Australian Bureau of Statistics
2050.0.55.002 - Position Paper - ABS Review of Counting the Homeless Methodology, Aug 2011
Latest ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 05/08/2011 First Issue
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KEY ISSUES: TRAVELLERS
This chapter provides more detail about people identified in CTH as 'visiting friends and relatives' in visitor only households which were then not included in the reviewed homeless operational group 'persons staying temporarily with other households' in the Discussion Paper: Methodological Review of Counting the Homeless, 2006 (ABS cat. no. 2050.0.55.001).
BACKGROUND - VISITOR ONLY HOUSEHOLDS
Visitor only households are those where all occupants reported that they were not usual residents of the dwelling in which they were staying on Census night. The review looked at people in visitor only households who also reported no usual address on Census night, i.e. they reported that that they had no address where they had lived or intended to live for a total of six months or more in 2006.
There were 13,032 people in visitor only households who reported that they had no usual address on Census night 2006. The following analysis describes some characteristics of sub-groups of this population who were not included in homelessness counts by the Review because they were considered to be either travellers (including 'grey nomads'), or people residing in their second dwelling/holiday home etc., or people moving around for work.
PERSONS DESCRIBED IN THE ABS REVIEW AS 'GREY NOMADS'
The February 2009 Topical North Queensland Repositioning Study, Final Report, prepared for the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism, noted that:
'The grey nomads are a key part of the visitor mix for the parks, and the region needs to better consider the potential, of these and other domestic drive market travellers going forward. Whilst a proportion of the grey nomads will seek out the free overnight roadside or council showground parks, there is a group who will happily pay a premium for better located and equipped parks' (Department of Resources Energy and Tourism 2009 p. 42).
In the following year, the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism's State of the Industry, 2010 report noted that :
'Whilst older age groups are currently increasing domestic travel they do not necessarily contribute significantly to total expenditure. The typical pattern for older ‘grey nomads’ is to travel for significant periods of time but spend relatively little money in destinations visited' (Department of Resources Energy and Tourism 2010 p. 13)
The way that the domestic tourism understands, targets and surveys this grey nomad population informed the approach that the ABS took in trying to distil this population in the analysis that was undertaken in the Review.
'Grey nomads' were defined in the Review as 'people in dwellings where all people in the dwelling were aged 55 years and over, were not in the labour force, and were staying in caravans, cabins or houseboats on Census night'. As discussed above the 'grey nomads' are in visitor only households (and reporting no usual address). These numbers do not include people who were staying with other households, such as with friends and relatives, or those who were unemployed or were employed. Some 'grey nomads' who were travelling with their children or other younger people were not classified in this group because everyone in the dwelling / household has to be over 55 years.
The ABS review identified 2,469 people who were assumed to be 'grey nomads'. Of these, 2,141 or 87% owned the dwelling outright (a caravan, cabin or houseboat), 33 were owners with a mortgage or purchasing under a rent buy scheme and 116 were renting the dwelling (Table 1).
TABLE 1 - 'GREY NOMADS'(a)(b), Tenure type - 2006
It is not possible to determine the relationships between the visitors within these dwellings because this information is not retained through Census processing. However most of these caravans and/or cabins had two people in them, (2,090 or 85%) and there were an even number of males and females (Table 2). Of persons in a two person household, 92% were married. The ABS Review concluded that this group are predominantly people in couple relationships.
TABLE 2 - 'GREY NOMADS'(a)(b), Sex and Number of persons in dwelling - 2006
TABLE 3 - 'GREY NOMADS'(a)(b), Whether in same statistical division 1 year ago - 2006
Table 3 shows that 45% of persons in this group were in a statistical division in 2005 that was different to the statistical division of enumeration on Census night 2006, and a further 40% reported ‘no usual address’ in 2005 indicating a number of this group could have been travelling in their ‘caravan, cabin or houseboat’ for some time (over 12 months). For the 1,831 persons who where in northern Australia on Census night 2006 (defined as QLD, NT and northern WA), approximately half reported a usual residence in southern areas one or five years earlier. The Review concluded that this group may own their homes down south while they travelled in the North in their caravans.
Many of the persons in this group, 1,831, were enumerated in statistical local areas that are prime tourist destinations in costal areas of northern Australia. The areas that are some of the most common include Hervey Bay QLD (often dubbed the ‘caravan capital of Australia’), along the coast north of Townsville, coastal area around Cararvaon and Coral Bay in WA, the tablelands west of Cairns and around Airlie Beach and the Whitsundays in QLD. Approximately 80% of this group were located in a ‘caravan/residential park or camping ground’.
Income can not be used as a factor to further refine this group because often grey nomads will be living off savings or smaller amounts from superannuation / annuities because they are retirees. They would be indistinguishable from those who were in receipt of low incomes such as pensions. Unfortunately, the Census does not give an indication of wealth, which would be useful information to further distinguish this group from those with no wealth and in receipt of low incomes. Low incomes correlated with the industry views noted earlier about low expenditures by this travelling group.
The group identified through the Census as 'grey nomads' increased between 2001 and 2006. In 2001 the number identified as 'grey nomads' was 1,669, 13% of visitor only households. This compares with 20% in 2006. In 2001 the group had similar characteristics to those described above, for example 81% reported fully owning their dwelling, 12 were owners with a mortgage or purchasing under a rent buy scheme and 68 were renting the dwelling. Similar to 2006, most of these caravans/cabins had two people in them and had an even number of males and females in them. The majority (74%) were located in Northern parts of Australia and 71% of persons reported a usual address elsewhere in 2000.
The ABS also investigated other data sources. The review conclusions are supported by a study conducted by Tourism WA and Tourism Research Australia (2007) entitled Understanding the Caravan Industry in WA, in 2006. Tourism WA and Tourism Research Australia conducted qualitative and quantitative components as part of their study. The qualitative work identified distinct groups of caravan park travellers including a group they titled 'grey nomads' which was defined as: 'older age group (over 55 years) on an extended trip, often including travel to other states in Australia'.
The quantitative component of the study (n=406) obtained information from travellers staying in WA caravan parks between April and October 2006. The analysis showed that 40% of all travellers surveyed were grey nomads. Of these 'grey nomads' 86% were adult couples, none were away for less than a month, 63% had more than 3 months away (mean number of nights was 212 or 7 months), 88% had stayed in more than 20 caravan parks in the 5 years prior to the survey, all were visiting more than one state, none were travelling with children, and most grey nomads (91%) were retired and therefore had lower incomes (21% had incomes less than $20,000 per annum, 50% reported earning between $20,000 and $50,000 and 29% $50,000 plus) all the 'grey nomads' had visited states other than WA.
The survey also collected information about the 'grey nomads' usual address finding that 88% reported usual address interstate (not WA) and 9% within WA. The question seeking usual address information was a tick box question worded as follows:
FIGURE 1 - USUAL PLACE OF RESIDENCE QUESTION - Understanding the Caravan Industry in WA
The questionnaire provided no option for people to mark or write 'no usual address'. In addition, the term 'usual address' was not defined anywhere on the questionnaire, meaning the interpretation of 'usual address' was left to the respondent. The ABS therefore assumes that the definition was interpreted differently from the specific definition provided with the Census collection instrument.
The ABS is continuing its research into this group and will consider other data sources such as the National Visitor Survey. While it is possible that some people in the Reviewed ‘Grey nomad’ group were homeless, the ABS concluded in the Discussion paper that on balance, the group is more likely to be travelling for recreation or lifestyle purposes rather than being homeless. Likewise other older people staying with other households (including friends and relatives), or in other groupings, or looking for work or working, and reporting no usual address were classified as homeless.
Further research and advice from the Homelessness Statistics Reference Group will be used to inform whether further rules can be applied to refine the 'grey nomad' characteristics to distinguish those who may be homeless compared to those who are on an extended holiday.
Other Travellers in caravans cabins houseboats (excluding grey nomads)
The ABS Review also considered the remaining 3,551 persons who are in visitor only households, reporting no usual address and enumerated in a caravan, cabin or houseboat.
The ABS received advice from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare that SAAP clients who are referred from SAAP accommodation onto a caravan park should be considered part of the homeless population. These clients are not supposed to be paying rent directly to the park management while residing in caravan parks. To identify these SAAP clients, the Review isolated persons in a ‘caravan/residential park or camping ground’ with a tenure type of ‘being occupied rent free’ (21 persons) or persons reporting a tenure type of ‘rented’ but not stating their weekly rent payments (58 persons). The Review concluded that these 79 persons should be included in the homeless population.
The Review then considered the remaining 3,474 persons who were in visitor only households in a caravan, cabin or houseboat (except persons in caravan etc in caravan park/residential park or camping ground who reported tenure of 'rent free' or 'rented' but didn't state their rent). Characteristics were explored from which the Review concluded that these people were travelling around and have no usual address in the Census context because of their chosen lifestyle - they may well own a home elsewhere. The following is a summary of their characteristics.
Of this group, 63% of persons were in a two person household on Census night. Over three quarters (76%) were in a caravan, cabin or houseboat that was fully owned or owned with a mortgage. Almost half (49%) of persons were aged over 50 years. For caravan, cabin or houseboats that was fully owned or owned with a mortgage, approximately 92% of persons were in ‘caravan, cabin, houseboat’ that had 2 or more bedrooms, and over a third of persons had connection to the Internet, either through broadband, dial up or another connection. The large percentage reporting fully owning or owning their caravan with a mortgage indicates for many of this group their housing standards are a reflection of their lifestyle choices, rather than homelessness.
A further 38% were employed, either full-time, part-time or currently away from work. Some of the most common occupations in this group include fruit or nut pickers (10%), fruit and vegetable packers (5%), commercial cleaners (4%) and truck drivers and sales assistants (3% each). Most of these occupations indicate seasonal work which could indicate they may be travelling around Australia in a ‘caravan, cabin or houseboat’ taking up seasonal work to support their lifestyle.
TABLE 4 - PERSONS IN VISITOR ONLY HOUSEHOLDS IN A CARAVAN, CABIN OR HOUSEBOAT NOT APPEARING AS 'GREY NOMADS'(a)(b)(c), Tenure type and Number of persons in dwelling - 2006
TABLE 5 - PERSONS IN VISITOR ONLY HOUSEHOLDS IN A CARAVAN, CABIN OR HOUSEBOAT NOT APPEARING AS 'GREY NOMADS'(a)(b)(c), Labour force status - 2006
TABLE 6 - PERSONS IN VISITOR ONLY HOUSEHOLDS IN A CARAVAN, CABIN OR HOUSEBOAT NOT APPEARING AS 'GREY NOMADS'(a)(b)(c), Dwelling location - 2006
People residing in their second dwelling/holiday home etc
The ABS Review excluded from the reviewed estimates 2,350 persons who were in visitor only households (not in a caravan, cabin, houseboat) which were fully owned or owned with a mortgage. Based on the analysis below, the ABS Review concluded that these people were in one of the following groups: people staying in their second dwelling, for example the dwelling was either a holiday home or that these people move frequently for employment reasons and split their usual residence between two (or more dwellings); or that they were in the process of moving (possibly to start retirement) and had moved from a former usual address.
Over two-thirds of persons in this group were in a dwelling with three or more bedrooms (Table 7). For those persons in a dwelling that was ‘owned with a mortgage’ (29%) and with a stated housing loan repayment, 94% had monthly repayments greater than $400, and approximately 60% had monthly repayments greater than $1,000. The Survey of Income and Housing (SIH) 2005-06 reported that average housing costs for owners with a mortgage for the same period were $1,465 a month (in SIH housing costs include rates and body corporate payments as well as mortgage payments) (ABS 2007b) thus the majority of this group reported paying average or above average mortgage repayments.
The ABS Review concluded that these dwelling characteristics indicate that these dwellings could be holiday homes, or dwellings used by people who move frequently for employment reasons and split their usual residence between two or more locations, or dwellings acquired by people who have moved from a former usual address upon retirement. Approximately half (48%) of this group were 50 years or over (Table 8). In addition, 44% of this group (Table 9) were not in the labour force which indicates some of the reporting of no usual address could indicate arrangements due to retirement lifestyle choices.
TABLE 7 - PERSONS IN VISITOR ONLY HOUSEHOLDS WHICH WERE FULLY OWNED OR OWNED WITH A MORTGAGE(a), Number of bedrooms - 2006
TABLE 8 - PERSONS IN VISITOR ONLY HOUSEHOLDS WHICH WERE FULLY OWNED OR OWNED WITH A MORTGAGE(a), Age group and Number of persons in dwelling - 2006
TABLE 9 - PERSONS IN VISITOR ONLY HOUSEHOLDS WHICH WERE FULLY OWNED OR OWNED WITH A MORTGAGE(a), Labour force status - 2006
There was agreement in a couple of submissions that those who owned their dwelling should not be included in the homeless population.
People moving around for work
The ABS Review did not include as homeless 2,957 persons who are in visitor only households which were not in a caravan, cabin or houseboat and which they were renting. Based on the analysis below the Review concluded that these people were movers, temporarily accommodated in their new city or town, and who on Census night were unable to report a usual address.
For persons in visitor only dwellings where persons reported renting a dwelling that is not a ‘caravan, cabin or houseboat’, Table 10 shows that of those who reported a weekly rent payment, 60% paid $200 or more per week. For the same period, SIH 2005-06 showed that average rent for those with a private landlord was $223 per week (ABS 2007b). This indicates that the majority of these people were paying market rent. SIH also showed that the average number of bedrooms per dwelling in 2005-06 was 3.06. For these visitor only dwellings in the Census where persons reported renting a dwelling that is not a ‘caravan, cabin or houseboat’, 40% were in a dwelling with two bedrooms, and a further 44% were in a dwelling with three or more bedrooms (Table 11).
Approximately 40% of this group were classified as ‘not in the labour force’, a further 40% were employed (either full-time, part-time or away from work) and 7% were unemployed (Table 12). For persons that were employed the most common occupations included sales assistants, retail managers, waiters and chefs which can be high turnover occupations. The Review concluded that because people are in these types of occupations some of this group may not have stayed, or be intending to stay, at a particular address for 6 months or more.
A quarter of this group were aged between 20 and 29 years and another approximately 20% were aged between 30 and 39 years (Table 1.3). Over 20% of this group were overseas in the year before the Census and 25% were in a different statistical division to their statistical division of enumeration (Table 13). Some of these movers may be temporarily accommodated in their new city or town, and on Census night be unable to report a usual address. Over two-thirds were in ‘major cities of Australia’ and the five statistical local areas that were the most common places of enumeration included Surfers Paradise, north Sydney, inner city Newcastle and Fairfield and Blacktown in Sydney.
TABLE 10 - PERSONS WHO WERE IN VISITOR ONLY HOUSEHOLDS, NOT IN A CARAVAN, CABIN OR HOUSEBOAT AND RENTING(a), Weekly dwelling rent payments - 2006
TABLE 11 - PERSONS WHO WERE IN VISITOR ONLY HOUSEHOLDS, NOT IN A CARAVAN, CABIN OR HOUSEBOAT AND RENTING(a), Number of bedrooms - 2006
TABLE 12 - PERSONS WHO WERE IN VISITOR ONLY HOUSEHOLDS, NOT IN A CARAVAN, CABIN OR HOUSEBOAT AND RENTING(a), Age group and Labour force status - 2006
TABLE 13 - PERSONS WHO WERE IN VISITOR ONLY HOUSEHOLDS, NOT IN A CARAVAN, CABIN OR HOUSEBOAT AND RENTING(a), Whether in same statistical division 1 year ago - 2006
FUTURE CENSUS IDENTIFICATION
Feedback received through consultation and submission process indicates that further investigation will be needed on these groups. The ABS will seek advice from the Homelessness Statistics Reference Group on further exploration of the groups above in more detail.
This page last updated 4 August 2011
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