Welfare services spending $17.1 billion, up 8.2%

Spending on welfare services in Australia in 2002-03 was $17.1 billion, equivalent to 2.3% of Gross Domestic Product. This averaged $867 per person, according to Welfare Expenditure Australia 2002-03, a report by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

Real growth in expenditure between 2001-02 and 2002-03 was 8.2%, appreciably higher than the average real growth between 1998-99 and 2002-03 of 5.7% per year.

The spending analysed in the latest AIHW report is on services provided mostly to older people, people with disabilities, and families and children. It does not include an estimated $35 billion in employer superannuation contributions, or the estimated $52 billion in social security payments-such as age pensions, disability support pensions and Newstart allowances.

$11.9 billion or about 70% of the funding for welfare services was provided by the government sector, with the remaining $5.2 billion being contributed by non-government funding sources.

For the Australian Government, which spent $5.4 billion in 2002-03, the greatest areas of spending were on family and child welfare services (35%) and services for older people (34%).

Head of the AIHW's Health and Welfare Expenditure Unit, Tony Hynes, said that state and territory governments spent $6.0 billion in total, but average expenditure per person varied considerably among the jurisdictions.

'Nationally, state and territory government funding in 2002-03 averaged $300 per person. Five jurisdictions-New South Wales, Victoria, Tasmania, the Australian Capital Territory, and the Northern Territory-had per capita spending rates above the national average, while the others (Queensland, South Australia and Western Australia) were below', Mr Hynes said.

'This report also highlights the vital role that non-government community services organisations continue to play in providing welfare services in Australia.'

'In 2002-03 over $9 billion was spent by these organisations in providing services. Of this total, $4.3 billion was funded by government, $2.7 billion through fees charged to clients, and just over $2 billion from those organisations' own resources', Mr Hynes said.

Welfare Expenditure Australia 2002-03 shows that welfare services for families and children was the area of most rapid growth in state and territory and Australian Government funding. Between 1998-99 and 2002-03, growth rates averaged 10.3% per year for the state and territory governments, and 9.8% per year for the Australian Government.

A special feature chapter in the report on child care services shows that total expenditure on child care was estimated at $3.9 billion in 2002-03, 54% of which was funded by clients, 43% by the Australian Government, and the remaining 3% by state and territory governments.

Nationally, a child care worker's average weekly wage was $522 in 2002, compared to an average of $964 earned by primary school teachers, $860 by pre-primary school teachers, and $800 by full-time adult non-managerial employees.


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