Media Release by Senator the Hon Kay Patterson

HILDA survey findings assist welfare discussions

The Howard Government now has access to important, long-term information on Australians to assist with future welfare reform, thanks to findings from the third wave of Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia (HILDA) Survey, released today.

The Minister for Family and Community Services, Senator Kay Patterson, released the findings from three years of the Howard Government funded HILDA Survey, which give an insight into changes in people’s family relationships, housing arrangements, income, workforce involvement, health status and attitudes to work, finances and family.

“The survey is Australia’s first nationally representative household panel survey and the third round of annual interviews, conducted in 2003, collected information from 7,100 households and 12,700 people aged over 15 years,” Senator Patterson said.

“With three years of data we can start to see how people move in and out of particular situations, for example:

  • While in any one year around 12% of Australians have very low incomes (below 50% of median income), fewer than four per cent were in this situation for three years running.
  • Although 3.6% were unemployed in 2001, only 0.5% were looking for work in all three years.
  • Casual employment often leads to permanent jobs. The majority of casual employees (84%) remained in employment over the three years of the HILDA survey, with 42% of casual workers moving into non-casual jobs over the time.
  • 28% of households with single mothers and their children were jobless across all three years of the HILDA survey.

“This Government is well aware of the significant issues associated with the number of jobless households in Australia, particularly single mothers and their children. That is why we have introduced major changes to the income support and employment services systems through our Australians Working Together measures.

“In particular I am keen to examine further the results in relation to single parents to help these families increase their participation and ultimately financial well being. There are significant benefits associated with working including superannuation, increased disposable income, as well as the flow-on effects for children,” said Senator Patterson.

HILDA survey findings also showed that satisfaction with a partner is not necessarily a good predictor of the stability of that relationship.

“Just over half of all newly separated men and 38% of newly separated women in 2003 reported high levels of satisfaction with their marriage the year before it broke up.

“Relationship breakdown can often come as a shock for those involved and that is why the Government is helping support and strengthen families through the provision of services to enhance family relationship counselling and education, and family skills training.”

Coinciding with Seniors Week in NSW and Victoria, results of new questions asked of retirees and working people’s plans for retirement found:

  • Many Australians (12 per cent of 55-59 year olds and 16 per cent of 60-64 year olds) phase into retirement by reducing work hours, taking on less demanding jobs, and working on a casual basis or in voluntary work.
  • One in five Australians of pre-retirement age want to work past age 65.
  • 37 per cent expect the Age Pension to be their primary means of support and 60 per cent expect to maintain their current standard of living.

“These statistics will allow all levels of Government to target services to the areas of most need. I am pleased that I was able to secure funding in last year’s Budget to ensure that the survey will continue for the next four years,” Senator Patterson said.