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The essentials of life

What I don't have

The Essentials of Life scale provides an indication of the level of deprivation experienced by the respondents’ household. The scale is a list of 26 items that Australians currently regard as essential to everyday life. It provides a way to measure the individual’s and children’s deprivation, as respondents indicated the essential items that they/their children did not have, and which of those they could not afford. Chart 13 provides the percentage responses of items, activities and opportunities that the respondents’ households could not afford and had to live without. Similarly, Chart 14 provides the percentage responses of essential children’s items, activities and opportunities that they could not afford, thus their children had to live without.

Results across the 20 items (Chart 13, page 16) indicate that people were substantially impacted by their level of income, and as a result, had to make significant adjustments to their standards of living, medical treatment and social and recreational activities. These findings are similar to those reported in ESIS 2013, indicating that the underlying causes of poverty for this group of people have not been resolved, thus had trapped them in entrenched deprivations.

Chart 13 The Essentials of life

Noting that 91 per cent of respondents are in receipt of a Centrelink income support payment, with 36 per cent on the Newstart Allowance which has the lowest payment rate (Chart 9), it is not surprising that the rate of deprivation amongst the survey cohort is so high. 

Limited economic resources continue to place significant restrictions on an individual’s capacity for fund risk mitigation measures such as savings and having insurances for home, contents and cars. Almost all of the respondents had limited or no savings up to $500 (91%), and majority of respondents did not have home contents (81%) or car insurance (66%) (1). This represents a limited capacity to respond when things go wrong. 

Limited economic resources also impact an individuals and family’s capacity to access services due to affordability. It is highly alarming that with 28 per cent of respondents on a Disability Support Pension and 4 per cent on the Aged Pension, almost one quarter of respondents were unable to afford medical treatment (24%) and over one third (34%) were unable to afford medications prescribed by their doctor. In addition, almost two thirds of respondents were unable to afford dental treatment (61%).

Corresponding with the previous section on social supports, 38 per cent of respondents reported being unable to afford regular social contact with other people and over half were unable to afford to give presents to family and friends (55%).

Again, as in previous years, respondents continue to report a lack of computer skills (39%), which in this technologically reliant era will leave them significantly disadvantaged in terms of education, employment and socially.

As in previous ESIS reports, the living standards of participants continue to be affected by limited economic resources. Twenty-nine per cent of respondents reported they did not have adequate housing, with almost a third reporting roofs and gutters that leak (33%), a quarter did not have furniture in reasonable condition (25%) and a third did not have secure locks on doors and / or windows (34%). Over a quarter could not heat or cool at least one room in their home (28%). Over a quarter of respondents could not afford one decent meal each day (26%).

1. The number represents the proportion of respondents that own a car who did not have car insurance because they could not afford it.