Is the cost of living really the cost of economic change?

This week, AusVotes is kicking off a new series about the dreaded ‘cost of living’ issue that seems to be front of mind for both politicians and the wider community.

But, because this is AusVotes, we’re going to take a different look at the issue, rather than scoff at those in the suburbs who are complaining despite strong economic data. The series will instead unpack some of the wider structural changes in the economy that could be behind these concerns.

So what is ‘cost-of-living’? The latest NATSEM (PDF) report on household incomes and spending showed clearly that overall, Australian incomes have grown.

“The report reveals that overall the average family is ahead by $224 per week and the benefits have spread to both high and low income families. Low income households are ahead by $93 a week since 1984 while high income households are $429 per week better off. Australians earning income from investments – typically selffunded retirees – did particularly well, experiencing income growth of $547 per week above their living costs over the same period, largely due to strong dividend growth from shares, superannuation income, and property income.”

And yet surveys, such as the NAB Wellbeing and Consumer Anxiety Index (yes, that is a serious thing) reports that people are more concerned about cost of living than other issues. Kids surveyed also report worrying about the costs of family activities.

Politicians of every flavour rush around the country making promises to deal with this spectre of doom, blaming everything from the carbon tax to planning regulations to a lack of productivity. But are there other issues that are not being counted that are contributing to this feeling of insecurity?

What if there’s another story underneath this anxiety that is more than people being ungrateful consumerist whingers?

This series will look at some of the following themes to tease out the more complex policy changes that are perhaps behind these concerns. These will include, for starters:

  • the changing employment landscape, with its increase in casual, contract and temporary work;
  • cost shifting and the rise of the VET sector;
  • the changing nature of productivity increases;
  • the cost of housing;
  • internships, training and apprenticeships;
  • silo approach to dealing with unemployment, youth unemployment, welfare and job training;
  • infrastructure development.

Drop any other suggestions into comments and we’ll see what other ideas come out through this series.

Originally posted at AusOpinion.

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About bluntshovels

Freelance writer, with an unhealthy interest in Senate committees.
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