Single-parent families continue to be the most economically insecure households in Australia, regularly forced to go without essentials to make ends meet.
It’s a stark contrast to the rest of Australia, with new research finding Australians are more prosperous than they were 18 years ago, and average household wealth has increased to nearly $1 million.
The latest Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia survey reveals the median income of single-parent households has declined from $38,000 in 2016 to $34,000 in 2020.
In addition, a fifth said they had “gone without three or more essential items or services” in the past year, and their use of childcare had significantly declined since 2016 from 52 per cent to 35 per cent due to rising costs and falling incomes.
“The HILDA survey evidence on the economic fortunes of single-parent families in recent years is a concerning trend,” report co-author Professor Roger Wilkins said.
“It is not clear why their economic wellbeing would have deteriorated, but clearly this needs to be closely watched if this trend is borne out by evidence from other sources.”
More generally, the report found the average Australian household income had grown by more than $23,000 since 2001, and the average household wealth had increased to nearly $1 million.
More woman are working than ever before – 73 per cent up from 64 per cent in 2011; however, men on average still earn $444 more than woman per week.
New data also reveals the Australians “most exposed” to the economic impact of COVID-19.
In 2018, more than a third of people under 24 worked in industries that lost more than 15 per cent of the workforce during the pandemic.
“People in households obtaining most of their income from hospitality, arts and recreation industries are the most vulnerable,” Professor Wilkins said.
“Unfortunately, many of these people tended to have lower economic resources and were relatively disadvantaged, even before the onset of the pandemic.”
At least two million Australians live in households where the main income earner worked in an industry most exposed to the pandemic recession.
The report also highlights the impact the pandemic will have on people’s wellbeing.
“It is clear that the arrival of COVID-19 and the resulting public health measures will have substantially reduced life satisfaction in Australia,” co-author Dr Ferdi Botha said.
“Decline sin employment, growth in health fears and declines in social activities and community sport will all have had substantial adverse effects.”