Critical services // Institutions

Half of NSW residents don’t feel benefits of economic growth

Most NSW residents share the views of other Australians that they have not personally gained from Australia’s record run of economic growth, according to results from CEDA’s Community Pulse 2018: the economic disconnect. 

Releasing the NSW state results in Sydney, CEDA Chief Executive Officer Melinda Cilento said just over half of NSW respondents – 53 per cent – do not think they have gained or do not know if they have gained personally or not. 

However, NSW residents were slightly more likely to feel like they have gained a little or a lot (47 per cent compared to 45 per cent nationally). 

Community pulse 2018: the economic disconnect surveyed 3000 people across Australia to determine the issues most important to them and how connected they are to economic growth. 

Ms Cilento said the number of people surveyed in each state allow meaningful conclusions to be drawn at national and state levels. 

“When we asked people who they felt that had gained from 26 years of uninterrupted economic growth, just five per cent nationwide thought they gained a lot,” Ms Cilento said.  

“What this tells you is that the majority of people in Australia, when asked don’t feel that they personally have gained from this world record breaking run of uninterrupted economic growth.” 

She said the biggest winners of economic growth were seen as large corporations and their senior executives.

In addition, she said, one in three Australians reported finding it difficult or very difficult to live on their current incomes. 

“The simple message that we took from this is that this narrative that growth equals prosperity, this narrative that we should pursue growth and we should pursue reforms that underpin growth because it’s in everyone’s best interest is not a narrative that’s cutting through in any way with the wider community,” Ms Cilento said.  

“I think what this survey tells you is that these people are living an experience that sits beneath the headline numbers… Underneath those headline numbers per capita GDP has been pretty flat, wages growth has been flat, and cost of living is rising. 

“Economic growth is just a proxy for what it delivers to people in terms of their quality of life. And it hasn’t delivered to them right here and right now.”

Ms Cilento said when asked what mattered most to them at a personal level there was little surprise that people were most concerned with their health and safety and having a roof over their head. 

At a personal level, respondents ranked reliable, low cost basic health services; reliable, low cost essential services; access to stable and affordable housing; affordable, high quality chronic disease services; and reduced violence in homes and communities as the top five issues of importance. In addition, NSW residents placed a high priority on mental health services. 

When asked to think about the future of the country, Ms Cilento said results were again nationally consistent. High quality and accessible public hospitals; strong regulation to limit foreign ownership of Australian land/assets; increased pension payments; high quality and choice of aged care services; and high quality and accessible public schools were ranked as the most important issues. 

NSW survey respondents also considered protection of national parks and wildlife as important, in line with Queensland respondents. 

“We concluded from this that the compact between community and government remains really important,” Ms Cilento said. 

She said the most compelling story was the one around health. 

“People care about basic health care and they want it delivered through the public system,” she said. 

Ms Cilento said, on the whole, Australians are pretty satisfied with work conditions, pay and levels of job satisfaction. Not surprisingly, levels of job satisfaction increased with levels of job security. 

There was, however, some dissatisfaction with flexibility to work from home and this was particularly of concern to younger workers.   

“If you look at the future challenges we face as a country a lot of those challenges are going to involve new ways of doing things,” Ms Cilento said. 

“If we’re going to drive a reform agenda that’s going to bring the community with us they need to be engaged in all those conversations and they need to have the certainty that outcomes will be delivered to get them to support that,” she said.

She said productivity is another concept not resonating with the broader community.

“Most people don’t think that productivity has delivered them what they want. They think it’s delivered them less certainty, longer working hours and less pay.” 

“Where we need to get to is a place where we are talking about prosperity in a way which aligns with community expectations and we better connect economic growth and economic opportunity to the benefits that the community desires and actually receives.”  

Following Ms Cilento’s presentation, she took part in a panel discussion on the issues raised in Community pulse 2018: the economic disconnect with Committee for Sydney Chair, Michael Rose AM and Transurban, Virgin Australia and Mirvac Non-Executive Director, Sam Mostyn.

Melinda Cilento speech | MP3
Chief Executive Officer, CEDA

Panel Discussion | MP3

Q&A | MP3