Do you earn $600 a week or more? We have some good news for you. You currently have all you need to be happy.
That’s according to research by the University of Sydney which calculated the minimum income for single men and women to not just survive, but live happily and healthily. It’s based on research originally developed by public health researchers in the UK and catchily called the Minimum Income for Healthy Living (MIHL).
The researchers wanted to look beyond the income it takes to reach a minimum standard of living and factor in things in life that you can technically live without, but make a life a lot better – and the person living it, a lot happier.
So in the report, New Minimum Income for Healthy Living Budget Standards for Low-Paid and Unemployed Australians, they factored in money for social outings and exercise, as well as food, clothing, medications, transport and toiletries.
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They found that what they dubbed the “new weekly low-paid budget standards” for working single men and women was $597 per week and $1,173 for a couple with two children – specifically a six-year-old girl and a 10-year-old boy. If the single adults or parents were unemployed this dropped to $433 for singles and $940 for a family.
So where does the money go? Well, for working singles a whopping $315 was allocated to housing costs, with an average of $79 per week factored in for the buying of furniture and other household goods. The rest was divvied up between your essentials and $29 for recreation (going out for dinner, movie tickets ect). (See table below.)
It’s not an exact science of course. For one thing, the adults used for this calculation were assumed to be between 35 and 40. (A millennial might go through that $29 for social outings in two drinks, just saying.) It also points out that when more than 30 per cent of your income is going to rent you are in what is called “housing stress” which isn’t the happiest place to be. And that’s why this number is the minimum income needed to reach the minimum standard.
The university used its research to show that Australia's current Newstart allowance leaves unemployed adults $96 shot of reaching their MIHL standard, and unemployed families down $126, and called for it to be "immediately raised".
Chief investigator, University of Sydney's Professor Peter Saunders said that Newstart could better meet Australians needs if it was determined in a similar way to the minimum wage - by an independent body, so rising costs were better factored in.