The Melbourne Institute of Applied Economic and Social Research’s Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) report surveys 17,000 people each year to follow changes in Australian trends.
The latest report has found 18.6 per cent of Australians aged 18 to 64 receive weekly welfare payments, down from 23 per cent of people in 2001.
The drop in figures undermines the Federal Government’s claim that too many people rely on Government handouts.
Associate Professor Roger Wilkins, the report’s editor, says people cannot argue that a welfare emergency has recently emerged.
“Actually for about two decades now the overall extent of welfare reliance has actually been declining, ever so slowly, but nonetheless the direction has been in the right direction,” he told ABC News Breakfast.
“The last few years following the GFC we saw a little bit of a rise again in welfare reliance, but broadly speaking the general trend is down.
“It is hard to reconcile that trend with the current public discourse, particularly coming from the Coalition Government, you certainly couldn’t argue that there is a welfare emergency or welfare dependency emergency that’s recently emerged,” he said.
“I guess, though, as a Government they have to be forward-looking and perhaps looking over the coming decade or so, perhaps there are some danger signs in terms of future.”
Women out-earning partners, men spend more time in paid work
The report also found the number of women out-earning their male partners is increasing.
Associate Professor Wilkins says this year’s results show there has been a 2 per cent increase in female “breadwinners” since the survey began in 2001.
“What we might term the female breadwinner household, that is certainly rising, in the most recent data we had nearly one quarter of couple households with the women earning significantly more than their male partner,” he said.
“We’re getting up now towards around a quarter of all couple households have the woman earning significantly more, so at least 10 per cent more than their male partner.”
“That is sort of offset by men spending more time in paid work, they average about 26 hours more in paid work than women, so when you look at the total amount of time spent on paid work, it’s actually quite similar for men and women,” he said.
There is also a gender difference when it comes to weight, Associate Professor Wilkins says more men are overweight or obese than women.
“One of the worrying signs is according to a commonly used measure of body fat, which is the body mass index, about 60 to 65 per cent of men are overweight or obese,” he said.
“Women are faring a bit better …. it’s about 50 per cent.”
Associate Professor Wilkins says the survey shows people who are married are more likely to gain weight or be overweight.
“More so for men than women, interestingly enough. We do see that post-marriage men do tend to pile on a few more kilos than they otherwise might be expected.”