LIVING AND WORKING IN AUSTRALIA
The author of this article has lived in many parts of the SE of Australia – where the main population lives – especially the two largest cities of Sydney (4.2 M people) and Melbourne (3.6M). As I currently live in Melbourne some of the examples will be biased towards this great city.
Facts about Australia
As many people know, Australia has a large land mass populated by relatively few people – due to the interior desert regions. Australia’s population has just passed the 20 million mark - 20,728,983 as of Jan 4, 2007. Around 90% of Australians live on coastal regions and our climate is classed as temperate (very pleasant). In general Australian’s experience warm-hot summers; mild spring and autumn and cool winters. Winters are in July and in Melbourne we have average temperatures of 41 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit with temperatures ranging from 57 to 78 degrees Fahrenheit in the peak of our February summer. Noting that in summer there are often a couple of days that can reach over 100 degrees Fahrenheit. The average monthly Melbourne rainfall is about two inches for any one month.
Melbourne is located in Victoria at the SE extreme of the continent and is the smallest mainland state (228,000 square kilometres) - slightly smaller than the US state of California. Sydney is located in New South Wales, about 900 Km NE of Melbourne.
Life in Australia
To gain an understanding of what it might be like to live in Australia it is useful to consult some recent independent reports. The ‘United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’ annual constructs a Human Development Index (HDI) to rate liveability of developed countries. In 2004, Australia rated third on the list of the most liveable countries, with the US rating eighth. In 2004 another group ranked all major global cities and selected Melbourne as the world’s highest ‘Quality of Life’ Ranking and placed Sydney at number six. The weighting factors included: Stability; Healthcare; Culture and environment; Education and Infrastructure.
Besides these very high standards of living, it is worth noting that Australia is a large sporting nation and loves its popular entertainment. Whilst Australia is known for its world class swimmers, rugby union and cricket teams we also have a high interest in soccer, all other forms of football (Australian Rules and Rugby League), basketball, baseball etc. General large venue entertainment can sampled from Ticketek and Ticketmaster.
Entertainment wise while Australia is globally most noted for its soap operas (‘Neighbours’ and ‘Home and Away’) we also have a strong music and film industry. Australia has also had a few good years on the international film scene with its now predominately US based Australian actors, however the local industry is still gathering pace. To see what is happening in the Australian film industry readers might like to visit film sites such as AFC and Film.gov
COMPARIONS TO THE USA
Having a similar culture to the USA and the UK (after years of saturation with their consumer products, music and films), Australia is eminently accessible and enjoyed by visitors from both these countries. The major difference is often said to be the Aussie ‘laid back’ approach to life. While this generalism can appear disarmingly charming, Australians still take very seriously aspects of culture such as loyalty (mateship), the environment, ‘home grown’ entertainment and a high rate of hi-tech uptake.
The latest Australian housing surveys have revealed that major Australian cities are becoming expensive due to housing prices and a significant appreciation of currency against the US dollar. Sydney still remains the most expensive city in Australia with its rank going up from 103 in the world in 2001 to 20 in 2004. In 2004 Melbourne held the second highest expensive Australian city position with its rank rising from 129th position to 67th position during the same period.
While housing prices have risen substantially in most capital cities since 2000, rentals have not kept pace. This fact still makes Australia a very attractive proposition for US IT contractors intending on working and renting in Australia. For comparison of the ‘Most Unaffordable Housing Markets’, consider that in 2006, Los Angeles USA still ranked as the worlds most unaffordable housing city (house cost of 11.2 x the median wage) while Sydney Australia was 8.5, New York USA (7.9) and Melbourne house prices were 6.4 times the median wage.
To put that into perspective, the 2006 September median house prices were: Sydney $520,000 and Melbourne $357,000. Using the ‘Unaffordablity ratings’ above, that gives Sydney a median wage of $520k/ 8.5 (= $61.2K) and Melbourne a median wage of $357K/ 6.4 = ($55.7K). With the AUS$ currently hovering around 80 US cents that makes the median wages: Melbourne (US$44,000) and Sydney (US$49,000).
The very good news for visitors is that while our house prices have seen a dramatic climb in recent years, the rental prices are still quite reasonable. A report by a leading real estate data company shows that in August 2006, that “Australia's capital cities gross rental returns on houses remain at around 4 per cent. Based on median house prices and rents for three-bedroom houses.”
Thus the rent on the median three bedroom house in Melbourne would be a quite affordable 4% x $357K = $14,200 p.a. or $275 a week. If you wish to see some current examples of house rental prices you may like to look at.