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Living Conditions in Australia
Australia is a sovereign country located “down under” in the Southern Hemisphere and is the largest country in Oceania which homes the Australia mainland continent, Tasmania and a variety of other small islands. Australia was first inhabited by indigenous Australians until the British arrived in the late 18th century where they then split the country into six colonies including New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania. These colonies eventually united to form the Commonwealth of Australia. Although Australia still lacks a growth in wages and salaries and has limited affordable housing, it has other highly developed aspects of living. These are the top 10 facts about living conditions in Australia.

10 Facts About Living Conditions in Australia

  1. Education is High-Quality – The average student scored a 502 in subjects such as reading literacy, math and sciences in the Programme for International Student Assessment, an impressive score above the OECD average of 486. The average Australian will spend 21 years in school compared to the OECD average of 17 years. Of note, 80 percent of adults have completed upper secondary education.
  2. Life Expectancy is Continuously Increasing – Thanks to improvements within the public health care sector and progressions in medical care, life expectancy is improving with a significant increase over the past few decades. Life expectancy stands at 83 years of age, three years higher than the average of 80 years in the Southern Hemisphere. Notably, the country provides mental health interventions and headspace centers to adolescents for a more healthy upbringing to decrease the number of suicides.
  3. Air Quality Ranks High – Australia’s government has taken drastic measures to reduce air pollution, implementing the National Clean Air Agreement. The country’s livability has increased and impacted health and produced a positive environment despite a few concerns of high peaking airborne pollutants in some cities.
  4. Water Quality is Sufficient in Some Areas – In urban areas, 90 percent of Australians have access to acceptable water quality but in the regional areas, only 70 percent of households have access to clean sources. Due to the continuous change in climate, local water utility companies have to make a few accommodations on account of quality resulting in some areas failing acceptable water standards, such as Southern and Western Australia.
  5. Home Affordability is Declining – In Australia, owning a home is a main priority, but the number of homeowners has had a significant decrease since the 1980s due to high interest rates and an increase in housing prices in areas like Sydney. Due to this, there is an increase in household renters from 26 percent to 31 percent.
  6. Wages and Salaries are Declining – Australia measures wages and salary by average weekly earnings. Since the mid-70s, there has been a decline in reported earnings because of higher tax brackets and an increase in unemployment rates which suppress wages. There are also more people who are willing to work part-time jobs versus full-time employment.
  7. Crimes are Increasing – There are more crimes being reported in Australia than before. This ultimately affects the standard of living considering people do not feel as safe and secure. Burglary and assault are the main crimes that have increased dramatically with robberies increasing from 23 to 113 per 1,000 people and assaults increased from 90 to 689 per thousand of the population. Communities are addressing crimes by implementing situational crime prevention interventions by strengthening locks and improving surveillance.
  8. The Economy is Growing – As one of the wealthiest Asian-Pacific countries, Australia is an attractive place for investment considering the government is helping with the entrepreneurial development. Australia’s economic freedom score is 80.9 making it the fifth highest in 2019 for factors such as labor freedom and trade freedom.
  9. Quality of Life is High – Australia’s HDI is the second highest in the world behind Norway. Because it is a liberal and democratic nation along with its warm climate, 43 percent of Australians aged 18 and over are mostly satisfied with their standard of living.
  10. High Poverty Rates for Children – In 2018, three million Australians were living below the poverty line of a 50 percent median income including 17.3 percent children. Those that are living deep in poverty are surviving with $135 less a week than the median income and are relying on Government Assistance payments.

Living conditions in Australia compared to the rest of the world rank high. Education is abundant and most Australians find their standards of living satisfying. However, these 10 facts of living conditions in Australia portray the need for improvement in water quality and poverty rates that are affecting the everyday lives of Australian citizens.

– Jessica Curney
Photo: Flickr

Education in Finland: A Model For Equality
Education in Finland is prestigious and public. After 40 years of education reform to propel the economy, Finland has created some of the finest students in the world. In 2000, they led in reading, in 2003, in math and in 2006, in science. Since 2009, they consistently rank at the top for each subject in the Programme for International Student Assessment.

Not only does education in Finland produce top tier students, but the country has also created an education system that works for everyone. About 93 percent of Finns graduate from high school, 17.5 percentage points higher than the US, and 66 percent go to college, the highest rate in the European Union. Yet, Finland spends 30 percent less on education than the US.

Even with their amazing achievements in education, however, Finland has not yet found a popular following in implementing similar policies within other countries. In Finland, there is only one standardized test, unlike the U.S. and many Asian countries, where standardized tests are taken every year to measure students. Science classes are capped at 16. In the U.S., however, poorer public school systems pack many students into underfunded science classes. Teachers are also required to have master’s degrees, which are fully subsidized by the government, while the U.S. expects a bachelor’s degree without providing subsidies.

Although Finland may strive for excellence in education, they primarily value equality, a value missing in many American and Asian education systems. Whereas gifted students are separated into higher level classes in the U.S., Finland keeps all students in the same classrooms, providing extra help to those who need it. There are no private schools in Finland as all schools are 100 percent publicly funded. Each student has equal access to free school meals, health care, psychological counseling and individual student guidance, regardless of socioeconomic background.

As opposed to the U.S., where a good education generally means sending your kids to private or charter schools if you can afford it, Finland provides an equal education for everyone. Rather than creating a market for certain individuals to buy the best quality education, Finland created the base of its education system to help everyone. As opposed to Asian cultures that stress constant studying and competition between students, Finland prioritizes the students’ learning desires and fostering cooperation. There are no rankings for best schools or students.

Among other factors, Finland also selectively chooses its teachers; there is a 7 percent acceptance rate in Helsinki, which encourages constant retraining for teachers, creates broad curriculum guidelines and focuses more on quality time in the classroom. Education in Finland is clearly more relaxed and equitable, yet they still consistently boast the best scores. Although expensive private schools and exhaustive studying may produce similar results, they are not the most efficient strategies for a both equitable and robust education system.

Henry Gao

Photo: Flickr