Media Release

Cost of living pressures to determine Australian election outcome

Stagnant wages have robbed Australians of between $270-$680 a fortnight in lost income over the past 10 years, underscoring the current cost-of-living crisis facing many Australians, according to analysis by UnitingCare Australia.

Launching its 2022 Australian Election Policy Platform, UnitingCare Australia analysed the lost income across each of Australia’s 151 federal electorates from lower than usual wage increases of only 2.5 per cent between 2012-2022, compared to 4.5 per cent in the five years before that.

The analysis found that workers are between $70,200 and $176,800 worse off over the last 10 years than under the longer-term wage growth average.

UnitingCare Australia national director Claerwen Little said cost of living pressures were the primary issue facing many Australians entering the forthcoming campaign period.

“Aspirations for shared prosperity in Australia are unravelling under the sustained, twin trends of weak wages growth and rising asset prices,” Ms Little said.

“The lottery of birth place and circumstance have never been more important in the creation of wealth in the 21st century, while our skills and effort at work have never been less relevant.

“Our analysis shows the cost of annual wages growth of only 2.5 per cent over the last decade, compared to 4.5 per cent in earlier years, amounts to lost income of between $270 and $680 per fortnight across Australia.

“Over 10 years this equates to between $70,000 and $176,000 – or the cost of a housing deposit in most areas of Australia.

“Low wages growth has put a cap on improved living standards for millions of Australian wage earners, at a time when national prosperity has been rising sharply.

“We urge the incoming Australian Government to launch a Productivity Commission Inquiry into the causes of this stagnant income, and suggest fresh approaches to fixing the problem.

“In this way, the future Australian Parliament can make a determined and focused attempt to lift incomes for Australia’s 13.2 million workers, many of whom have seen their lifestyles diminish in the last 10 years.”

“This Inquiry will provide decision makers with the tools to drive sustainable wage growth, and also consider the tax system and highlight the social and economic inequity caused by our indefensibly low JobSeeker payment.”

UnitingCare Australia is one of the most influential social services organisations in the country, providing more than $5 billion in support to more than 1.3 million Australians every year.

It employs 50,000 workers, with a further 30,000 volunteers, across 1,600 sites throughout Australia, making it one of the nation’s largest employers.

It provides services to children, young people and families, those with disabilities, older Australians, including residential and community care, child care, homelessness prevention and support, domestic violence and disability services – in both urban and rural areas.

UnitingCare Australia has released three policy priorities, costing $4.71 billion, it believes each political party should adopt at the coming election.

UnitingCare Australia examined the impact of each policy priority on each of the 151 Federal electorates and found they could help determine the result of the forthcoming Australian election.

Aged care

More than 4.1 million Australians, or almost 16 per cent of the population, are currently over the age of 65 2057, that will rise to 8.8 million, or 22 per cent of the population, and by 2097 it will reach 12.8 million people, or one in four Australians.

Of these 4.1 million people, about 1.3 million currently receive some form of government subsidised aged care.

About 80 per cent, or 1 million people, remain in their own homes and receive a range of occasional or regular visits from nurses and other support staff. Most of the remaining 20 per cent, or 245,000 people, have greater needs and live in government-subsidised residential aged care communal homes with 24-hour onsite care.

However, aged care workers are currently paid as little as $23 per hour, making it increasingly difficult to attract and retain high quality carers to look after older Australians who need support.

Of the 30 seats in Parliament with the greatest percentage of older Australians, 18 are held by the Liberal/National parties, making aged care a critical issue for the re-election of the Morrison Government. The remaining 12 are held by Labor.

Paid superannuation for parental leave

Of the 30 seats with the largest proportion of women aged 20-44, 21 are held by Labor – making superannuation for those in the child-rearing years a key election issue for the ALP and their constituents. The remaining nine are held by either the Liberal or National Parties.

Fixing stagnant wages

Of the 30 seats with the highest financial loss from stagnant wage growth over the last decade, 15 are held by the Liberal/National Party Coalition, 13 are held by Labor and two are held by Independents (Warringah in Sydney and Jajajaga in Victoria).


Fixing stagnant wages Increasing aged care wages Paid super on parental leave
No. of seats % of seats in Parliament % of the top 30 income loss seats Should lost income be an issue in this state? % of the 30 oldest seats Should age care be an issue in this state? % of the 30 seats with highest no. of women 20-44 Should paid parental leave be an issue in this state?
NSW 47 31.1% 50.0% Over-represented 33.3% Over-represented 23.3% Under-represented
VIC 39 25.8% 16.7% Under-represented 23.3% Under-represented 33.3% Over-represented
QLD 30 19.9% 16.7% Under-represented 13.3% Under-represented 20.0% Fairly represented
WA 15 9.9% 10.0% Fairly represented 6.7% Under-represented 10.0% Fairly represented
SA 10 6.6% 0.0% Under-represented 10.0% Over-represented 0.0% Under-represented
TAS 5 3.3% 0.0% Under-represented 13.3% Over-represented 0.0% Under-represented
NT 2 1.3% 0.0% Under-represented 0.0% Under-represented 6.7% Over-represented
ACT 3 2.0% 6.7% Over-represented 0.0% Under-represented 6.7% Over-represented
TOTAL 151 100.0% 100.0%   100.0%   100.0%  


State by state


Fixing stagnant wages and the future of aged care are likely to resonate strongly in NSW, which is over-represented with older electorates and communities who have lost the most financially over the last 10 years.


Victoria is the stand-out state in Australia for women in their child-rearing years, making paid superannuation for those on parental leave a ‘hot button’ issue there.


Queensland has eight seats held by a margin of less than five per cent – Dickson (LIB – Peter Dutton), Lilley (ALP – Anika Wells), Moreton (ALP – Graham Perrett), Griffith (ALP – Terri Butler), Brisbane (LIB – Trevor Evans), Longman (LIB – Terry Young), Leichhardt (LIB – Warren Entsch), and Blair (ALP – Shayne Neumann).

The most pressing issue will be paid superannuation for parental leave as Queensland holds six of the top 30 Australian electorates containing women aged 20-44.

Western Australia

Despite the resources boom in recent years, not all electorates have enjoyed equal spoils. With a clutch of marginal seats in Western Australia, with expected volatile voter decision-making, incumbent Members of Parliament will be sensitive to issues where some sections of the community have been treated poorly over the last decade.

Western Australia contains three of the top 30 seats with women aged 20-44 and three of the top 30 seats where voters’ incomes have stagnated the most.

South Australia and Tasmania

South Australia and Tasmania have some of the ‘oldest’ electorates in Australia. The key in those states will be ensuring aged care is sustainable by offering aged care workers a fair pay packet to ensure the system does not collapse in coming years.

Northern Territory and the Australian Capital Territory

Australia’s two territories attract large numbers of working age residents, including women. Both are over-represented with women aged 20-44, making paid superannuation on parental leave a key issue in four seats.