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Quality of Life in Australia

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Quality-of-life reviews are usually packed with objective numbers, but in Australia’s case, we can start from a very subjective and happy note: Australia is the planet’s happiest developed nation according to the research called Better Life Index by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. During 4 consecutive years, the Australians prove their full satisfaction with the quality of their lives, which embraces such factors as the healthcare, political environment, housing, cohesion of the community, employment, safety, and many others.

For the quality of life, Australia was ranked #2 among 187 nations in the Human Development Report presented in 2014 by United Nations. The country yields only to Norway, an old leader of life quality rankings. In case with Australia, not the level of income played the key role in figuring the quality-of-life index (the country is only 19th for the GNI per capita), but its remarkable performance in education and life expectancy. The Australians are expected to live 2 years longer (82 years) than the Organization’s average. Except that, the Aussies are devoted voters (turnout of voters is 93%) boasting high civic consciousness.

Australia’s Quality of Life Rankings

  • #1 in the Better Life Index by the Organization for Economic
  • Cooperation and Development (2013).
  • #2 in the Human Development Report by the United Nations (2014).
  • #3 in the world for long life expectancy (Global Burden of Disease research, 2013).

Mind-set & Community

Australia is a migrant-fueled country that is home to 23-million population and shelter to over 6 millions of immigrants. It is a true melting pot of cultures where you have a chance to meet nationals from all across the globe who are devoted to their new home. Australia’s culture absorbed values of many Asian countries and, of course, the Great Britain. Although it has only one national language – English – up to 200 foreign languages (including Indigenous ones) can be heard here. Australians prefer informal English even in work; however, in physical contact, they are as conservative (a handshake rather than a hug) as the British nation.

An average Aussie lives in a city (not in the rural outback as the stereotype says), spends lots of time outdoors (the weather is very kind) and adores sports (Australia is in the top 10 in Olympic Games) and healthy and fresh food (mostly fish and vegetables).

As the survey shows, the Australians are satisfied with their lives: they rated their life as 7.3 (out of 10) while the OECD’s average was 6.6. Of course, it’s easy to be satisfied when everything works well in the country; however happiness is not about the things, but about how we see them. The Australians have built a very cohesive community: 92 of them said they had someone they could rely on at harsh times (OECD’s average is 88%).

Australia has one of the world’s highest turnout of voters (taking into account democratic countries, not totalitarian ones) – 93% – while OECD’s average is 68%. Such effect cannot be called “natural” as turnout is enforced rather than encouraged in Australia, but still the percentage of active voters proves a high level of civic engagement and the fact that the Australian political system is efficient and meets the needs of a very large number of voters.

Healthcare

Long life expectancy is one of the most conspicuous factors of the health care system’s good performance. The Australians live approximately 2 years longer (82) than an average national of United Nations (80). Taking into account that Australia’s health expenditure is one of the lowest among top-tier countries, it means that the money is being distributed effectively. The national health care system greatly depends on funds of individuals; that is why Australia’s health expenditure by households is remarkably higher than that of the UK and almost equal to that of the USA.

Of course, the effectiveness of the healthcare is defined not only by spending, but also by such factors as lifestyle, environment, education, standards, and so on. Being one of the most competitive on our planet, Australia’s health care faces the same problems as other developed countries: chronic diseases (cancer, diabetes, and heart disease), and aging of the population.

Affordability of the healthcare services is achieved through the national universal healthcare scheme called Medicare (set up in 1984). Working individuals (citizens and residents) build up the Medicare’s fund by paying a special levy equal to 2% of their taxable income (people with low incomes are exempt). Top earners who don’t reckon on private insurances ought to pay additional 1 percent to the fund. The accumulated funds are used for providing subsidies for treatment in public health care facilities; however, the state gives more anyway. Australian citizens get almost 100% coverage for in-patient treatments and almost ¾ coverage for the primary health care (general practitioners). Private top-up insurances effectively cover the lack. The government collaborates with private insurers to provide reimbursements to premium policyholders: 30% and more (older patients get bigger rebates).

National health department works on health awareness and simplifying collecting, maintaining, and controlling personal medical information. Everyone can have an account in the eHealth Record – governmental secure online storage of health data – where the patient’s medical records (diagnosed diseases, treatment, immunisation, results of laboratory analyses, physical characteristics, and so on) are being collected. Such database simplifies access to personal information, prevents loss of valuable data, saves time and fosters patients’ responsibility and self-organization.

Education

Educational expenditure isn’t high in Australia, but still the country’s educational performance is remarkable. According to the OECD, local education scored 6.6 out of 10. Being home to 8 out of 100 world’s best universities and 5 out of 30 planet’s best student cities, Australia is among 5 premium educational destinations in the world. Annually, the government invests over 200 million USD in building up the prestige of country’s international scholarship. Australia is a powerful educational hub that provides high-quality education options not only for locals but also for thousands of international students mostly arriving from the neighbouring countries of Asia Pacific.

The Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) estimated Australia’s reading as the 6th, science as the 7th, and math as the 9th in the world back in 2009. Pearson, a company that is specialised in education, ranked education in AU as 13th best in the world. The country has developed its national curriculum that is going to be adopted by all educational facilities soon.

The number of the Nobel Prize laureates is a sure indicator of how much education is valued in the country. Australia boasts 15 laureates and participation in world’s most beneficial innovations. Such things as Wi-Fi, penicillin, ultrasound, black box recorders for airplanes were given the world by Australian geniuses.

The country is home to 43 tertiary educational institutions (2 of which are international, and only 1 is private). The Australian National University, Universities of Melbourne and Sydney, and the University of Queensland are among the best of them. These universities are located on the highly-populated coastal strips, and the maximum concentration of people holding tertiary educational qualifications (9.7%) is here of course. On the rest of the territory, the percentage of people having tertiary education is as low as 0.5%.

Environment

Being a top-tier nation, Australia isn’t very active in environmental programs. As a huge and low-populated country, Australia isn’t too obsessed with fighting for clean energy and other natural resources it has in abundance. The Australians are world’s 3rd for high CO2 emissions per capita; however, its level of particle air pollution (tiny particles that can be inhaled and cause lungs damage) in urban regions is lower (13 mcg/m³) than the average of the OECD (20 mcg/m³). As all developed nations, Australia faces a need in expanding its transportation and manufacturing facilities in urban areas which, of course, along with growing population in these areas will impact the air quality badly.

But Australia’s natural resources aren’t as unlimited as it may seem. The Worldwide Fund for Nature reports that deforestation in Australia leads to increasing salinity of the soil and badly impacts the water quality. Overgrazing and extensive agriculture led the land to loss of over 13% of its original vegetation. At the same time, the country is invaded by previously unknown weeds and pests.

You must have heard that Australia is home to lots of dangerous creatures such as for example, stonefish and box jellyfish whose stings cause agonizing pain and even death or a blue ring octopus whose venom has no antidote. Spiders and snakes are among other dreads tourists are usually repelled by from the exotic Australia. In a nutshell, Australia’s fauna is more dangerous, and you don’t have to visit a zoo to encounter somebody or something really hair-raising, for example, a funnel web spider. But at the same time, Australia’s nature is overwhelmingly mesmerising.

Employment & Earnings

Australia is one of the world’s top employment destinations. Low unemployment rate, advanced governmental nomination programs, efficient legislation and high salaries are reasons that attract hordes of migrants from both top-tier and developing countries. Percentage of manpower that has been unemployed for more than a year is 1% in Australia (compare with the OECD’s average of 2.8%). In average, the Australians earn 50.1k USD a year while the OECD’s average is slightly bigger than 36k USD. However, there is a huge difference between the income of the top 20% employees and the income of bottom 20% ones: almost 64k USD and over 28k USD accordingly. Household spending per capita reaches 31.5k USD a year.

There are lots of ways to migrate to Australia and dozens of visas available. For easiness, every possible scheme of relocation gets its own number (for example, visa 457, 189, or 190). The visa is selected depending on your situation: whether you need a temporary or a permanent visa; whether you have sponsorship of a certain employer/relative or not, and so on. It is possible to claim the permanent residence eventually; however, it is a complex and long process that requires wise strategizing and fulfilling lots of criteria. It is still possible to avoid stringent demands if there is a company that is willing to hire and nominate you as important to their business. With such a protection, a foreigner can immigrate down under using the Employer Nominated Scheme and get the PR easier.

The government has developed a skilled migration plan that unfolds “skills in demand” for every particular territory in AU. A foreign employee should familiarise themself with the plan before submitting their interest in a particular occupation using the state’s system SkillSelect.

What are the most booming and prospective sectors of the Australian economy? Engineering, construction, gas, mining, oil, renewable energy, and infrastructure are niches that are, without doubt, prestigious and well-paid. In Queensland and Western Australia – areas specialised in these industries – the skill shortage is enormous, and, therefore, talented and well-educated English-speaking foreigners are selling like hot cakes. The only minus of these jobs is that they might require spending lots of time in remote areas.

The Australians respect their rest: they prefer to work more intensively but during shorter hours. Weekends start on Fridays in the afternoon, and the holidays are dead seasons down under: for example, in winter, the Aussies “go into hibernation” before Christmas and brisk up the work in only in a month or so.

Infrastructure

The fact is that connectivity defines the quality of our lives. Australia has an efficient and high-end infrastructure system; however, it is being challenged by the population growth in such giant cities as Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne, and Perth. The population in these booming areas is expected to double in the next couple of decades; however, the infrastructure doesn’t build up itself with the same tempo. Times spent at the wheel are expected to increase by 20% by the year 2031.

Australia’s today task in infrastructure is to harmonize its connectivity between highly-urbanized and underused territories, unload congested roads by introducing public transport options and build up efficient “transit oriented developments” (TODs). For this goal, urban and suburban territories must be efficienltly planned in order to switch people from using private vehicles over to effective public transport. Such planning already effectively works in many developed urban countries that face the issue of growing population.

Melbourne is exemplary infrastructure hub. It is home to Australia’s only round-the-clock and at the same time the largest airport serving more than 32 direct destinations worldwide. In the years 2014 and 2015, it let through over 30 million passengers. The Australia’s most high-end, largest, and busiest port is located also here. As planned by the government of Victoria, the Melbourne’s Metro Rail will soon be improved and expanded in order to achieve better connectivity between the city centre, university, and healthcare district in the north of the city.

Australia is ambitious for becoming an international business hub, and this task requires excellent digital infrastructure. The country makes consistent investments in order to stay competitive in the most cutting-edge business cloud computing technologies using advanced networks of submarine optic cables and satellites.

Housing

Having comfortable dwelling conditions and a reliable roof above your head is an important component of well-being and is, of course, reckoned among the life quality components. So is a house a safe place for an Aussie where they can relax and raise their families with a peace of mind?

Housing in Australia is a costly option: although the salaries have doubled during years 1985-2004, prices for houses increased approximately fourfold. Owning a property down under is affordable only for top-earners. The government sticks the policy of restraining new construction undertakings in order to keep the prices for the existing housing high. Here, approximately 20% of your disposable income has to be spent on housing, and it is more than the OECD’s average (18%). For example, renting a dwelling down under will cost you 10% higher than in the UK. Sometimes, families with lower incomes have challenges with finding suitable and affordable dwelling in Australia which can cause continuous stress.

Australia was the world’s 2nd best property market back in 2009, and the global downturn didn’t affect this situation dramatically. The market remained steady and vivid thanks to the mining boom that had an epicentre in the Western Australia. Prices for housing vary depending on the location (as mentioned before, huge Australia has lots of outbacks where housing will be much cheaper), but in general, the average price in urban areas ranges from 350k to 550k Australian dollars. The issue is that it is not always possible to shift deeper to the outback: infrastructure is worse there, plus you need to work somewhere. Living in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane will cost you much more.

If you are interested in purchasing property down under, you can do it in 3 popular ways: open sales, private sales, or an auction. The latter option is very popular in AU making up to 50% of all house sell deals. The government encourages ownership and rewards first time buyers with grants worth 7k AUD. Please, bear in mind that buying a house is subject to the Stamp Duty tax which is calculated depending on the property’s value, its location, the type of property, and so on.

Renting is a very popular option in AU: there are people who prefer renting a house instead of buying it even if they have means to buy. This, however, complicates the situation for those people who don’t have such a choice. In Australia, property is usually let on lease unfurnished. Contracts are usually concluded for 12 months, and breaking them isn’t recommended because of a high cost of the procedure.

Goods: Availability and Affordability

When talking about prices in Australia, it is easy to get puzzled. It would be wrong to convert Australian price into your native currency and compare this way because depending on how strong or weak your currency against the Australian dollar is, the perception will be different. You should compare Australian prices with Australian money, and as the salaries are usually high down under, prices for food and other goods also seem moderate.

The urban areas are dotted with supermarkets and smaller specialty shops. 2 biggest food supermarkets are Woolworths and Coles. You can save a lot on food if you buy items with a label “Quick sale”, but you must consume them quickly as the expiry date is today or tomorrow. Prices for seasonal foods can float depending on weather (natural disasters). Normal Aussies get dressed in the stores called Target, Kmart, and Big W. Clothes are said to be “downmarket” if compared with the UK. Entertainment and dining in restaurants are said to be cheaper than in most developed countries.

Conclusion

Every country has its dark and light sides. Requirements for the quality of life rise, and Australia has lots of great values to offer you: calm and politically stable society, warm weather, relaxed lifestyle, premium healthcare, and decent salaries. And although there are things you must learn to work out here (like affordable housing), they are perfectly balanced with superb employment opportunities. Australia might be the right place for your talents and expertise if you are able to satisfy the skill demand and speak value to the state.

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