4102.0 - Australian Social Trends, 2007  
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 07/08/2007   
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August 7, 2007
Embargoed 11.30 am (AEST)
We're overweight, marrying less and buying more: ABS

We're more likely to be overweight, less likely to marry, and consuming more goods and services, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) flagship publication, Australian Social Trends 2007, released today.

This publication provides a snapshot of life in Australia and how it is changing over time.

Australia's families

Australia's total fertility rate fell to a historic low (1.73 babies per woman) in 2001. Since then Australia's total fertility rate has increased, reaching 1.81 babies per woman in 2005 – the highest level recorded since 1995. Women aged 30 years and over and living in more advantaged areas are driving this increase.

The probability of marrying has declined. If current rates were to continue, 31% of men and 26% of women would never marry. At the same time, the probability of marriages ending in divorce has increased. One-third (33%) of marriages which took place in 2000–02 could be expected to end in divorce, compared to 28% of marriages in 1985–87.

In 2004–06 one in five children (20%) were in one-parent families. These families are at a higher risk of disadvantage. In 2003–04 almost half (49%) of one-parent families with children under 15 had both low income and low wealth, compared with 11% of couple families with children of the same age.

Work and family in Australia

The increased proportion of women working since the 1990s has contributed to increases in Australia's labour force participation rate, up from 74% in 1990 to 76% in 2005 for people aged 15–64 years. Australia's labour force participation rates were above the OECD average (70%) and similar to the U.S. (75%) and the U.K. (76%) for 2005.

The Australian labour force participation rate for women of child-bearing age (15–44 years) rose from 59% to 71% between 1980 and 2005. One type of support to help mothers combine paid work and family is access to leave. In 2005, female employees using leave (either paid or unpaid) for the birth and care of their baby used an average of 34 weeks of leave in total. For those using paid leave, the average length of this leave was 12 weeks. Just over one-in-four female employees (27%) did not use any leave for the birth and care of their baby with most of this group permanently leaving their jobs.

The latest figures (2004–05) show that around 7.4 million Australian adults (54%) were overweight or obese. This was an increase of more than 2 million adults from 1995. The proportion of adults who were obese (up from 13% in 1995 to 18% in 2004–05) increased at a greater rate than the proportion of adults who were overweight (up from 33% in 1995 to 36% in 2004–05).

In 2004–05, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people were over three times as likely as non-Indigenous people to have diabetes and more than ten times as likely to have kidney disease.

Australia's household income and consumption

Goods and services generally became more affordable between 1985–86 and 2005–06. This is because per person increases in household disposable income (up 5.1% per year between 1985–86 and 2005–06) and household net worth (up 6.6% per year between June 1989 and June 2006) both increased faster than all groups consumer price inflation (3.7% per year between 1985–86 and 2005–06). While many goods and services have become more affordable – including motor vehicles, clothing and footwear and household appliances – others, such as education and hospital and medical services, have become less affordable because price rises for these services have outpaced increases in income and wealth.

As our household income has increased so has household spending. Since 1985–86, real (i.e. adjusted for inflation) household final consumption expenditure per person has increased on average by 2% each year (from $17,500 in 1985–86 to $26,100 in 2005–06). The largest increases have been on communication services and goods for recreation and culture. Spending on cigarettes and tobacco has fallen.

The amount of solid waste generated in Australia rose by 6% a year between 1996–97 and 2002–03 (excluding Tasmania and the Northern Territory). The amount of solid waste that was re-used or recycled rose almost ten-fold between 1996–97 and 2002–03.

More details are in Australian Social Trends, 2007 (cat. no. 4102.0).

Media Note: While most of the articles in Australian Social Trends 2007 present a national picture, state and territory information (graphs, tables and commentary) for a range of social indicators are included at the start of each chapter.