We don’t often think of ourselves in Australia as belonging to a class-based society. Australians think and talk about social class less than their counterparts in Britain, France and Europe generally. Plus, we don’t tend to think that we have the same level of income inequality as the US. Despite this, newly released data shows we are surprisingly willing to identify ourselves as members of one class or another.
A majority (52%) view themselves as belonging to the middle class, while 40% describe themselves as working class. Only 2% are prepared to admit to belonging to the upper class of Australian society (with 6% providing no answer).
Class as a factor in attitudes
There are no differences between self-described class membership on the basis of gender, but it does have some relationship with age: the youngest (18-24 years) and oldest (55 and older) Australians disproportionately view themselves as middle rather than working class.
Such self-reported questions are useful, as a number of attributes and attitudes vary by this class membership. Members of the self-described working class are more likely to report that they are either dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the way the country is heading (45%) compared to those who identify as upper or middle class (37%).
Class differences appear to matter a lot when it comes to attitudes to income inequality. While the affluent and middle classes are slightly more likely to be in favour of increased services, they are significantly less likely to feel that it is probably or definitely the government’s role to reduce income differences between the rich and the poor.