Everyone loves a good quiz, don’t they? So here’s your chance to impress your spouse, your neighbours and the family dog with EVERYTHING YOU KNOW ABOUT AUSTRALIA’S STANDARD OF LIVING and our contribution to FOREIGN AID!
1. Australia currently gives what percentage of our Gross National Income to foreign aid?
a) 5%- about five dollars in every $100
b) 2%- about two dollars in every $100
c) 0.35%- about 35 cents in every $100
d) I just glazed over looking at all those numbers, sorry
2. Which statement is true?
a) For most Australians, the cost of living is rising and incomes are not keeping pace with inflation
b) For most Australians, the cost of living is falling and everything is fine
c) For most Australians, the cost of living is no higher than it used to be in most areas and in real terms, incomes are higher than they used to be
d) Okay, again, the rising and falling just lost me. What’s the answer?
3. Which statement is true?
a) The average Australian household has more disposable income than it did 5 years ago
b) The average Australian household has less disposable income than it did 5 years ago
c) The average Australian household has about the same disposable income as 5 years ago
d) What’s a disposable income again?
a) The cost of clothing is about the same as it was 25 years ago
b) The cost of electrical goods and technology has fallen over the past 25 years
c) The amount we spend on food remains about the same as we did 25 years ago
d) I’m not sure. I’m beginning to feel less certain about impressing everyone now
5. The United Nations Human Development Index compares the quality of life or standard of living between countries. Where does Australia rank?
6. Australia is a very generous country in terms of our giving to Overseas Aid, ranking where on the scale of donors internationally?
d) Did you say ‘very generous’?
And now to the answers! (Drum roll please…)
Question one – the answer is c. Australia gives 0.35% of our Gross National Income to Foreign Aid which amounts to about 35c in $100. Doesn’t really seem like a great deal, does it?
Way back in 1970, the world’s richest countries committed themselves to giving 0.7% of GNI to foreign aid. Inching along the path, the Rudd Government in 2007 committed to increasing our commitment of foreign aid to .5% of GNI by 2015 (around 50c in $100- or did you do that maths by yourself already?) Still doesn’t sound like a great deal and it isn’t, really, although it still saves thousands of lives annually and ensures that children have access to clean water and education.
Question two – the answer is c. Australia’s cost of living, contrary to all the hype, isn’t spiralling out of control and a new report released by AMP Financial Services has the stats to prove it. While there are real hardships for some people in some areas, for the majority of Australians in real terms, the cost of living is about the same as it always has been. While there have been sharp rises in some blindingly obvious areas (housing, petrol and electricity) there have also been falls in others (technology being a major example.) The end result is that:
The answer to Question three is a! The average Australian household, taking everything into consideration, is actually better off by $224 per week than it was in 1984. Even the lowest income families have made increases in real terms. As already mentioned, while there are real price hikes in some areas, stable and falling prices on some goods as well as rising incomes tend to balance things out on the whole.
Unsurprisingly then, the answer to question four is ALL OF THE ABOVE! (That was just a tricky one to keep you on your toes.)
So why do we feel as though we are running behind the eightball? AMP financial services manager,Craig Meller, suggests: “Official statistics rarely back up the claim prices are out of control. Maybe it’s not the cost of living that’s soaring out of control, but rather our aspirational selves telling us we need more. Or because our lives have become so fast paced we need to spend more to keep up, be it on child care or education or other services.”
Most of you will probably not be that surprised to know that the answer to question five is b - we rank second in the world behind Norway on the UN Human Development Index with truly one of the highest standards of living in the world. Now that’s something to be grateful for! And individually, it seems we are. Australians are some of the most generous givers in the world, individually handing over more than $1billion in aid in 2010 through the work of non-profits. And a new report just released today by the UNICEF Australia Young Ambassadors declares that 74% of young people believe that we can afford to give more to foreign aid and should do so! So it seems strange that with this kind of groundswell support, the Government is considering cutting back its commitment on foreign aid just now…
Australia ranks a lowly 13th (yes, well done, that’s question six) amongst the world’s richest nations when it comes to our commitment to foreign aid, lagging behind the UK who have decided to keep their .5% target in place in spite of suffering domestic set backs in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis. Here at UnitingWorld, we’ve seen exactly what aid can achieve. We think it’s affordable. We think it’s right to keep our commitment. We think it’s what we’re called to do.
One of the most striking stories from the gospels is the one in Mark 12 where Jesus watches a parade of rich people pass by the treasury box in the temple, popping in their coins as an offering. In the wake of all the finery, a poor widow slips in just two small copper coins- a couple of cents in our terms.
Jesus, watching, calls his disciples to him. “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who have contributed before her. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had; all she had to live on.”
Doesn’t that make you sit up and take notice? As Australians, there’s not much argument that we can afford to support our neighbours from the wealth we’ve accumulated.
But here’s the sting- even if we felt we couldn’t afford it, we might just be called to do it anyway.