Feeling the physical and financial strain? That’s because we’re working longer for less

Australians are working more than they were before the pandemic, but have less money to show for it, according to new research.

Nov 03, 2022, updated Nov 03, 2022
Latest research shows that Australians have been working longer for less. (Photo: Mastermyne)

Latest research shows that Australians have been working longer for less. (Photo: Mastermyne)

Analysis from the Australian National University found financial stress is at its highest level since the arrival of Covid-19, almost reaching pre-pandemic levels.

The research revealed one-in-four people surveyed were finding it difficult to get by on their current income levels.

The survey of almost 3500 adults revealed the number of hours worked on average per week has risen from 21.9 hours in February 2020 to 22.6 in October this year.

Despite the uptick in working hours, average income levels have fallen by 3.1 per cent in just the last six months.

The average household income was $1629 a week in October this year, down from almost $1700 a week earned on average in November 2020.

The average household income in February 2020 was nearly $1800 a week.

The study’s co-author Matthew Gray said more Australians were now facing financial stress.

“Despite Australians working more on average, they have told us that what they earn now buys them less in the face of rising inflation and living costs,” he said.

The survey also found 48 per cent of people think prices have gone up a lot more since the pandemic.

Half of people in Australia’s lowest income brackets said they were struggling to get by on their current income levels, while just five per cent of those in the top income bracket said they were struggling.

The findings come off the back of the Reserve Bank lifting interest rates for the seventh month in a row.

The bank says it expects inflation to peak around eight per cent later this year, higher than the previous forecast of 7.75 per cent.

According to the university analysis, more people think the rising cost of living is a big issue.

The survey said 56.9 per cent of people thought price rises were a “very big problem”, compared with 37 per cent of those surveyed in January this year.

The study’s lead author Professor Nicholas Biddle said cost of living pressures were affecting more Australians.

“Clearly, the cost of living is making it tough for many Australians, despite our economy and society coming out of lockdowns and opening up,” he said.

“As the government aims to increase the wellbeing of all Australians with its first budget, cost of living and financial stress should be high on their agenda.”

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