Countries that were more upbeat about their national economy were more likely to say life today was better. (Wikipedia)
Australians are divided as to whether life 50 years ago had more to offer, according to a global study.
- In Australia 50pc thought life was better, 33pc thought it was worse
- 60pc of 18 to 29-year-olds in UK and Australia ranked life better, 41pc above 50 said worse
- Vietnamese, Indians, South Koreans and Japanese the most positive nations
The Pew Research Centre often measures global attitudes, but this is the first time the organisation has asked whether life in a person’s country is generally better, worse, or the same as it was five decades ago.
Overall, 43,000 citizens of 38 countries were surveyed, and in general countries that were more upbeat about their national economy were more likely to say life today was better compared with 1967.
In Australia, out of those surveyed, 50 per cent thought life was better now, 33 per cent thought it was worse, and the rest were undecided.
Those most positive about life today were Vietnamese (88 per cent said life was better), Indians (69 per cent), South Koreans (68 per cent) and Japanese (65 per cent).
Whereas Venezuelans (72 per cent said life was worse), Mexicans (68 per cent), Tunisians (60 per cent) and Jordanians (57 per cent) tended to say life had become worse for people like them.
The global median figure was 43 per cent saying life was better, and 39 per cent believing it to be worse.
50 years ago in Australia
In 1967, Australians still watched television in black and white, the mining boom was just underway and the economy prospered.
The prime minister, Harold Holt, vanished while swimming in heavy surf, eventually triggering a leadership crisis for the Coalition.
Indigenous Australians were given the right to be counted in the national census.
The postcode system of postal address coding was introduced throughout Australia, and the Australian dollar was unlinked from British currency.
Mobile phones and the World Wide Web were still decades away from being invented.
Australia a ‘fairer society now’
Demographer Mark McCrindle said it was easy for people to become nostalgic about the 1960s.
“Kids would ride bikes around, there were no helmets back then, they would head out on a Saturday or Sunday and they wouldn’t come back until dinner,” he said.
“It was that sort of free-range parenting approach to life, a lot less regulation.”
But beyond the technological and medical advancements, Mr McCrindle said Australia was now a fairer society than it was 50 years ago.
“We did not have the equality and the recognition of original Australians,” he said.
“And beyond that, the cultural diversity and the inclusion that has taken place since then.
“So from a social justice [perspective], [we see] far more enlightenment and breakthroughs these days.”
Younger people rank life better now
Australia and the United Kingdom recorded the two biggest gaps in positivity based on the age of respondents.
More than 60 per cent of 18 to 29-year-olds ranked life today as better, compared to 41 per cent of those aged above 50 who preferred their life when they were younger.
University student Mark Phillip, 21, said though his generation has gained a lot, it may have come at a cost.
“Today when you’re talking with your friends, half of you are sitting there on your phones — even messaging each other when you’re sitting next to each other,” he said.
“[Sometimes] you don’t even know what to say to each other, when the conversation stops you just get on your phone and do something else.”
Robyn Lloyd was in her 20s in 1967 and said she felt life now was much more sedentary and restrictive for young people such as her grandchildren.
“I do encourage them to be more active … I get out and play soccer with them,” she said.
But she said there were aspects to modern life she definitely appreciated.
“Probably mobile phones, unfortunately yes, I couldn’t live without my mobile phone,” she said.
Vesna Stankovic said her kids were missing out on many of the things she enjoyed at their age — thanks to technology.
“You could make an idiot of yourself, nobody took a photo of you, so there was no evidence,” she said.
“There was no social media, not everybody saw it, someone sitting in Tokyo couldn’t laugh at you for falling down when you were drunk.
“You made a phone call, you sent a letter and you waited three days for a response. You didn’t send an email and expect a reply within three minutes —nobody’s patient, everybody wants everything yesterday.”
Ms Stankovic said along with changes brought on by technology, issues such as affordability had only become worse.
“I grew up in a one-income household in the city and my parents managed to pay off the home, we weren’t rich but we lived a comfortable life,” she said.
“But now, unless both parents are working there is no chance you can pay anything off, or even afford a mortgage.”