According to reputable new research, Australia’s feeling of social cohesiveness has been weakened as a result of unrelenting cost-of-living pressure, rising interest rates, uncertainty regarding the direction of the economy, and growing concerns about inequality.
According to the most recent Mapping Social Cohesion Report, the Scanlon-Monash Index of Social Cohesion is at its lowest ebb since the study was first conducted 16 years ago. This comes on the heels of a polarizing voice referendum campaign as well as mounting communal tensions over the war in the Middle East.
A barometer of social wellbeing, the social cohesion index measures belonging, worth, participation, acceptance and rejection, social inclusion, and justice. Over the course of the previous year, the value of the metric dropped by four points, reaching its all-time low position. The score has dropped by 13 points since November 2020, which was the month that recorded the highest level of societal cohesion during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since 2007, the Mapping Social Cohesion project has been supported by funding from the Scanlon Foundation. The snapshot of the year 2023, which was made public on Wednesday, is based on a poll of more than 7,000 residents of Australia, as well as qualitative interviews with persons who have just immigrated to Australia.
The paper draws a map of the setting that some of the data come from. It notes that the current geopolitical conflict and tension is also a “risk to Australia’s harmony” because we are “connected to all sides of current conflicts through the diversity of our migrant and ancestral populations, as well as the diversity of our values and ideas.” The report states that the voice to parliament referendum has been an accelerant to polarization. It also notes that the current geopolitical conflict and tension has been a “risk to Australia’s harmony.”
However, it is stated that the component that puts the most strain on social cohesion is continuous financial pressure. According to the findings of the research, the most pressing concerns for Australians are their tightening household budgets, the inability to buy housing, and the state of the economy. Almost nine out of ten respondents to the survey are concerned about the possibility of a serious downturn in the economy of the world as a whole (87%).
73% of respondents expressed contentment with the situation of their personal finances in July of 2020. According to the most recent studies, that number is now 61%. The strain brought on by rising costs of living is causing hardship, with 12% of people saying that they are skipping meals because they do not have enough money to buy food, 12% indicating that they are having trouble paying their rent or mortgage, and 22% reporting that they do not have enough income to pay for prescription drugs or healthcare.
Young people, persons who live alone, and households with only one parent are the ones who are having the most difficulty coping with the burden. Sixty-six percent (66%) of single parents surveyed state that they are barely making ends meet, and forty percent (40%) of this group report having stress related to their rent or mortgage, skipping meals, or forgoing medications. More than half of this group, or 63%, also have the experience of being socially isolated.
A decrease in people’s faith in the government has coupled with mounting economic pressure. Despite the epidemic, people’s trust in the government has increased, with 56% of respondents to the survey indicating that in November 2020, the government in Canberra could be trusted to do the right thing for people either all of the time or the majority of the time. In the year 2023, only 36% of people say that.
Even though institutional trust has dropped significantly from its epidemic highs, it is still far greater than it was in Canberra during the decade of leadership coups, which saw an average of 29%.
According to the findings of the research, people who support the Coalition appear to be particularly dissatisfied with the new government. According to the findings of the study, opinions on politics and democratic principles in this country have become “politically charged and polarized.”
33% of people who support the Coalition party believe that the present government will make the correct decisions in 2023, which is a significant drop from the 73% who had this belief while Scott Morrison was prime minister. 64% of Coalition voters currently hold the view that Australian elections are free and fair 100% of the time, which is a significant drop from the 77% who held this view in 2021.
Voters who support the Liberal Party and the National Party are even more pessimistic about Australia’s future after the election. 14% of people were pessimistic about the future in 2021, but by 2023, that number had skyrocketed to 41% of people. According to the paper, “continued monitoring is warranted” because “sharply lower trust in government and the political system among Liberal National voters” has been observed ever since the election of the present Labor government.
According to the demographer James O’Donnell of the Australian National University, who authored the report, the snapshot of the population in 2023 does offer some encouraging findings. He argues, “We are still connected on many levels, within our neighborhoods and local communities, with support for multiculturalism and support for the Indigenous relationship.” “We are still connected on many levels.”
According to the findings of the research, support for multiculturalism remains strong even in the face of a bleak economic outlook. Eighty-nine percent of respondents believe that multiculturalism has been beneficial to Australia, and a similar majority of respondents (86%) believe that immigration are typically beneficial to the economy. However, this also suggests that a sizeable percentage of people are subjected to bias and discrimination on a regular basis in their day-to-day lives.
The research also reveals that Australians have strong ties to the communities in which they live, an experience that was likely bolstered by the times of lockdown that occurred during the pandemic.
“But things like [the war in the Middle East] start to fray those connections,” adds O’Donnell. “[T]hese connections start to become more strained.” The links that individuals have to their neighborhoods and communities, he says, help them get through “difficult times,” but the conflict between Israel and Hamas could “drive a wedge between specific groups.”
“[The war] arguably could not have come at a worse moment; following on the heels of difficulties related to the expense of living, it can begin to eat away at such linkages.
“We are seeing from the survey how the impact of cost-of-living pressures and the economy is impacting in so many different ways in terms of a sense of belonging, a sense of trust, of social inclusion, and participation in communities.”