Households spending more on basics thanks to housing

By Leith van Onselen

From today’s ABS Household Expenditure Survey for 2015-16:

More than half the money Australian households spend on goods and services per week goes on basics – on average, $846 out of $1,425 spent – according to the 2015-16 Household Expenditure Survey (HES), released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).

“We can broadly think about household spending as either being for ‘basics’ or for ‘discretionary’ purchases – with basics covering essentials such as housing, food, energy, health care and transport,” ABS Chief Economist, Bruce Hockman said.

Today’s release shows that a growing portion of weekly outlays is spent on basics. Spending on basics accounted for 56 per cent of weekly household spending in 1984, growing to 59 per cent in 2015-16.

“The survey also shows that since 1984, the pattern of household spending has changed considerably,” explained Mr Hockman.

“In 1984, the largest contributors to household spending were food (20 per cent), then transport (16 per cent) and housing (13 per cent).”

“Jump forward to 2015-16, and housing is now the largest contributor (20 per cent), followed by food (17 per cent), and transport costs (15 per cent).”

More recently, since the last survey in 2009-10, the biggest increases in spending on goods and services by households have been in education (44 per cent), household services and operations, such as cleaning products and pest control services (30 per cent), energy (26 per cent), health care (26 per cent) and housing (25 per cent).

On the other hand, spending on alcohol, tobacco, clothing and footwear and household furnishings have not changed significantly from six years ago.

Mr Hockman added that, in 2015-16, 1.3 million Australian households (15 per cent) reported 4 or more markers of financial stress, down from 16 per cent in 2009-10. In addition, the proportion of Australian households who did not report experiencing any markers of financial stress has steadily increased, from 54 per cent in 2009-10, to 59 per cent in 2015-16.

Full report and analysis here.


  1. That’s missing something: tax.

    So it’s probably 1/3 is spent on tax, a little more than a 1/3 on basics, and a little under 1/3 on hookers, blow, and smartphones.

    We sure are getting great value on our tax spend at the moment. I’m voting Yes!

    • 1/3 on tax ?

      As we are occasionally reminded, ca. half the population pays no net tax.

      To pay 1/3 of your income as tax, you’d need to be earning $100k-ish (and that’s assuming no deductions). Not a lot of people in the big picture.

  2. Incomes slowly sliding. High debts. Liars’ loans booming. Costs of housing, energy, and other basics up. Essential infrastructure and services tolls, fees and charges going up. What could possibly go wrong in a Ponzi (cough) “economy” ?