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Higher Pay, More Cars, Bigger Homes as Australians Evade Crisis

Higher Pay, More Cars, Bigger Homes as Australians Evade Crisis
A pedestrian walks past a Gucci Group NV store in Sydney, Australia. Photographer: Brendon Thorne/Bloomberg

Australians became richer, owned more cars and lived in larger homes in a five-year period spanning the world’s worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, according to a Census released today.

The proportion of households earning more than A$3,000 ($3,050) a week more than doubled from 2006 to 11 percent, according to data from the 2011 Census, which showed the population climbed 8.3 percent to 21.5 million. Households with three or more cars rose to 17 percent from 15 percent, while homes with at least four bedrooms increased to 30 percent.

Australia hasn’t slipped into a recession for two decades, with growth now powered by the biggest resource boom since the Gold Rush of the 1850s. The latest bonanza -- led by demand from Asia for iron ore, coal and natural gas -- is bringing about A$500 billion of investment, helping keep unemployment at 5.1 percent, versus 5.2 percent in 2006. The jobless rate in the U.S. is 8.2 percent and in the euro area it’s 11 percent.

“We’re the great story of the world economy,” said Tim Harcourt, a fellow in economics at the Australian School of Business in Sydney. “We suffer from not realizing how good we have it compared to the rest of the world.”

Australian consumer confidence in June stagnated near the lowest level this year amid concern about the domestic and global economic outlooks, according to the Westpac Banking Corp. and Melbourne Institute survey released last week.

The Census data also showed the number of divorcees climbed, the percentage of married people fell, and the proportion of single, male parents rose. The percentage of respondents who said they held no religion climbed to 22.3 percent of the population, and a smaller share of Australians did volunteer work.

Mandarin Tongue

Australia’s two-speed economy is divided between resource-rich regions in the north and west, and states in the south and east struggling to remain competitive as the local dollar’s surge hampers the competitiveness of manufacturing and tourism and drives shoppers online.

China is Australia’s biggest trading partner, and the Census reflected the shift in economic ties to Asia. Mandarin replaced Italian as the most-common language spoken at home after English. The proportion of the population born in India doubled to 1.4 percent, or 295,362 people, the biggest increase of the top five responses.

The proportion of people with both parents born overseas rose to 34 percent from 32 percent in 2006. Individuals with both parents born in Australia made up 54 percent of respondents.

Mining Boom

In Western Australia, responsible for 61 percent of the country’s mineral and energy exports last year, the population surged 14 percent. The median household weekly rent paid in the state soared 76 percent to A$300.

Nationwide, median household income jumped 20 percent to A$1,234 a week, the data showed. Adjusted for inflation, the gain over that period was 4.1 percent, a slower so-called real increase than the 14 percent jump from the 2001 to 2006 censuses, according to Bloomberg calculations using a price formula on the central bank’s website.

The median monthly mortgage payment in 2011 surged to A$1,800 from A$1,300 in 2006, and the median weekly rent jumped to A$285 from A$190, the Census showed. That increased the proportion of households parting with more than 30 percent of their income on either rent or mortgage payments.

The proportion of people who consider themselves of Australian ancestry, the most popular answer in the 2006 Census, was displaced by those choosing English, according to the data.

The number of Australians in their 60s rose to 9.9 percent of the population in 2011, from 8.6 percent, the data showed.

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