Australian cost of living: prices now scream ‘crikey’

You are studying abroad in scenic Sydney, Australia. After a day of researching the rich Aboriginal culture and playing with wallabies, you return to your home-stay only to realize that you are out of eggs. When you reach the store to pick up a dozen, you are shocked to see the price: five dollars.

According to 2012 data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, living costs in Australia have risen by 40 percent over the past decade.

“From July 1, 2012, the basic rate of living costs under the Migration regulations increased,” stated Future Unlimited, an Australian government website promoting study abroad in the country. “Under these regulations, prospective student visa applicants must have access to $18,962 a year for the main student.”

As it stands, cost of living in Sydney is around 35 percent more than in New York City, according to Numbeo, a web database consisting of user contributions that provide financial information.

“Despite a booming labor market, many household incomes in Australia are stretched due to rising cost pressures,” said JP Morgan Economist Helen Kevans to The Sydney Morning Herald.

“The cost of necessities like fruit, petrol, electricity and both rent and mortgage interest families have to pay for each week went up faster than inflation,“ said the Australian Council of Trade Unions in a public statement.

Food is one facet of these pressures.

Future Unlimited lists the price of a little more than a pound of chicken in Australia as approximately $7.13. In contrast, a pound of chicken at the Harris Teeter grocery store near campus sells for $3.00 to 5.00 on average.

An online cost of living guide from Charles Sturt University lists prices for food items in Sydney. A loaf of bread is listed at $4 as opposed to the local Harris Teeter’s $1.50 to 3.50 and a dozen of eggs is listed at close to $5 while a dozen eggs locally costs from $2.00 to $4.00.

While abroad in Australia during the summer of 2012, senior Becca Dozier experienced the high cost of food firsthand.

“While I was there, I did notice that food was a lot more expensive,” said Dozier in an email interview. “I was told that’s because they pay their food services employees a decent wage. Also, I believe that if anything is imported, it’s more expensive because Australia is so far away from anything else.”

Compare this to the experience of Sophie Long, a former resident of Sydney now living in Chicago.

“I have certainly noticed a massive difference in cost of living in Chicago versus Sydney,” said Long in an email interview. “Eating out, cabs, a gym membership, public transport, groceries, clothes and pretty much everything are half to a quarter of the cost of what they were in Sydney.”

However,  the difference between Australian and U.S. mindsets softens the brunt of high living prices.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development’s “Your Better Life Index,” 75 percent of people in Australia said they were “satisfied with their life.” This was higher than the OECD average satisfaction rating of 59 percent for other countries.