Australians are more financially stressed now than they were at any time immediately prior to or during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study from The Australian National University (ANU). 

In general, more Australians are finding it difficult to get by on their current income and are experiencing greater housing payment stress.  

Lead author of the report, Professor Nicholas Biddle, said this stress has also likely contributed to a decline in confidence in Government, compared to the peak achieved shortly after the federal election.  

The survey was conducted in January 2024 as part of the ANUpoll series, which has been tracking the views of Australians since 2008. The most recent survey draws on responses from more than 4,000 people across the country. 

“In January 2024, we estimate that 34.2 per cent of Australians were finding it difficult or very difficult to get by on their current income,” Professor Biddle said. 

“This is the highest rate we have observed at any time since February 2020, and well above the average over the preceding four years.” 

Many also reported taking action in response to this financial pressure, with over 62 per cent saying they spent less on groceries and essential items, and more than 56 per cent postponing major purchases.  

“Perhaps unsurprisingly given this financial strain, there’s also been a drop in satisfaction with the direction of the country,” Professor Biddle said. 

“It was down to around 62 per cent, a drop of almost 10 per cent from January 2023 and not much above the low observed during the Black Summer bushfires.

“We also saw a decline in Australians’ satisfaction with their own life. The average was 6.55 on a scale of one to 10, far lower than the numbers we observed in 2019, 2020 and 2023. 

“Statistically, the latest figures are equivalent to what we saw when a large proportion of the population was in lockdown during the pandemic.” 

The survey had a particular focus on Australia’s views on the housing market. Since April 2017, the per centage of Australians who are falling behind with their loan or rent payments has more than doubled, from 2.2 per cent to 4.8 per cent.  

There’s also been a 4.8 per cent increase in the share of Australians who find their housing payments a constant struggle, from 18.5 per cent in April 2017 to 23.3 per cent in January 2024. 

“This payment stress is much higher for those who are renting,” Professor Biddle said. 

“But perhaps the most dramatic change in the housing market is the proportion of Australians who think owning one’s own home is part of the Australian way of life. There was a large decline from April 2017, when 74.9 per cent said it matters a lot, to 65.8 per cent in January 2024.” 

The full report is available on the ANU Centre for Social Research and Methods website.  

You may also like

Article Card Image

Democracy Sausage: the state and democracy

This week we are returning to the building blocks of politics and democracy, as philosopher Philip Pettit joins Mark Kenny to question assumptions.

Article Card Image

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese is determined to advance reconciliation

The Prime Minister reflected on the outcome of the Voice referendum on an episode of ANU podcast Democracy Sausage.

Article Card Image

Democracy Sausage: Anthony Albanese on two years in the top job

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese joins Democracy Sausage to reflect on two years in office.

Subscribe to ANU Reporter