The changing dynamic of Australia’s demographics is perhaps the biggest driver of long term investment decisions in property. New demographics will almost certainly have different demands to current ones, in the same way that your parents may not have wanted to live close to the beach in case the salty air rusted their car.
A fast emerging social group is that of single parents, with over 902,000 having children aged under 15 as of the 2011 census. (This definition only takes into account parents with wholly dependent children; the number of single parents would be greater if those with children over the age of 16 were included.) In the past five years this category has increased 10 per cent, whereas traditional families with two parents, with all children aged under 15, increased 7 per cent to 2.5 million across the same period.
For anyone quick at maths, this means that around one in four families with young children are now headed by a single parent. The clear majority of these single-parent young families are headed by women, at 82 per cent. Single-parent families headed by men numbered 159,000 in 2011, up 19,000 or 14 per cent, over the previous five years, which compares with a 7 per cent growth rate for single families headed by women. This means that single-parent families headed by a man, where the children are all under the age of 15, is one the fastest growing social groups in Australia. Admittedly this is coming off a low base and therefore in percentage terms the increases seem far greater, but the result is still compelling nonetheless.
This may be due to a number of reasons, whether it’s a legal thought change on custody, male gen X and Ys’ determination to remain connected to their children’s lives, or even that an increasing proportion of women are the primary household earner and continue that role after separation. The key point is that the orthodox notion of the single mum is being challenged -�male single parents are growing at twice the rate of female single parents. This is a major gender-based social shift.
Property investors therefore need to keep in mind properties that will appeal to this new demographic as well as the more traditional ones.