Australia’s welfare 2017: Changing trends in workforce participation and home ownership


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Content type
Short article

February 2018


Australia’s welfare 2017 and the summary report Australia’s welfare 2017: In brief are biennial reports produced by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

Australia’s welfare 2017 has nine chapters covering different issues and population groups. These are:

  • Welfare in Australia;
  • Children, youth and families;
  • Education in Australia;
  • Our working lives;
  • Ageing and aged care;
  • Housing and homelessness;
  • Indigenous Australians;
  • Disability and carers; and
  • Indicators of Australia’s welfare.

The report uses various data sources to explore welfare and wellbeing in Australia, framing wellbeing as the result of a complex interaction between individual, societal and environmental factors. The use of a range of different datasets—many containing data collected over long periods of time—enables the AIHW to identify changing trends that impact wellbeing. Two of the changing trends identified in the report are: workforce participation and the changing nature of employment; and home ownership.

Workforce participation

The chapter on work and the workforce highlights the changes that have taken place over the last 50 years. The report states that since 1966 the Australian workforce has changed markedly: more women are in the workforce; many more jobs are part time; and a greater number of jobs are now high-skilled. A particularly rapid increase has been the number of men working part-time. From 2001 to 2016, the number of men working part time increased from 14% to 18%.

Underemployment has also been increasing steadily since 2011, with the 2016 data showing a record high of 9.3% of all employed people reporting that they were working less than they desired. This is concerning as underemployment is linked with lower levels of satisfaction and poor mental health.

Home ownership

Australian housing trends are also changing, with increasing disparity evident in home ownership trends. Australia’s welfare 2017 identifies that house prices have grown faster than household incomes, and that increases in rental prices and house prices are disproportionately affecting younger people and people with lower incomes. The report observes this is putting increasing pressure on the housing sector and may have implications for retirement policy as people increasingly transition into retirement with ongoing mortgage or rental payments.

Employment and housing are social determinants of health, that is, they directly and indirectly influence the health and wellbeing of people. Having safe and secure housing and sufficient, satisfying employment reduces the risk of poor physical and mental health outcomes (Wilkinson & Marmot, 2003).

For a full discussion of these and other welfare and wellbeing issues in Australia, see the full report by the AIHW.


  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2017). Australia’s welfare 2017 [Australia’s welfare series no. 13]. Canberra: Author. Retrieved from <>
  • Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2017). Australia’s welfare 2017: In brief. [Cat. No. AUS 215] Canberra: Author. Retrieved from <>
  • Wilkinson, R., & Marmot, M. (Eds.). (2003). Social determinants of health: The solid facts (2nd ed.). Denmark: World Health Organization.