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7104.0.55.001 - Agriculture in Focus: Farming Families, Australia, 2006  
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 12/08/2008  First Issue
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FARMING FAMILIES

Barclay, Foskey and Reeve (2007) noted that farming in Australia has traditionally been undertaken by families as a business passed onto successive generations. While there is a continuing dominance of farm families in the agricultural sector (Productivity Commission 2005) the number of farming families has been declining in all states and territories.

In this article, farming families are those families where the reference person, and/or their spouse or partner, reported that their main occupation was a farmer or farm manager (ABS 2003) in the week prior to completing the ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing. A family is defined as two or more persons, one of whom is at least 15 years of age, who are related by blood, marriage (registered or de facto), adoption, step or fostering, and who are usually resident in the same house (ABS 2003). These definitions have been used to maintain consistency with Australian Social Trends 2003, Farming Families (cat. no. 4102.0).


FARMING FAMILIES BY STATE AND TERRITORY

The trend of decreasing numbers of farming families in Australia was reflected in all states and territories between 2001 and 2006. The smallest decrease was in the Northern Territory (1%) with the greatest decrease in Queensland (13%).



1.1 FARMING FAMILIES BY STATE AND TERRITORY (a)


2001
2006
change 2001-2006
No.
No.
%

New South Wales
32 802
30 216
-7.9
Victoria
27 972
25 658
-8.3
Queensland
23 062
20 045
-13.1
South Australia
12 846
11 809
-8.1
Western Australia
12 059
10 994
-8.8
Tasmania
3 442
3 340
-3.0
Northern Territory
441
435
-1.4
Australian Capital Territory
128
119
-7.0
Australia (b)
112 753
102 616
-9.0

(a) Reference person and/or spouse reported their occupation as farmer/farm manager.
(b) Includes other territories.
Source: ABS 2001 and 2006 Censuses of Population and Housing.


FAMILY TYPES

Around half (51%) of all farming families were couple families with children. This compares with 45% of all families in Australia. The category contributing most of the difference between these two groups was the greater proportion of farming families where the youngest child was under 15 years of age.

1.2 FAMILY TYPES
Farming families (a)
All families
Family Type
No.
%
No.
%

Couple family with children
51 907
50.6
2 362 588
45.3
Youngest child aged under 15 years
35 540
34.6
1 627 165
31.2
Youngest child aged 15 years or over
16 367
15.9
735 423
14.1
Couple family without children (b)
46 698
45.5
1 943 648
37.2
Male partner aged under 35 years
3 605
3.5
358 106
6.9
Male partner aged 55 years or over
31 307
30.5
1 130 967
21.7
One-parent family
3 221
3.1
823 254
15.8
Youngest child aged under 15 years
1 180
1.1
455 668
8.7
Youngest child aged 15 years or over
2 041
2.0
367 586
7.0
Total (c)
102 616
100
5 219 165
100

(a) Reference person and/or spouse reported their occupation as farmer/farm manager.
(b) Includes couple families without children, not specified. For example, couples who have a child living away from home at boarding school.
(c) Includes other family types.
Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing.


In 2006, there was a greater proportion of farming families who were couple families without children (46%) compared to all families (37%). This includes a greater proportion of farming families without children with a male partner over 55 years.

There was a smaller proportion of one-parent farming families (3%) than one-parent families in Australia overall (16%).


INCOME

Farm family income

The most important economic resource for many households is a regular income, be it earned from a job or business, provided by the government as a pension or allowance, from superannuation or earned from other assets (ABS 2007). Land and Water Australia (2005) define the income of farm families as a reflection of the impact of commodity prices, farm structure, climatic and seasonal conditions, and non-farm income.

According to the ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing the median income for farming families was $1,122 per week. Just over half (54%) of farming families had a gross family income between $500 and $1,399 per week and 30% of farming families had a gross income between $1,400 and $3,999 per week. Negative or nil income was reported by 3% of farming families. Family income is calculated by summing the individual incomes reported by all family members aged 15 years and over and includes any income earned both on and off-farm.

Comparison of household income to population

As there are differences in the family structure of farming families and all families in Australia, equivalised household income can be used to help compare the income of the two groups. Equivalising allows for the fact that larger households need more income to support the same standard of living as smaller households, and that there are some economies of scale in larger households due to the sharing of household costs.

Equivalised income is calculated by adjusting household income by an equivalising factor based on the number of adults and children in the household. For a household comprising more than one person it is an indicator of the household income that would need to be received by a lone person household to enjoy the same standard of living as that household.

In 2006, the median equivalised gross household income for farming households ($605 per week) was lower than the median for all households ($649 per week).

Overall, farming households had a similar distribution of income to the whole population. The equivalised gross household income of 49% of all households and 52% of farming households was between $400 and $999 per week. The proportion of all households with equivalised gross household income between $1000 and $1599 was 18% compared to 14% of farming households. However, negative or nil income was reported by 3% of farming households compared to 1% of all households.


1.3 FARMING HOUSEHOLDS (a) AND ALL HOUSEHOLDS (b) EQUIVALISED HOUSEHOLD INCOME DISTRIBUTION (c)(d)
Graph; 1.3 Farming households and all households equivalised household income distribution

(a) Reference person and/or spouse reported their occupation as farmer/farm manager.
(b) Families where one or more persons did not state their income were excluded prior to the calculation of percentages.
(c) Includes income from all sources.
(d) Census data on family and household income is calculated from individual income data which is collected in ranges. A median value is allocated to each range using other ABS data on income distribution, and those values are summed to produce family and household income.

Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing.


WORKING ARRANGEMENTS FOR FARMING FAMILIES

Cary, Webb & Barr (2002) identified that the decision to seek off-farm employment is generally driven by low farm incomes. Lim-Applegate, Rodriguez & Olfert (2002) found that operators and spouses with a tertiary education are more likely to participate in off-farm work and vocational schooling increases the participation rates of spouses. They also found that spouse participation in off-farm work seems to increase when there are lower levels of other income and decrease when there are preschool aged children living in the household.

Less than half of all farming family couples (40%) had both partners working as farmers. When the farmer was male, a third (37%) of their spouses/partners worked in an occupation other than farming and 18% reported not working. When the farmer was female, only 4.6% of their spouses/partners reported an occupation other than farming as their main form of employment and 0.6% were not working. Table 1.5 shows how average family income differs between farming families based on partner's occupations.


1.4 WORKING ARRANGEMENTS FOR COUPLE (a) FARMING FAMILIES (b)
Couple families
No.
%
Median farm family income per week (c)

Both farmers
37 940
39.6
$1 118
Male farmer - spouse/partner other occupation
35 710
37.3
$1 220
Female farmer - spouse/partner other occupation
4 370
4.6
$1 393
Male farmer - spouse/partner not working
17 100
17.9
$835
Female farmer - spouse/partner not working
610
0.6
$793
Total (d)
95 720
100.0

(a) Excludes couples where the male or female was temporarily absent.
(b) Reference person and/or spouse reported their occupation as farmer/farm manager.
(c) Family income is calculated by summing the individual incomes reported by all family members aged 15 years and over and includes any income earned both on and off-farm.
(d) Due to rounding total number does not equal the sum of the components.
Source: ABS 2006 Census of Population and Housing.


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