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Queensland Economic Advocacy Solutions

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The top ten largest increases in cost of living

February 7, 2018

This week has seen some much needed emphasis placed by media organisations on the financial difficulty being experienced by many Queensland households.  The Consumer Price Index (CPI) released last Thursday confirmed a 27% increase in the cost of living over the past decade for Brisbane households and compares to the national average of 25.8%. This overall increase however masks component increases that are greatly exacerbated for lower socio economic households.

The Consumer Price Index (CPI) measures quarterly changes in the price of a 'basket' of goods and services, which account for a high proportion of expenditure by Australian households.  For a more detailed definition of the CPI please refer below. In all there are 87 expenditure items in the CPI and QEAS has analysed the top 10 that have increased and decreased the most over the past ten years for Brisbane.

Unfortunately the ABS limits this collection to capital city households but many of the below outcomes will unquestionably be even more exacerbated for regional Queensland than for Brisbane. Expenditure areas that have increased the most in Brisbane in last 10 years are:

Aside from tobacco these 10 areas represent unavoidable cost of living expenses for most Queenslanders and it is pretty easy to see why some households are rapidly falling below the poverty line at present.  Electricity, water and sewerage, insurance, education, childcare and health services are all examples of necessitated expenditure.

At the same time some expenditure areas are actually decreasing in price however before we get too excited many of these would be defined as being in the area of discretionary expenditure.  Expenditure areas that have decreased the most in Brisbane in last 10 years are:

Perhaps the one expenditure class that made my blood boil the most was seeing the cost of milk decline by 16.2% over the past decade. This is disgracefully a reflection of the dominance of the major supermarkets and is really a reflection of the duopoly squeezing their supply chain. In this instance it is predominantly Queenslander dairy farmers who are being hammered so we can enjoy cheaper milk.

In closing something to bear in mind is that over this period of time Queensland’s average week earnings have risen by 35 per cent.   Overall, we should theoretically be better off as the CPI has risen by just 27%. However, the reality is for those Queenslanders whose essential cost of living expenses make up a larger portion of their household budget, they would in actuality, be quite worse off as 35 per cent is quite insignificant compared to some of the cost of living increases cited above.

The Consumer Price Index

The CPI is a social and economic indicator that is constructed to measure changes over time in the general level of prices of consumer goods and services that households acquire, use or pay for consumption. The index aims to measure the change in consumer prices over time. This may be done by measuring the cost of purchasing a fixed basket of consumer goods and services of constant quality and similar characteristics, with the products in the basket being selected to be representative of households’ expenditure during a year or other specified period.

This 'basket' covers a wide range of goods and services, arranged in eleven groups: 

  • Food and non-alcoholic beverages 
  • Alcohol and tobacco 
  • Clothing and footwear 
  • Housing 
  • Furnishings, household equipment and services 
  • Health 
  • Transport 
  • Communication 
  • Recreation and culture 
  • Education 
  • Insurance and financial services

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