The Wellbeing Economy in Brief #9: How the wellbeing economy concept resonates with Australians



What do Australians think of our economy?

In the face of challenges and negative trends, Australians are looking for new ways of doing things that align with their sense of what is most important. Deliberative dialogues – such as those run by Australia ReMADE and the Victorian Council of Social Services – mirror the findings of focus groups run by social researchers such as Hugh Mackay and Rebecca Huntley. A suite of recent opinion polls add to the picture of Australians expressing a displeasure with business as usual and a vision for their country that would require a wellbeing economy to attain. The following is a small selection of these poll findings:

  • In 2020 Edelman found that 56% of Australians said the system is failing them and only 35% “believe they and their families will be better off in five years’ time”. 
  • A 2022 Guardian poll found that a majority (58%) of respondents believed that “Australia’s economic system is broken and the government needs to make fundamental changes to sort it out.” Research from 89 Degrees East revealed that 73% of Australians felt measures of economic success should encompass areas such as health, fairness, and sustaining the environment; and 69% believe we can’t be a successful nation if we only focus on economic growth. 
  • The ABC Australia Talks survey found that 49% strongly agreed (and another 27% somewhat agreed) with the statement that “The gap in wealth between rich and poor Australians is too big with 46% saying wealth inequality is “very much a problem”. The reflection that “It’s harder for young Australians to get by than it used to be” is either somewhat or strongly agreed with by 68% of Australians. In terms of what people want from the economy, people report an average of 7.9 out of 10 for the importance of job security in their choice of job; it is 8.1 for finding fulfilment in work, and 8.3 for work/ life balance.
  • There is a growing sense that the function of government is to increase the wellbeing and quality of life of the population. Polling commissioned by the Centre for Policy Development found that 33% of Australians think the primary purpose of government is to ensure a decent standard of living – which is clearly not being achieved when one looks at the extent of financial distress and low income as laid out above. A quarter (25%) think the primary purpose of government is improve overall wellbeing of the population, with 45% strongly agreeing and another 30% somewhat agreeing with the statement that “the wellbeing of the population should be the top consideration in government decision making, above other concerns”. Other CPD polling found “a five-point year-on-year rise in support for the idea that the primary purpose of government is to improve overall wellbeing”. A 2022 Guardian poll found that 80% of those polled were for governments taking an active role in shaping the economy. Last year people were asked by 89 Degrees East about the idea of a wellbeing budget: “69 percent think that people’s wellbeing should be a bigger priority in major governments’ budgets.”

About the Wellbeing Economy in Brief Series

These mini-briefings look at the idea of a wellbeing economy, how it relates to other ideas for economic change, and what some of the core elements of a wellbeing economy are. They reflect on why Australia needs to build a wellbeing economy.

This series of ‘mini-briefings’ attempts to clarify terms and expressions and associated wellbeing economy ideas so that discussions can take place from a basis of shared understanding and language.

Read the rest of the series