How can we ensure future generations have a better standard of living than us?

What’s the problem?

We can take for granted our high standard of living in Australia but it isn’t necessarily guaranteed for the future. Indicators such as income growth and the cost of living are used to measure standard of living. These are relatively limited economic measures.

According to ABS research, Australians are thinking long-term about their future. They want an economy that meets the needs of Australians today without compromising the needs of future generations.

This means sustaining resources, services and infrastructure that underpin social functioning, and protecting, managing and using these sustainably. It also means finding solutions to economic, social and environmental challenges.

Taking the usual standard of living measures, the results are different for different socioeconomic groups in Australia.

Seven things you need to know

  • Living standards have increased in Australia over the past 10 years however, that growth was not shared evenly. Growth in living standards of the top 20 per cent grew by around 22.1 per cent while the bottom 20 per cent grew by just 13.8 per cent.

  • Due to national and global economic challenges, the gains for the next ten years are expected to be significantly lower than the previous ten years.

  • Through to 2024, low income families are expected to have lower living standards than today by around 3 per cent.

  • Looking ahead, confidence in our way of life continuing is not high. In 2015, a four-nation study of more than 2000 people in the US, UK, Canada and Australia found that 54% of people surveyed rated the risk of our way of life ending within the next 100 years at 50% or greater.

  • Incredibly, almost one in four (24%) rated the risk of humans being wiped out within a century at 50% or greater.

  • The same study found that a large majority (78%) agreed “we need to transform our worldview and way of life if we are to create a better future for the world”.

  • According to the study authors (Randle & Eckersley, 2015), surveys such as this reveal widespread public pessimism about the future of the world, at least in Western countries. This includes a common perception of declining quality of life and that future generations will be worse off.

Solve challenges to shape Australia's tomorrow