Chat with us, powered by LiveChatThe two Australias - Struggle St v Easy St

The two Australias - Struggle St v Easy St

Here are the two Australias - where the real great divide is between those on Struggle St and those on Easy St.'s Cost of Living survey, now completed by more than 30,000 Australians, has found the nation’s two-speed economy is creating a two-tier community.

Haves and have-nots are split almost down the middle and “battler belts” are scattered among pockets of prosperity in our major cities and regional centres. As the Reserve Bank weighs up a second cut to the official interest rate in as many months, this map shows where relief is most needed.

The responses are broken down in the map to postcode level and in a warning to political leaders, those who say they are on Struggle St also say the government has put them there. The survey asks people how they are coping with the rising cost of living, which has become a key political issue in recent years in Australia following the global financial crisis.

In what may reflect the pain of buyers of high-end real estate in a post-GFC world, respondents from two suburbs typically associated with Australian wealth – Toorak in Melbourne and Vaucluse in Sydney – count themselves as on Struggle St.

The one thing everyone can agree on? No-one has the faintest idea what to do about it.

Growing pain

Nearly half of respondents (48 per cent) say they are managing to get by, while 28 per cent have placed themselves squarely on Struggle St.

Around one in six is “barely coping”, while only seven per cent are doing well enough to say they are on Easy St.

Meanwhile, an OECD report released today reveals the gap between rich and poor in well-off countries is at a 30-year high. See the OECD's breakdown on Australia (pdf)

According to our survey, the biggest burden remains the cost of keeping a roof over your head:

- More than half of the Struggle Streeters spend nearly half of their income on mortgage repayments;

- One in four spends more than half;

- Meanwhile one in three of the Easy Streeters does not have a mortgage;

- And rent can take up to 60 per cent of income for struggling families, according to the St Vincent de Paul Society.

St Vinnies CEO Dr John Falzon told more people were seeking help, with low-income households under massive pressure from housing and energy costs.

"It is not uncommon for us to come across families, including sole-parent families, who in order to keep that roof over their heads are going without meals or types of food such as fresh fruit, to make sure that their kids are eating and to make sure that the rent is being paid,” he said.

“These families are having to make absolutely impossible choices between paying the rent, paying the electricity and being able to do simple things like buy a birthday cake for a child’s birthday or pay for a school excursion.”

The pressures change depending on where people live and the differing availability of services, as our map shows.

“If you have a family member with a chronic health issue and they’re in a fairly remote or regional area, the costs associated with having to travel to a metropolitan hospital can be quite onerous on those families,” Dr Falzon said.

There's no light at the end of the tunnel unless the government can step in, says Dr Falzon.

Blame game

The map on the original article shows positive sentiment in the suburbs of Canberra, the political fallout spells grim news for Julia Gillard and only a slightly better picture for Tony Abbott.

The majority (55 per cent) of those who are doing it tough say government policies are “most to blame” for the rising cost of living. Only one in seven laid the blame with big business or financial uncertainty, respectively.

Dr Falzon said there was no light at the end of the tunnel for people living in dire circumstances unless the government took action to increase “woefully inadequate” support payments.

“We know that after rent in the cheapest possible accommodation in the capital cities, people are often left with only $16.50 a day in order to pay for everything else.”

On Easy Street, only one in three says the government is most to blame. Twice as many (10 per cent versus 5 per cent) say individuals should be responsible for their own bad choices.

Nearly one in three in both groups says the Coalition has the better plan to reduce their pain, whereas 18 per cent of Easy Street and 14 per cent of Struggle Street back Labor to help.

But Coalition strategists should keep the champagne on ice just a little longer - the strongest feeling among both groups is that no-one knows how to fix the problem (49 per cent of Struggle Street and 45 per cent of Easy Street).

This might explain why overall and despite all the hardships people are facing, when asked how they feel only one in four says “angry”. Half say they are merely “frustrated”.

Once you abandon hope that anyone can help, there is no point being angry. There are too many, more important battles our working families are facing.

View original article at the Herald Sun to complete the survey or view the map: