Fifty years of changing families: Implications for income support

Workforce issues
Thursday 26 July, 1100 – 1120


Professor Matthew Gray
Australian National University

The nature of Australian families has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. The Australian population has not only almost doubled in size (from 13.1 million in 1971 to 24.2 million in 2016) but has also changed in its age profile, for the fall in fertility and rise in life expectation has led to structural ageing. The proportion of the population aged 65 years and over increased from 8% to 15% over this period. Australia has also seen changes in life-course transitions, household and family characteristics, and parental roles within families.

This paper provides an overview of some of most significant changes to families that have implications for the design and operation of the income support system. The paper describes how common life-course transitions and parental roles have altered, then outlines changes in households and family forms, including parental employment trends.

The third part of the paper discusses the extent to which government benefits contribute to the incomes of different types of families/households using data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Household Expenditure Survey for the period 1975 to 2015–16. The final section draws out implications of such changes for the income support system.