06 October 2013

Divides and dollars

'Trying to connect: Telecommunications access and affordability among people experiencing financial hardship' by Sarah Wise (Anglicare Victoria, 2013) is a reminder of of persistent digital divides.

Wise comments that
With rapid changes in telecommunications technology comes concern about inequalities opening up between those who have access to the information and other benefits new telecommunications technology transfers and those who do not.
Anglicare Victoria’s Hardship Survey 2013 focussed on the affordability and accessibility of telecommunication technology among it’s low-income sample. Early in 2013 a total of 325 clients were surveyed across 25 Emergency Relief and Financial Counseling services located right across metropolitan and nonmetropolitan Victoria.
She notes that the findings show that
  • telecommunications are not universally accessible 
  • deprivation of home Internet (49.2%) and mobile Internet (56.1%) were unacceptably high 
  • clients living with dependent children had better access to home Internet than other clients 
  • too many clients with home Internet relied on a dial-up/phone service, particularly in non-metropolitan areas
  • the majority of clients see the benefits of home Internet access
  • deprivation of home phone was high (38.2%), although clients prefer mobile phone to home phone 
  •  mobile phone ownership is widespread and essential to client’s lives 
  • almost half (45.2%) of clients with mobile phones used it as their only form of telecommunication
  • monthly expenditure on mobile phone was low relative to other forms of telecommunications and the majority of users consider it somewhat or very affordable
  •  two-thirds (66.0%) of mobile phone users had difficulty paying their account and 61.7% of clients with a pre-paid account ran out of credit sooner than expected
  • clients engaged in a range of meaningful strategies to try and manage their expenditure on, and increase their access to, telecommunications.
The Health expenditure Australia 2011-12 report [PDF] by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW) meanwhile estimates that expenditure on health in 2011-12 was $140.2bn, up from $82.9bn in 2001-02 and $132.6bn in 2010-11.
In 2011-12, health expenditure as a percentage of gross domestic product (GDP) was 9.5%, up from 8.4% in 2001-02. Much of the increase coincided with the Global Financial Crisis. From 2001-02 to 2007-08, the ratio of health expenditure to GDP increased by 0.4 percentage points from 8.4% to 8.8%. In just the following two years, the ratio increased by 0.6 percentage points to 9.4% in 2009-10.
The ratio of government health expenditure to taxation revenue was relatively stable between 2001-02 and 2007-08, increasing from 19.9% to 20.8%. It then rose to a peak in 2009-10 of 26.2% and declined to 25.6% in 2011-12. Over the decade to 2011-12, the Australian Government ratio of health expenditure to taxation revenue rose by 4.0 percentage points to 26.4%, while the state and territory governments ratio rose by 8.1 percentage points to 24.5%.
Analysis of health inflation suggests that the annual increase in prices in the broader economy in recent years has generally been faster than increases in prices in the health sector. Growth in health expenditure, has largely been driven by increases in the volume of health goods and services purchased, rather than price.
In 2011-12, the estimated national average level of recurrent expenditure on health was $5,881 per person. Expenditure varied from $5,711 per person in New South Wales to $8,512 per person in the Northern Territory.
Governments funded 69.7% of total health expenditure during 2011-12, an increase from 69.1% in 2010-11. The percentage contribution of the Australian Government fluctuated throughout the decade, dropping from 44.0% in 2001-02 to 42.4% in 2011-12. The state and territory contribution grew steadily from 23.2% to 27.3% over the same period. Non-government sources funded 30.3% in 2011-12, down from 32.8% in 2001-02.
Spending on public hospital services in 2011-12 was estimated at $42.0bn, or 31.8% of recurrent expenditure. Expenditure on medical services ($23.9bn, or 18.1%) and medications ($18.8bn, or 14.2%) were other major contributors. Increased spending on public hospital services of $2.1bn in real terms was the largest component of the increase in health expenditure since 2010-11, accounting for approximately one-third (32.9%) of the increase in recurrent expenditure. This was followed by spending on medical services, which grew by $1.0bn in real terms.
The Australian Government's share of public hospital services funding was 38.2% in 2011-12, down from 39.6% in 2010-11. State and territory governments' share was 53.3% in 2011-12, up from 52.0% in 2010-11 and 47.2% in 2001-02.
Based on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) System of Health Accounts framework, Australia's health expenditure to GDP ratio in 2011 (9.1%) was just above the OECD median (9.0%). Australia's average health expenditure per person in 2011 ($5,952) was also higher than the OECD average ($5,484) and median ($4,851).