In a comment on Economic gloom in Australia, kvd pointed me to this opinion piece by Jessica Irvine, Unpicking the collective whinge. I read the piece and laughed (it's very well written), agreed with some points and then realised just how profoundly I objected to it. It's written by a middle class woman secure in her employment who actually seems to lack the empathy to drop below the head line statistics.
By global standards, Australia has done pretty well. For those who feel secure in their employment, and that's around 60% of the population, the last few years have been pretty good. Incomes have risen, interest rates are down, consumer goods have never been cheaper or more available, international trips never more affordable. Cashed up Australians have flooded the globe in ways not seen before, or at least not for many years. Yet the on-ground reality for many is different, and that was the point in my previous post.
To those I listed there I would add, thanks to other links posted by kvd, Australians in or approaching retirement. They have been affected by the decline in share values, the lower interest rates mean that they don't get as much cash on their savings, while some have seen their assets actually wiped out in recent crashes.
The Australian economy is now in its 20th year of consecutive growth. Anyone aged about 40 or less has pretty much never experienced a recession, or at least the humiliating experience of trying to find a job during one. The consequence is we have grown complacent. We've either forgotten, or have never known, how hard it can get.
Now if my maths is correct, someone 40 today was born in 1972. The 1970s were the stagflation decade. If this cohort left school early, they might have started work in, say, 1990 when the Australian economy was starting to tank as we entered Mr Keating's recession. If they were lucky enough to go to university, then they would have entered the workforce as the economy recovered.
The 1990s were a grinding decade, one in which many lost their jobs through restructuring. By the end of the 1990s, Mr Howard was able to capture the prevailing mood against any further change. So many Australians had been affected. Memories dimmed as the first decade of the new century proceeded, but people did not forget.
As I said, the story started by making me laugh. Then it made me angry.