A century of change – Mark McCrindle

A century ago the average Aussie was a 24-year-old male farmer. Fifty years ago it was a 29-year-old male office clerk. But today it’s a 38-year-old female sales assistant.  Demographer Mark McCrindle paints a wonderful picture of how our lives have changed in the last 100 years and how that has molded the future of housing.


Kevin:  Let’s have a look at the Australian population – what’s happened to them over the last 100 years? An interesting report written by demographer, social researcher, author, and futurist Mark McCrindle, who joins us on the line.
Good morning, Mark.
Mark:  Good morning, Kevin.
Kevin:  Nice to be talking to you again. Now, 100 years ago, the average Aussie was a 24-year-old male farmer – probably not a real surprise – but what happened after that? How did they change?
Mark:  Well, some of the key demographics are that we’ve got larger in terms of our total size, we’ve got older in terms of our average age, and we actually have more women than men in Australia at the moment.
So, if we were to totally define the average Aussie statistically, it would be a 37-year-old woman named Rebecca, because that was the most common name in 1980 – and 1980 was the Generation Y began being born. Generation Y are not just the younger generation now; they’re right in the middle. You have two generations older than them and two generations younger.
So yes, a 37-year-old woman. It’s amazing when you think we’ve gone from an average age in the 20s to now the late 30s in the span of a couple of generations, but that’s the aging that we’re seeing.
Kevin:  What does Rebecca do?
Mark:  She would be a sales worker. The sales sector, those working in sales, is one of the largest in Australia, and for a woman, that’s the most common. So, she’d be in that role. She’d be working full time – three quarters of Australians employed work full time. For a woman, probably about 31 hours a week, a male about 41 hours a week. There’s a little bit of variation there depending on who’s the main breadwinner of the home.
The average full-time worker would take home $60,000 if they’re working less than the 40 hours. Might be a bit less than that, but that would be economics of it, and that would be the gross salary before tax.
Kevin:  What about housing requirements? How has that changed over the last, say, 50-odd years, Mark?
Mark:  Yes, very significantly. Particularly over the last century, we’ve moved strongly from a more regional representation to now very much an urban one – four in five Australians are living in the capital cities – and increasingly densified there.
This average Australian would be living in a three-bedroom detached home, of which they probably have around $400,000 equity in that home. But that is starting to change, as well, and it’s increasingly likely that it might be a medium- or high-density home. We’re getting closer and closer to that transition point.
Kevin:  Would the size of the mortgage be growing, as well? I think you said the average equity was $400,000.
Mark:  Yes, exactly. If we look at the average capital city house price, it depends on which capital you’re looking at, but in some of the capitals, this equity is not even half of the cost of the home. In others, it might be over the halfway point.
If you bring it down to a household perspective, just to look at what they have to pay down that mortgage in any year, at a household level, after tax is about $88,000. That’s the average household, which has more than one income. So after tax, that’s what we have to live on and pay down that mortgage. So, it is increasingly a challenge to get ahead in terms of the equity in that home.
Women have really increased participation in the paid work labor force and have closed that gap – not fully closed, but certainly closing the gap a bit compared to the male participation. Not quite as high as male participation, but getting there.
Interestingly, when you look at the total hours worked – which includes a measure of both the paid work outside the home and then the unpaid work, which is everything from the domestic duties, outdoor work around the home, the childcare role – the average woman is working more hours than men. That’s about 60 hours a week in total.
So, women are very hardworking in Australia, not only domestically but closing that pay gap, as well, and actually are more formally educated than men in Australia. They’re more likely to have a university degree in Australia than their male counterpart.
And normally, what follows educational achievement is income and leadership and career trajectory, so we’re seeing women really move ahead in both the earnings and the leadership role.
Kevin:  Hand in hand with that, I guess, would account for the fact that we now have more cars in the home. As women become more independent and make their own way, I guess the share of household duties and all those things are really creating somewhat of a change in how we live and how we work, aren’t they?
Mark:  That is exactly right. If we think about the average household, it has at least two cars, because more than half of all households have two cars or more. On average, every registered car in Australia is driving 14,000 kilometers per year.
It’s pretty phenomenal how connected we are with our cars, how much mobility we have, and of course, the household with at least one car, which the average household has – and a pet, as well, by the way. They really do need the cars to get around.
Kevin:  Things like speaking English in home, of course, we’ve seen a lot of people… And I think you mentioned it in the report about Haymarket in Sydney for instance, 88% of the population were born overseas. All of these things shape how we live, how we talk, and how we communicate.
Mark:  Exactly. We’re far more diverse than ever before from a cultural perspective. Australia is home to more than 300 different ancestries. That’s what we trace ourselves back to. And we’re fast closing in on the point where we’ll actually have more households that have a parent born overseas than don’t.
At the moment, 46% of households – so not quite half – have at least one parent born overseas. We’re getting close to that point where at least half will have someone born overseas. 28% of us, so more than one in four of us ourselves were born overseas, so very culturally diverse.
And over the last three decades, that migration pattern has shifted from European nations. Now in the top five, we have China, India, and Vietnam as the most likely countries of birth of those Australians born overseas. So, a shift around the world in terms of Asia and their connection there.
Australia is this dynamic land that is changing phenomenally, and the demographics really represent that.
Kevin:  How are we doing physically? Is it my imagination, or are we getting taller?
Mark:  We are getting taller. The average man is now 178 centimeters tall, weighs 85 kilos. So, we’re getting taller, we’re getting a little bit heavier, as well.
Kevin:  I’m a bit above the average there.
Mark:  This is a challenge. Something has to give. We’re working longer, we’re juggling more roles, we’re carrying more debt, there’s a bit more stress, and maybe we’re not being as active as we used to in those physical roles.
Now, we’re more likely to have joined a gym. These days, we’re more aware nutritionally of what are the right foods for us, so we’re more educated in that sense. But we’re less likely to be – as you said earlier – the farmer that was the case a while back on average.
We’re more likely to be a white-collar worker, a clerical, an office worker, a managerial type. We’re just not getting as much mobility as part of our natural day, so the average male and female has a body mass index – that BMI – of just on the 25 mark, which is officially declared as overweight, anything 25 or above. So we’re just tipping the scales in the start of that overweight category on average.
But we’re doing a lot of right things. The average Australian is exercising three times a week. We’re getting 7.2 hours of sleep in a night – not quite the eight hours, but the medical experts say that that’s adequate. And the majority of Australians have health insurance, so we are looking after ourselves. Perhaps a little bit more to do, but we’re on track.
Kevin:  Project ahead. What do you reckon we’re going to be looking like and what sort of houses will we be living in in the next 50 years?
Mark:  I think over the next half century, we’ll change that balanced, and it will more likely that when we do this again, talking about someone… And in 50 years, it will be maybe Oliver and Charlotte; those are emerging names today. And they’ll be most likely living in a more densified dwelling, perhaps a townhouse or an apartment.
They will have a bit of equity, but a lot more people will be renting not owning, and choosing that lifestyle. They’ll be moving ahead, certainly more geographically mobile, and their careers and where they study will not just be here in terms of nationally defined, but globally defined.
I think Australia is in this great position – our location in the world, our diversity, the cultural connection, the relaxed way of life that we have, and yet the hard working and formally educated background we have places us in a great place in the future to continue to be those world influencers. So, I think the future trajectory looks pretty good.
Kevin:  You’re talking there about more people renting, and I tend to agree with you, but it brings about the question who is actually going to own the house? Is it going to be more social housing, or will there be an even greater divide between the haves and the have-nots? We’re already seeing this divide between the haves and the have-nots, a smaller number of people owning a larger portfolio of houses.
Mark:  Yes, there is going to be in that, the investor there with the property ownership. And a lot of people as choice renters. They’re not renting because they can’t afford to buy, but this emerging generation will just be happy to rent because they want the flexibility that that provides, and they’ll be investing in other categories perhaps, or you’ll just have different ownership forms. Someone’s name might not be on the title because their parents have helped out, or maybe siblings have come together to own that place. So, it’s just a new way of funding the growing cost of housing. Still giving the security,
Australians are really rusted onto that Aussie dream of home ownership, so that’ll still be strong in our psyche, but as the costs increase, there are new ways of covering the finance.
Kevin:  Mark, always fascinating talking to you. Thank you for giving us your time this morning. Mark McCrindle, demographer, social researcher, author, and futurist. We’ll talk to you again soon. Thanks, Mark.
Mark:  Thanks a lot, Kevin.

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