I’ve been in the United States for 4 days, and I’ve been constantly told that I am from a lucky country. I think that Australian’s take it for granted that even in the West, we’re amongst the privileged. Discussions about gay rights, retirement, student loans and employment have all made me realize this.
I’m happy to be completely wrong about this, BUT, my understanding of gay rights (in New Hampshire) is that there are none. I’m currently living in a house owned by an older gay couple, who have been together for 28 years. Their relationship is not recognized AT ALL, to the extent that if one were to become hospitalized, someone renting of them would have the same rights to see them or turn off life support.
In Australia, although not perfect, there is a recognition of a relationship, through a certification. Although it doesn’t give ALL rights that marriage does, nor is it recognized by everyone, it does provide some rights, and definitely more than in the United States.
Australian Superannuation vs. American 401K, is not even comparable. In my American friend’s case, he can choose to make contributions to his 401K which his employer can choose to match. At the same time he is expected to save for retirement. The issue at current is that most people’s ‘saving for retirement’ is tied up in their house. When the financial crisis hit and markets crashed, they lost their house, and their retirement plan. In addition, pension amounts are based on how long a person works for, so someone working 20 years would earn more pension than someone who worked for 10 years. There is no pension earned for someone who never works.
In Australia, if you’re a low-middle income earner, the government co-contributes to your superannuation account, matching voluntary contributions to your account up to $1000. On top of your super payout, Australian government pension provides an amount between $200-700 per person fortnightly, which isn’t great, but you are almost guaranteed SOMETHING.
I have student loans, at $18,000. That’s not abnormally high, or low. Most of my american friend’s student loan debt sits between $70,000 and $150,000. And they have to start paying it immediately, with interest.
HECS-debt in Australia, is our student loans. You don’t take them out, there’s no signing your life away, or anything scary. It’s usually just a ticked box on a form or two. There’s no interest, and no upfront fees. And, I don’t need to start paying anything until I earn over $49,000. When this occurs, a certain percentage (maximum of 8%) is taken out before tax to pay the loan back, or I can make voluntary payments.
A lot of people here don’t seem to have jobs. Or they pay under $15 an hour. There is no minimum wage. Apparently, if I take a job in retail, I should expect $7-10 an hour. Minimum wage in Australia varies in different industries, though I have worked in several hospitality and retail jobs generally earning between $18 and 25 an hour, and $25-40 an hour on Sundays or public holidays.