Eight-out-of-10 Australian workers report feeling financially worse off than a year ago, while more than half are putting off seeing a doctor due to the escalating cost of living, a survey has found.
Workers also flagged concerns about being able to afford groceries and the costs of maintaining a car as they lived from “paycheque to paycheque” in the current high-inflation environment.
Ahead of the Fair Work Commission’s highly anticipated wage review decision on Friday, the Australian Services Union has detailed results from a member survey highlighting just how much workers are struggling with record rising living costs.
Unions, including the Australian Services Union, have called for the National Minimum Wage and Award Wages to rise by 7% from 1 July 2023 – in line with inflation – to provide urgent cost-of-living relief for Australian workers who need it most.
The decision will impact an estimated 1-in-4 workers.
“These are very troubling findings that underpin unions’ calls for a 7 per cent pay rise for workers,” said ASU Assistant National Secretary Emeline Gaske.
“It’s unacceptable that working Australians are having to reconsider seeing a doctor when they’re sick or are forced to cut back on essential groceries because they are worried about affording the bill.
“But this is the current reality of living paycheque to paycheque when inflation is rising more than wages.
“And it’s not just inflation that’s rising, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics also reporting record increases to living costs for households over the past year.
Living costs for employee households, which is tracked by the ABS’s Employee Living Cost Index, recorded the largest annual rise of all household types, at 9.6 per cent; the largest increase since this series started in 1999.
The last time the Consumer Price Index recorded an annual increase of 9.6 per cent was in 1986.
The ASU survey, which sought the views of 800 workers throughout April and May also found:
- Only 5% of survey respondents feel they are living comfortably on their present income; 40% feel that they are just ‘coping’ and 53% are finding it either ‘difficult’ or ‘very difficult’ on their present income.
- 8 out of 10 respondents feel they have become ‘much worse off’ or ‘worse off’ financially over the last year, with women in particular feeling the crunch.
- Half of all respondents are living paycheque to paycheque.
- 85% believe food and groceries are getting harder to afford.
- Nearly 1-in-6 workers feel the cost of maintaining their car and registration is hard.
- Half of all respondents have put off seeing a health professional because of the cost.
- 99% believe the cost of living has grown more quickly than wages have grown.
“All workers should be able to rely on wages that allow them to support their families and save for the future, without being forced into making unacceptable compromises like putting off seeing a doctor,” Ms Gaske said.
“The ASU is looking to the Fair Work Commission making a decision that ensures wages not only keep up but provide Australian workers with the security they deserve and, going by the record corporate profits we are seeing, that businesses can certainly afford.”