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Working Families?

With a state election in NSW in the next few weeks and a federal election one by-election away we’re again being bombarded with political commercials. Here’s a few for sampling:

NSW Labor’s “Fairness for Families”


NSW Liberal’s spoof of the above (which gets points for comedy)

And (because it features Zombies) my favourite from The Greens

Although you’d only know it from the Labor video “families” appear to be a strong theme for the campaigners, as has been the case in most recent elections. But how many families are there out there for these policies to target? Although many policies will benefit the whole population the benefits will vary.

Take Labor’s Fairness for Families promise of an extended and increased energy rebate. People on a variety of welfare payments (including the aged and disability pension) currently receive an annual rebate which in 2011/12 will reach $161. The policy promises a household with combined income of $150,000 a rebate of $250 a year. $150,000 is more than double the median household income in NSW. This means that a significant proportion of the better-off half of the population will receive $250 they didn’t have whilst someone on the aged pension get’s $89 more. That’s barely a third. So it’s quite clear who this policy is aimed at from a monetary perspective.

Looking at the campaign material targetted at ‘families’ generally shows mum, dad and the kids. How common are these households?

Let’s take a look at houshold composition. The source for this is the 2006 Census Basic Community Profile for NSW. Of the 2.3 million households in NSW they are made up of:

Single person households – 24%
Non-family group households – 4%
Couples without children – 26%
Couples with children – 34%
Single parents with children – 12%

So couples with kids seem to come out on top making up a third of all households. As the biggest group it probably makes sense to market more to them.

Hold on a minute though. How many campaign ads do you see showing the 23 year old uni student still living at home or a group of run-amok teenagers in the house? Most advertising material shows young children, very rarely older siblings.

Fortunately the census data breaks down further. Of those 34% of couple with children households only about half have all their children under 15. Let’s redo that table with this new information – I’ll call the new group “Working Families”:

Single people – 24%
Non-family group households – 4%
Couples without children – 26%
Working Families – 18%
Other couples with children – 16%
Single parents with children – 12%

The largest group of households is now Couples without children – and you don’t see many ads targetting them. Admittingly this is a fairly diverse group ranging from newlyweds to empty-nesters to retirees. Also couple households should have roughly double the number of votes of the singleton households. Unfortunately the Census doesn’t collect data on voting habits so we can’t know whether working families are swinging voters or not.

In any case the stereotypical ‘working families’ bloc is not nearly as large as most people think. With another five and a half weeks to the NSW election there’ll be plenty more fodder aimed at them though.

Posted in elections, families, politics, statistics

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