Australian unpaid social contributions valued at $287 billion: Report
Australians generated at least $287.86 billion in value through unpaid social contributions in 2021, according to a new report from the University of Sydney's Mental Wealth Initiative.
The report, "A Contributing Life: A Snapshot of the Value of Social Production," shines a spotlight on the unseen value Australians contribute to national prosperity in terms of social production—value that traditionally lies outside of the boundary of gross domestic product (GDP).
Social production is made up of unpaid contributions to society through activities such as volunteering, the education and care of children, building community infrastructure, ecological restoration and caring for country, providing a crowd service, or informal mentoring.
"These contributions are essential to the integrity of the social fabric of our nation and bolster economic productivity and national resilience," said Associate Professor Jo-An Occhipinti, Co-Director of the Mental Wealth Initiative. "Social production is important because it's the glue that holds society together. It's an essential element of a well-being economy—an economy that prioritizes an inclusive, holistic, and balanced approach to social and economic progress."
Women, over 65s and unemployed made largest contributions
To reach their figure, researchers applied a universal value (based on median hourly earnings) of $36/hour to every hour spent undertaking activities that fall under Australian Bureau of Statistics social contribution categories. These are taken from the ABS Time Use Survey 2020–21 and the Mental Wealth Initiative's independent research.
They found that the largest contributing groups to social production were those that are underrepresented in the formal economy: women, people aged over 65, and unemployed people.
People over 65 contributed $7.56 billion in social production through voluntary work; the largest of any age group. The total figure of $287.86 billion equates to 14% of Australia's GDP in 2021.
Mental Wealth Initiative Co-Director Professor John Buchanan said it is important to measure social production to promote a more inclusive narrative of a contributing life.
"Considering social production rebalances our perspective from an overemphasis on our individual rights towards more of a focus on our collective responsibilities. Tackling national and global challenges, including climate change, energy and food insecurity, and conflict, requires social cohesion and strong democracies. Investing in our nation's mental wealth will provide us with the capacity, resources and resilience to face these challenges more successfully."
Associate Professor Occhipinti said, "The figure is most certainly an underestimate. Improving data collection to get a more accurate and complete picture of the value of social production and its contribution to Australia's Mental Wealth is a national priority. We hope to see it as part of the government's commitment to Measuring What Matters."
The Mental Wealth Initiative was established to measure, monitor and forecast the mental wealth of nations. It works with research and industry partners to understand how coordinated policies and investments across health, social and economic systems could boost brain capital, and improve the resilience, mental health and overall mental wealth of nations.
More information: The report is available online: www.sydney.edu.au/content/dam/ … ion_final_280223.pdf
Provided by University of Sydney