Australia is a rich country in many aspects. Per capita
income is high, as is the average life expectancy and
educational level. International comparisons of living
standards such as the United Nations Human Development Index
(HDI) place Australia among the world's top nations. Visit AbbreviationFinder to see the definitions of AUS and acronym for Australia.
However, welfare is relatively unevenly distributed and
in recent decades the differences between poor and rich have
increased. In 2012, just over 12% of Australians lived below
the national poverty line. There are no major differences
between different states or between big cities and other
areas. However, there are clear differences between
different categories of households. The largest proportion
is poor among young unemployed, among the disabled and in
single-parent households and in the indigenous population.
The cost of living has increased significantly more than the
various forms of social assistance. Unemployment is just
over 5% (2013), which is an internationally low figure.
However, it hides an increased proportion of part-time
Trade unions were formed early in Australia. Thanks to
the shortage of labor, they gained a strong position.
Traditionally, trade unions have been negative towards
immigration of non-European labor. By the beginning of the
post-war period, workers had achieved internationally good
working conditions and high wages, and in the mid-1970s,
more than half of the workers were unionized.
In the 1980s, a reform of business was initiated. Gradual
liberalization led to increased flexibility in the labor
market but greater uncertainty for the employees. The
pressure on the union increased further during the
Conservative government period 1996-2007. In 2006, the
degree of employee organization was down to only 20%. Then a
new regulatory framework was introduced which This meant
that individual agreements could be concluded between
employees and employers. The eroded employment protection,
and overtime and holiday pay were no longer self-evident.
The strike right also deteriorated. The new labor laws were
met by large counter-demonstrations across the country.
Criticism also came from outside, e.g. from the ILO, as the
changes broke with global conventions.Fair Work Act,
which meant stronger financial protection for workers.
Almost all trade unions in Australia are members of the
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU).
The foundation of the social insurance system was laid at
the beginning of the 1900s with income-tested pensions and
sickness benefits, unemployment benefits, disability
benefits and the like. The design differed between the
states. However, in the early 1990s, social benefits were
lower and more uncertain than in other rich industrial
states, with the exception of the United States. In 2011,
the first national parental insurance was introduced.
Generally, it gives all mothers the right to take out one
year of unpaid parental leave before the child turns one
year. In addition, they receive income-tested parental
benefit for a maximum of 18 weeks. The support corresponds
to the minimum wage in the country. In 2013, this was
extended by two weeks of paternity leave. There is no
general child allowance, but families with children up to
the age of 18 receive tax relief.
Grants are paid to young people who are studying or have
not yet entered the labor market, and to those who have
become unemployed and actively seeking work, unemployment
benefits are paid.
The retirement age has been 65 years for men in recent
years. For women, it has gradually increased from 60 years
and was in 2013 at 64.5 years. A continued incremental
increase to 67 for all has been decided and will start in
2017. The size of the pension depends on income and
Healthcare and health insurance
In Australia, there is both public free health care and
private health care. The public healthcare system
Medicare was introduced in 1984 and functions much like
Swedish county council care. It provides free care in public
hospitals and reimburses most of the costs of visits to
public outpatient care. In addition, Medicare subsidizes
most of the costs of private care. However, the individual
has to pay for dental care, medical transport, some
specialist consultations and treatment in some accidents. It
is therefore common to have your own health insurance as a
supplement to Medicare, especially if you want private
health care. One third of the hospital's capacity is in
The availability of doctors and beds corresponds to that
found in other OECD countries. Already in the late 1920s,
aircraft began to be used to reach out to health care in the
most remote settlements. In 2012, the non-profit
organization Flying Doctors had sixty aircraft
flying from 21 bases.
The pattern of disease in Australia is similar to that
which has emerged in other rich countries, and an increasing
proportion of the diseases are a consequence of the
lifestyle. Among other things, Type 2 diabetes has risen
sharply and cardiovascular disease has become an
increasingly common cause of death. Nevertheless, the
average life expectancy is among the highest in the world.
In the Australian colonies, women gradually gained a
relatively strong position. From 1894, the colony of South
Australia was the first political entity in the world to
have female suffrage. In the new federal state Australia
came a similar law in 1902, and after that New Zealand
became the second country in the world with female suffrage.
In both cases, however, the right to vote only applied to
the white population.
A law from 1984 prohibits discrimination in working life
on the basis of gender, race, origin and ethnic background.
Many women have also been given improved conditions through
the addition of social legislation. In the field of
education, women and men have come pretty much the same way.
During the 2000s, however, changes in working life have
contributed to the development in the area of gender
equality stopping and in some respects declining. A larger
proportion of women working part-time have meant that
women's average salary is only two-thirds of men's (2007).
Women are also significantly underrepresented among senior
executives. In 2010, however, Australia got its first female
prime minister, Julia Gillard.
A national legal framework against discrimination on
grounds of sexual orientation and gender identity is
missing. Most Australians say they support same-sex
marriage, but it has been a very controversial topic in
Parliament. In 2017, same-sex marriage was legalized. LGBT
issues are openly debated and the annual Pride Festival in
Sydney is one of the largest in the world. Laws on adoption,
assisted reproduction and the like differ between the
Crime and punishment
The death penalty has been abolished in all states and
territories. The crime pattern in Australia is similar to
other rich countries in most respects. Trafficking in women
is prohibited by law, but occurs relatively often,
especially in Aboriginal families. Prostitution and brothel
activities are permitted and regulated in several states.
Indigenous living conditions
Aborigines are broadly distributed across the continent
as the population as a whole. However, the proportion is
greater in northern and central Australia. In the sparsely
populated Northern Territory, they make up about 30% of the
population. They live to a lesser extent in the largest
cities and to a greater extent in smaller and medium-sized
towns. More than a quarter live in areas that are officially
referred to as remote and very remote. This is an important
explanation for having significantly less access to many
forms of community service. The quality of education and
health care is consistently poor and preventive health care
is often lacking in such areas.
Aboriginal living conditions are generally much worse
than the rest of the population. The average life expectancy
is 17 years lower, the maternal and infant mortality is
three times higher and the level of education is lower. Over
the past fifteen years, unemployment has been around 20%,
and the proportion of homeless people is significantly
higher than among other residents. Aborigines make up 2.3%
of the total population but 25% of those in prison. They are
under-represented politically and thus have little
opportunity to participate in decisions that affect their
situation, their property and cultural heritage. Only in
2010 was the first Aboriginal elected to the federal House
The Constitution of Australia was written in 1901 in a
spirit that promoted the white population and at that time
the indigenous people were not recognized as citizens. It
was not until 1967 that they gained full citizenship and
voting rights, and only then were they included in the
country's population statistics. Society's efforts to
assimilate the indigenous people failed. Social exclusion
increased and the result was, among other things,
alcoholism, suicide and increased crime. Over the past
twenty years, the official attitude towards the indigenous
population has improved and its status has been raised.
In 2008, then-Prime Minister Kevin Rudd made a national
apology to the indigenous peoples and acknowledged that the
state subjected them to human rights violations, for example
when young children who were forcibly removed from their
parents. The political parties now largely agree that the
constitution must be cleared of remaining discriminatory
clauses. Aborigines should also be recognized there as the
country's urinals. However, a referendum on such a change in
2013 has been postponed as the parties fear that the people
as a whole do not yet want to support such a proposal.