HILDA Report 2017

The 2017 HILDA Report reveals troubling signs for young working carers, especially parents.

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The 2017 HILDA Report reveals troubling signs for young working carers, especially parents.

Roger Wilkins, Deputy Director (Research) of the HILDA Survey, has warned that with falling home ownership and rising debts, “it’s looking grim for the under 40s.”

HILDA is the Household, Income and Labour Dynamics in Australia Survey. It has been running since 2001, and tracks the same families year after year to see how Australian home life and jobs are evolving.

In The Conversation, HILDA’s Professor Wilkins painted an especially sour picture for parents of Gen X and later. Home ownership among Australians aged 18 to 39 years has declined from 36 per cent in 2002 to 25 per cent in 2014, and the decline “has been largest for families with dependent children, falling from 56 per cent to 39 per cent” – a plunge of nearly 20 percentage points.

Meanwhile, mortgage debt is through the roof, but most readers will not need a survey to tell them that. The official numbers confirm what everyone knows from conversations with family and friends. Wilkins writes that “in December 2015 prices, average home debt grew from about A$169,000 in 2002 to about A$337,000 in 2014”; that’s effectively double in real terms.

While younger adults struggle to establish themselves, baby boomer parents face the prospects of having adult kids at home for about a quarter of a century. HILDA shows that nearly half (48 per cent) of all women aged 22 to 25 still live with their parents, up from just 28 per cent in 2001. Young men are even less keen to leave the roost: 60 per cent in this age group are still living off mum and dad, up from 42 per cent in 2001.

These findings are troubling in light of the persistent wealth and work inequality between men and women in Australia, suggesting that a large majority of young Australian men now enjoy a financial free ride from their parents well into adulthood. This can only increase inequality of employment opportunities and wealth.

Given that the large majority of carers are also women – adding to the so-called fair sex’s disproportionate financial handicap – these social trends should concern us.

Also of relevance to working carers is the finding that only Australians who are able to pursue demanding careers are sustaining their levels of home ownership.

Professionals and managers have the highest home-ownership rates, and these rates haven’t really declined. If you’re working in other occupations that allow greater flexibility, bad luck: according to HILDA, home ownership is most rare among community and personal services workers, sales workers and labourers.

Another concerning finding for working carers on low incomes is that low income earners face a disproportionate financial burden from childcare compared with high-earners. Moreover, substantial cost difficulties in accessing childcare are being reported much more frequently since 2002, “consistent with the large real increase in child care expenditure.”

The picture is indeed grim for the generation coming up, especially parents. Once extraordinary caring responsibilities are thrown into the mix, the income and wealth landscape looks daunting indeed.

The full report can be read online: http://melbourneinstitute.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/2437426/HILDA-SR-med-res.pdf