Life in the lucky country in 2020: Is Australia still a great place to live?

NAB’s annual pulse check of life in Australia confirms it is, with Australians in strong agreement that our country remains a great place to live.

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Is Australia still the lucky country? NAB’s annual pulse check of life in Australia confirms it is, with Australians in strong agreement that our country remains a great place to live. But, many are also fearful of the future, believing our enviable lifestyle will not last and that we lack a clear and shared vision for where we’re headed as a nation. Of concern, new research shows that most Australians don’t believe they have a voice in helping to shape the future of our country.

Overall, 9 in 10 Australians agreed our country remains a great place to live. This belief held true irrespective of the state or territory we live in, our age, gender or even income level. For most of us, it’s our access to open spaces that make this country so special. We also value highly our general lifestyle and the friendliness of our people, our relative safety and security, our clean environment and unique natural wonders, access to affordable and quality healthcare, our democratic system of government, availability and access to quality education and our entertainment options.

While still painting a positive picture, we’re a little more downbeat compared to 12 months ago. Some areas in particular were viewed much less positively, including our relatively stable and strong economy (not surprising given tougher economic conditions and increasing global uncertainties), availability and access to quality education, affordable and quality healthcare and the quality of our utilities provision.

Looking ahead, while 9 in 10 of us think Australia is a great country to live in now, only 5 in 10 believe this will still be the case in 10 years’ time (and a further 3 in 10 are unsure). In fact, with the exceptions of entertainment, public transport and telecommunications, all other aspects of liveability are expected to deteriorate – particularly future living costs, the environment, jobs, safety, travel times to work, and access to and affordability of housing.

While inflation remains low, some essentials such as medical services, electricity and education have increased significantly in price over recent years and our wages have not been rising fast enough to meet these cost rises. This may be shaping how people view the future. Australians are also facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty as the pace of change (particularly technology) means most of us are struggling to simply understand where we’re headed.

Australia is changing in other ways too. The last 10 years has seen our population grow by almost 4 million people to 25 million and it’s expected to hit 30 million over the next 10 years. This will present opportunities as well as challenges. Economic concerns such as cost of living, employment and housing affordability are front of mind, along with social issues such as income inequality, congestion, safety, law and order, as well as the environment. How we as a nation frame such issues will play an important role in shaping our future. Having a collective ‘vision’ can bring people together and provide some idea as to what the future may hold.

Of concern, only 1 in 5 people believe Australia has a clear and shared vision for where we’re headed as a nation in the next 10 years. More importantly, 6 in 10 Australians also don’t feel they have a voice in shaping where their nation is headed. Clearly, many people believe they’re excluded from having a say in important decisions that affect their lives and the direction of our country.

Australia faces some genuine challenges over the next decade but these don’t fully explain why many of us are so pessimistic about the future. Perhaps most Australian’s simply don’t have a good enough story where we’re headed as a nation. Confronted with incomplete information, we are increasingly filling these gaps with fear. This suggests a need for more public debate around the future direction of our country and what matters most to people. Please note, this survey was taken prior to the recent bushfires spreading across many parts of the country.

Learn more in the NAB Special Insight Report Life in the lucky country 2020: What makes Australia a great place to live?