likely to have spare bedrooms (61%). Despite these households having larger dwellings, they need more bedrooms as they have more household members (see Australian Social Trends 2001, Housing experience through life-cycle stages).
Over 4% of households were overcrowded, i.e. did not have a sufficient number of bedrooms. One-parent households were the most the likely to be overcrowded, with 8% needing more bedrooms and under half having spare bedrooms. Over three quarters of older couple only households had more than one spare bedroom. This is likely to be the result of the couple’s grown children having left the parental home. However, lone-person households aged 65 years and over had fewer spare bedrooms. As they tended to also have fewer bedrooms it is likely that they had moved into a smaller home more suited to their needs.3
While 69% of Australia’s households in 1999 reported that either the inside or the outside of their dwelling, or both, had no need for repairs, 7% reported that their dwellings were in essential need of repair. This included 2% for which the need of repair to either the inside or the outside of the dwelling, or both, was urgent. With the exception of lone-parent households, whose dwellings were in the greatest need of repair, the need for repairs decreased with progression through the life-cycle stages.
Climatic conditions impact on the need for, and existence of, heating and cooling in dwellings. Where temperatures regularly drop below freezing, heating is essential. While nationally 80% of households had heating in 1999, almost all dwellings in Tasmania and the Australian Capital Territory were heated. Similarly, where high temperatures are common, cooling is more necessary. While the proportion of households in the Northern Territory which had air-conditioning was more than twice the national average, 16% of households in the Northern Territory remained without it.4
NEED FOR REPAIRS TO DWELLING(a), 1999
(a) Refers to inside or outside of dwelling, or both. The inside of the dwelling may have a different level of need for repairs than the outside.
Source: ABS 1999 Australian Housing Survey.
Access and communication
A household’s access to the outside world, either through transport, media or other communication, increases educational, employment and other opportunities, including greater social interaction. Without these, a household may not have access to vital services and opportunities.
Ready access to transport provides a link with social and work-related activities. While public transport can adequately provide this link for some households, for others this access is achieved through owning a car. In 1999, motor vehicles ownership was highest for couple households, with and without children, of whom over 95% owned one or more registered motor vehicles. Couple family households containing older children, with more residents of driving age, tended to have the most cars. However, over 40% of lone person households 65 years and over and almost 20% of one parent households had no motor vehicle.
Having access to a telephone or the Internet provides a means of communicating with friends and family, as well as services, employers and schools. In 1996, virtually all households had at least one telephone connection.5 In 1999, 48% of households owned a computer, and in the March quarter 2000, a further 7% of households intended to purchase a personal computer.6 Access to the Internet was lower, at 22% in 1999. Ownership of computers and Internet access were concentrated among couple families with children and, to a lesser extent, households with the reference person under 35 years. However, ownership of computers and access to the Internet have been growing rapidly across many household types.
Time and effort saving
Many appliances in modern Australian households are designed to save time and effort, particularly for labour-intensive tasks such as cooking and cleaning. While some of these items are now very common and are seen more as essentials, others, such as microwave ovens and dishwashers, are less common and are thought of only as timesaving devices.
Ownership of microwaves (79%), clothes dryers (52%) and dishwashers (29%) in 1997 was lower than that of more essential items, but the pattern of variation with life-cycle stages remained similar. Couples with children were the most likely to have these amenities, followed by couple only households. This also reflects the higher incomes of such households. Lone persons were the least likely to have these items, which could be due to reduced financial ability, or the potentially lower need for these items in a lone-person household.
As with other household amenities, these time and effort saving appliances were not distributed evenly across the geographic regions. For example, clothes dryers were more common in the cooler States.4 An indication that these items are not essential is the fact that of the households with clothes dryers, one third were rarely if ever used while another 40% received only seasonal use, and 10% of households with dishwashers rarely or never used them.4
1 Townsend, P. 1987, 'Deprivation', Journal of Social Policy, vol. 16, pp. 125-146.
2 The Macquarie Library Pty. Ltd. 1997, The Macquarie Dictionary, Third Edition, Macquarie University, New South Wales.
3 National Housing Strategy 1992, Housing for Older Australians, Background paper no. 8, AGPS, Canberra.
4 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1999, Environmental Issues, Australia, March 1999, cat. no. 4602.0, ABS, Canberra.
5 Australian Bureau of Statistics 1996, Population Survey Monitor, September 1996, cat. no. 4103.0, ABS, Canberra.
6 Australian Bureau of Statistics 2000, Population Survey Monitor, November 1999, cat. no. 4103.0, ABS, Canberra.