Australian Bureau of Statistics

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Why Australia’s not as expensive as you hear

4:55AM | Friday, 26 April

On Wednesday, the Australian Bureau of Statistics released the latest update on its quarterly inflation gauge, the consumer price index.   Consumer Price Index figures tend to overestimate inflation because they assume people keep buying the same thing in the same quantities even as it gets more expensive. But no one’s got much incentive to do that this year. Inflation’s only risen 2.4% all up, and has slowed to 0.4% this quarter.   The Reserve Bank of Australia aims for an inflation figure between 2-3%, which means we’re comfortably in the safe zone.   You wouldn’t know that from some of the headlines we’ve read.   A report released by Deutsche Bank got a wide run in the media this week. It showed, supposedly, that Australia was the equal most-expensive developed country in the world (tied with Japan).   It’s not the first such report to show this. Only last month, the Economist Intelligence Unit said Sydney was the third most expensive city in the world, and Melbourne the fifth.   But don’t believe the headlines. There’s something profoundly disingenuous about the way these indexes are reported on.   They’re intended to be useful for multinational corporations thinking about where it’s cheapest to send their staff. A large company expanding into Belgium, for example, wants to know how much it’ll have to cough up to set up an executive in relative comfort there.   Such surveys don’t take into account average wages in Australia, which determine whether or not people afford the high prices. They just take the price of various things, convert to US dollars, and compare. It’s not a complicated or nuanced analysis – you could do it in a few hours if you wanted to. But given the way journalists report on these things, it’s free publicity, so hey, why not.   With a high Australian dollar, it’s no wonder Australian goods come up expensive on such surveys.   I’m not saying these surveys are useless. For multinational corporations typically earning money in American dollars anyway, they serve a purpose.   But they mean nothing to Australians who live and earn in Australian dollars.   The only reason we’re more expensive than other countries is because we have more money: our economy is at its long-run average and our currency is near record highs. Unemployment is low, as are interest rates. We can afford to spend a bit more, and we do. And our high currency, while it makes things more expensive for multinationals expanding here and gives our exporters some grief, actually makes things cheaper for us to buy things off the internet, and so helps keep inflation down.   If you were in the United States, the cheapest place in the developed world according to Deutsche Bank, your business would be struggling, if you’re not entirely out of work. But, yes, food and accommodation would be cheaper.   Australia’s not expensive for us. And it isn’t getting that way either.   This story first appeared on SmartCompany.

Five industries cashing in on Australia’s soaring divorce rate

4:36AM | Wednesday, 24 April

Legal services, counselling and childcare are just a few of the industries cashing in on Australia’s increasing divorce rate, according to IBISWorld, suggesting there are opportunities for start-ups.   According to IBISWorld, the number of divorces in Australia increased by 8.7% over the past five years – from 47,209 in 2008 to 51,311 in 2013.   Over this period, the total cost of divorce in Australia rose by 13.5% to $184.1 million, while the total cost of contested divorce rose by 14.7% to $155.5 million.   According to IBISWorld general manager Karen Dobie, the average cost of a divorce sits at almost $3600 per couple, while the average cost of a contested divorce is just under $10,000.   Here are the industries cashing in:   Personal legal services   According to IBISWorld, divorce accounts for about 6% of Australia’s personal legal services industry – generating $185 million in revenue each year. “The complexities of divorces – involving the division of assets and the care of children or loved ones – means individuals are inclined to seek the advice of lawyers,” Dobie said in a statement.   “Key services provided by firms specialising in family law include the provision of advice, litigation, alternative dispute resolution and arbitration.”   Counselling   “Making the decision to separate or divorce is often an emotional one. Prior to making the decision, couples may seek marriage counselling,” Dobie said.   “And during or after the process, a growing number of individuals are seeking out help and support from professional counselling services.”   In 2012-13, individual and family support services are anticipated to account for $1.9 billion, or 21.1%, of the personal welfare services industry.   Childcare and babysitting services   The transition from a two-parent to a sole-parent, single-income household can often result in the need to work additional hours and greater difficulties in juggling childcare, IBISWorld said.   This benefits childcare and babysitting services, which are expected to generate revenue of $10.3 billion and $175.2 million respectively in 2012-13.   Online dating   “Over the past five years, online dating has boomed in popularity, particularly among divorcees, resulting in a growing number of sites specialising in getting Aussies back in the game post-split,” Dobie said.   Wedding services   “The increasing number of divorces has resulted in increased takings for Australia’s weddings industry – with about 30% of all marriages involving at least one divorcee,” Dobie said.   “Remarriages, particularly those involving two divorcees, tend to be more subdued affairs – with the big church wedding and sit-down reception often being replaced by a garden setting, celebrant and good-quality catering company.”   Australia’s increasing divorce rate isn’t the only demographic change occurring.   A report recently released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows the number of people working as independent contractors in Australia decreased over the last two years.   In November 2012, almost 980,000 employed people were independent contractors in their main job.   There were 47,000 fewer independent contractors than in November 2011, which was after a decline of 83,600 people between 2011 and 2010.   The industries with the highest proportion of independent contractors were construction (29%), and administrative and support services (21%).   According to census figures, the most common full-time job is technician and tradesperson in the construction industry. There are 333,298 people employed in the role and 99% of them are male.   However, the most common job in Australia is retail sales worker – there are 556,403 retail sales workers in the country and 68% of them are female.

Australia’s broadband future: The Labor and Coalition plans compared

4:48AM | Wednesday, 10 April

Above: Shadow communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull.   After months of general barbs aimed at the National Broadband Network, the federal Coalition has finally unveiled its alternative broadband vision for Australia.   Opposition Leader Tony Abbott and shadow communications spokesman Malcolm Turnbull (pictured above) said that the Coalition would provide “very fast broadband, sooner, cheaper” to the Australian public.   Turnbull said that the plan – which would provide 25 megabits per second, much slower than Labor’s alternative – was “consistent with the best practice around the world”.   However, Communications Minister Stephen Conroy said the Coalition plan “fails miserably” and only the NBN would provide the high-speed broadband Australian business and consumers need.   Despite the fact many Australian small businesses are lagging behind with their own web presence, economists have consistently pointed to the benefits of fast broadband.   Figures released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that consumers aren’t hanging around – there were 12.2 million internet subscribers in Australia at the end of December 2012, a 5% annual increase. There were a further mobile six million wireless broadband connections.   So how do the two plans stack up? StartupSmart explains all.   Labor’s plan What is it?   The National Broadband Network   How will it work?   Expected to roll out over the next 10 years, the NBN aims to hook up more than 3.5 million homes and businesses by the end of 2015, with the eventual goal of 100% coverage of high-speed broadband.   For 93% of Australians, the current copper network is to be completely replaced with optical fibre all the way from the exchange to the premises, a configuration called fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP).   The next 4% get fixed wireless connections, and the most remote 3% get satellite links. All this is being run by NBN Co, a wholly government-owned company, which will be sold after completion.   Last month, NBN Co admitted it was running three months behind schedule.   How fast will it be?   Up to 100 Mbps download and 40 Mbps upload.   What will it cost?   The government says $44 billion. The Coalition says more than $90 billion. Conroy says the Coalition figure is a “false claim”.   What they say about it   Nick Ross, ABC Technology: “Based on all the existing evidence, the Coalition's claims regarding the technology simply don't stand up to scrutiny. If for some reason it turns out they do, then they need to explain why just about every expert on the matter has got it so wrong.”   Conroy: "The only way NBN Co won't make a return is if the Coalition is elected."   Turnbull: “The NBN will continue to roll out but we will do so in a cost-effective manner, in particular in built-up areas."     The Coalition’s plan What is it?   Essentially, it is the same as the National Broadband Network, with a few significant tweaks.   How will it work?   The NBN rollout will essentially continue, but for most Australians, it will mean fibre-to-the-node (FTTN) – fibre from the exchange to kerbside cabinets no more than about 800 metres from customer premises, and using the existing copper for the last segment. Telstra’s copper network will be purchased for this purpose.   The Coalition policy document states: "Suburbs, regions, towns and business districts with the poorest services and greatest need for upgrades will receive first priority."   How fast will it be?   Slower than the NBN. There will be a download data rate of between 25 and 100 megabits per second by late 2016 and between 50 and 100 megabits per second by 2019.   What will it cost?   The Coalition has the plan costed at $29 billion including $20 billion of capital expenditure.   What they say about it   Stilgherrian, technology writer: “The Coalition's core point is that while FTTP can certainly deliver faster broadband, and is the technology for the long-term, they can deliver a clear improvement for more Australians sooner and cheaper by being more flexible.”   Turnbull: "[25 megabits per second] will enable anybody in residential situations to do everything they want to do or need to do in terms of applications and services, and is six times faster than the average speed people are getting right now.”   Conroy: "If you understand broadband, if you understand that it is being used for more applications that require more bandwidth every single day, then you know that Malcolm Turnbull's network is a fail.   "Malcolm Turnbull is going to build a one-lane Sydney Harbour Bridge because he says he can do it cheaper and faster."

Easter spending set to hit $3bn: Three key trends to get your teeth into

3:37PM | Wednesday, 27 March

Premium chocolate brands and craft beers are among the firm favourites for Easter this year, with Australians set to spend more than $3 billion opting for at-home celebrations over overseas getaways, according to a new report.   IBISWorld says that Australian consumers are opting for a “back to basics” Easter this year, with traditional celebrations at home taking precedence over overseas trips and restaurant meals.   Across the four-day Easter break, IBISWorld forecasts Australians will spend more than $3 billion, equating to $132.85 per capita – a slight increase on the $130.33 per capita Australians spent last year.   The findings are in line with the latest Roy Morgan Consumer Confidence rating, which shows consumer confidence is up to 122 points – 11.4 points higher than at the same time a year ago.   Here are some of the key trends and tips for Easter spending in 2013:   More discerning chocolate-lovers   In 2013, expenditure on chocolate and confectionery is expected to grow by 5.2% to reach $185.7 million.   However, many Australians will choose dark, organic chocolate over traditional favourites.   “Australians are becoming increasingly health conscious – a trend that has resulted in growing demand for low-fat and low-sugar treats,” says IBISWorld general manager Karen Dobie.   “Dark chocolate is expected to be a popular choice this Easter… Sustainability will also be on people’s minds, with fair trade chocolate tipped to be a favoured gift.”   In addition to dark and fair trade chocolates, Dobie anticipates consumers’ love of luxury will also come to the fore, with brands such as Lindt and Haigh’s enjoying increasing demand.   Seafood fare matched with a premium drop   Since many people plan on celebrating Easter at home, Dobie says supermarkets and butchers can expect a boost in spending on traditional barbeque fare, while fishmongers and liquor retailers will also do well.   IBISWorld anticipates fish and seafood expenditure to enjoy growth of around 4.9%, with seafood extending its popularity from Good Friday – when many Australians abstain from eating red meat – to Easter Sunday.   Meanwhile, alcohol spending is forecast to hit $137.6 million, with imported wines, cider and craft beers tipped as firm favourites.   Overall, IBISWorld anticipates food and beverage spending will reach $1.55 billion – a 3.6% increase on last year’s outlay.   Russell Zimmerman, executive director of the Australian Retailers Association, says food retailers need to think about how best to promote their products.   “If you’re a general store selling Easter bunnies, you should be predominantly displaying them,” Zimmerman says.   “There’s also an opportunity there to perhaps market your Easter bunnies with another product. It’s not just about Easter bunnies – it’s about doing something else to sell with it.   “Try and add that extra product in that you want to try and promote.”   Similarly, retail guru Debra Templar, of The Templar Group, says bag-stuffers are an ideal way to boost sales.   Domestic travel trumps overseas getaways   This year, IBISWorld forecasts Easter holiday and travel spending will grow by just 3.9%. However, domestic travel will be more popular than short breaks overseas.   “This year most of us will be limited to domestic destinations – using the break to visit family and friends rather than splurging on international trips,” Dobie says.   According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, Australians spent approximately 5% more on overseas travel during the past Christmas holidays than in 2011.   This suggests Australians will be reining in their spending during subsequent holiday periods, including Easter.   “Easter falling outside of the school holidays in some states will also have an impact on international travel,” says Dobie.

Female entrepreneurs hindered by lack of confidence, report suggests

3:36AM | Wednesday, 6 March

A lack of confidence and an “unconscious bias” could be holding back female entrepreneurs, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ latest Australian Social Trends report.

Five reasons to be cheerful about the economy

3:50AM | Friday, 15 March

Economic news has been largely doom and gloom over the past few years, but there are five reasons the Australian economy is moving toward happier days.

Tourism industry booms with Chinese New Year celebrations

3:53AM | Friday, 15 March

With Chinese New Year lunar festivals well underway, the early economic winners from the festivities include the Australian tourism industry, hotel and luxury retail sectors.

Unemployment rate remains steady but is set to weaken

3:56AM | Friday, 15 March

Australia’s unemployment rate remained steady at 5.4% in January, despite predictions it would rise, but NAB has warned the labour market will weaken as business conditions deteriorate.

Government urged to better support home-based businesses

3:27AM | Monday, 11 March

Leading ‘mumpreneur’ Cas McCullough has highlighted the struggles of home-based micro businesses ahead of International Work At Home Person Week, calling for more support from government and industry.

Leap in tourist numbers highlights potential of Asian Century

3:15AM | Friday, 15 March

Recent bushfires may have hampered parts of the Australian tourism industry, but new figures show foreign tourists are flocking to Australia in droves, suggesting start-ups can cash in.

Retailers rejoice over extended trading after November sales slide

3:14AM | Monday, 11 March

New retail sales figures show sales slid by 0.1% in November, but the December figures could see a significant turnaround after retailers sang the praises of extended trading hours.

Five major trends set to shape start-ups in 2013

12:38AM | Tuesday, 18 December

Australian consumers are predicted to spend around $12 billion on gifts this Christmas, hopefully allowing businesses to end what has, for many, been a tricky 2012 on a high note.

Want to boost your chance of start-up survival? Head to Tasmania

3:35AM | Monday, 11 March

Start-ups in Tasmania have a better survival rate than elsewhere in Australia, with the healthcare and social assistance sectors topping the list of safe industries, according to a new report.

THE NEWS WRAP: Australian women still missing from senior business positions: Study

3:41AM | Monday, 11 March

Australia is lagging other nations when it comes to the representation of women in senior business positions, according to a new study.

ABS figures reveal unexpected fall in unemployment

3:53AM | Monday, 11 March

Australia’s national unemployment rate fell 0.1% to 5.2% in November, contrary to expectations, with Victoria and NSW experiencing the biggest falls in jobless numbers.

Innovation secrets from Australia’s three most creative start-ups

12:00AM | Thursday, 6 December

Innovation is a concept that most start-ups instinctively want to embrace. But it’s not something that comes naturally to some entrepreneurs and is notoriously hard to measure.

Retail Food Group and Collins Foods franchises look to buck retail gloom

3:02AM | Monday, 11 March

Food franchise giants Retail Food Group and Collins Foods have painted a positive outlook for their brands, despite a recent fall in retail sales for cafés, restaurants and takeaway food services.

THE NEWS WRAP: RBA tipped to provide a pre-Christmas interest rate cut

3:04AM | Monday, 11 March

The Reserve Bank of Australia has been widely tipped by economists to provide a pre-Christmas interest rate cut today, amid continued concerns about the strength of the economy.

THE NEWS WRAP: Australian CEO turnover rate hits record level

3:12AM | Monday, 11 March

The turnover rate of Australia’s top CEOs has hit record levels since the GFC, with one in four leaders of our largest businesses reportedly losing their jobs last year.

Australia’s wealthiest suburbs revealed: The suburb with an average salary of $132,252

3:13AM | Monday, 11 March

Residents of ritzy Melbourne suburb Toorak are Australia’s highest wage earners, taking home an average estimated income of $132,252.

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