Having a disposable income and the distribution of wealth in society contribute to the standard of living, and therefore a person’s wellbeing.
Context statement: Measure of national economic wellbeing reflecting real standard of living.
Australia's real net national disposable income per capita rose from $22,252 in 1960 to $61,266 per annum in 2020 (ABS 2021). The average annual growth rate over this time was 1.7%. Real net national disposable income per capita rose by more than 70% between 1992 and 2012, an average increase of 2.8% per year. However, growth for the period 2012 to 2020 has slowed to an average of 0.1% per year.
For international comparisons, see International comparisons of welfare data.
Reference: ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2021. Australian national accounts: national income, expenditure and product, Reference period: March 2021. Canberra: ABS.
Context statement: Indicator of ability to purchase goods and services such as food, clothing, housing, transport and medical care. A lower household income results in a lower material standard of living and greater risk of experiencing economic hardship.
For most Australians, income is the most important resource they have to meet their living costs (ABS 2019).
Mean equivalised disposable household income in 2017–18 was $1,062 per week. After adjusting to 2017–18 dollars, this has not changed significantly from 2015–16 ($1,046 per week). Mean equivalised disposable household income increased in real terms from 1995–96 to 2007–08. A decline in average income followed the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) in 2008. However, average equivalised disposable household income has since recovered and is now higher than before the GFC (ABS 2019).
In 2017–18, the equivalised household income for the highest income quintile households ($2,142 per week) was more than 5 times that of the lowest income quintile households ($399 per week) (ABS 2019).
These data precede the COVID-19 pandemic. Preliminary data from the 2020–21 Survey of Income and Housing showed that total household income remained stable in the December 2020 quarter at $2,349 per week, compared to the December 2019 quarter (see ABS 2021).
For more information, see Income and income support.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2019. Household income and wealth, Australia; Reference period: 2017–18 financial year. Canberra: ABS.
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2021. Household financial resources; Reference period: December 2020. Canberra: ABS.
Context statement: Indicator of inequality in the distribution of income in society which is associated with disparities in both health and wellbeing outcomes. Excessive inequality can erode social cohesion and hinder growth (Productivity Commission, 2018).
Australia's Gini coefficient for equivalised disposable household income fluctuated around 0.33 for the decade to 2017–18, ranging between 0.320 (2011–12) and 0.336 (2007–08). In 2017–18, the Gini coefficient for equivalised disposable household income was 0.328.
Productivity Commission 2018. Rising inequality? A stocktake of the evidence, Commission Research Paper, Canberra.
Context statement: Household wealth provides a sense of financial security. Reserves of wealth can be drawn upon to maintain living standards in periods of reduced income or substantial unexpected expenses.
In 2017–18, average household wealth (net worth) was $1,022,200. After adjusting to 2017–18 dollars, average wealth has increased by 6% from $963,800 in 2015–16. Rising property values are the main contributor to this increase (ABS 2019).
The distribution of wealth is more unequal than the distribution of income (ABS 2019). Middle and high wealth quintile households have experienced a real increase in average net worth over the 14 years to 2017–18 after adjusting for inflation. The average value of the wealth of the highest wealth quintile households increased from $1.9 million in 2003–04 to $3.2 million in 2017–18, while growth in the value of wealth held by the rest of the population was more modest. Low wealth quintile households did not experience any real increase in net worth between 2003–04 and 2017–18. In 2017–18, those in the highest wealth quintile had more than 92 times the wealth of the lowest wealth quintile (ABS 2019).
These data precede the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from Australian National Accounts: Finance and Wealth show that total household wealth increased 4.3% ($518.0b) in the March quarter 2021 to reach a record $12,664.5b. This was driven by continued strength in the housing market and holding gains in financial assets (ABS 2021).
ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2021. Australian National Accounts: Finance and Wealth; Reference period: March 2021. Canberra: ABS.
Context statement: Indicator of inequality in the distribution of wealth in society.
The Gini coefficient for wealth inequality in Australia was 0.573 in 2003–04 and 0.621 in 2017–18 (ABS 2019).
Reference: ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2019. Household income and wealth, Australia; Reference period: 2017–18 financial year. Canberra: ABS.
Context statement: Indicator of financial vulnerability. The inability to access funds in an emergency indicates risk of requiring welfare support.
Based on questions asked in the 2020 ABS General Social Survey, nearly 1 in 5 households (18.7%) were 'unable to raise $2,000 within a week for something important'. In contrast, 13.6% of households were unable to raise $2,000 within a week for something important a decade earlier in 2010 (ABS 2021).
For further information see Material deprivation and financial stress
Reference: ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2021. General Social Survey; Reference period: 2020. Canberra: ABS.
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