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Social cohesion at lowest point on record in Australia

Social cohesion at lowest point on record in Australia

Friends talking in a park

Financial stress is making life harder in Australia and driving people further apart, causing the lowest levels of social cohesion on record.

That’s according to the 2023 Mapping Social Cohesion report, conducted by the Scanlon Institute. In July this year, it held a nationally-representative survey of 7,500 people.

The Scanlon Institute’s annual survey has been conducted since 2007, and provides a snapshot of Australians’ financial wellbeing, attitudes towards multiculturalism, and levels of
political engagement.

Measuring cohesion

Cohesion defines a society free of conflict built on strong social bonds. It’s measured through five categories:

  • Sense of belonging
  • Sense of worth
  • Social inclusion and justice
  • Political participation
  • Acceptance and rejection.

The overall score dropped five points this year to 78. It reached 92 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic
in November 2020.

Financial stress

About half of people in Australia said economic issues are the most important problems they face, which has an impact on social cohesion.

About six in 10 people said they’re financially satisfied or very satisfied, down from seven in 10 three years ago.

Over the past 12 months:

  • 12% skipped a meal because of financial stress
  • 12% struggled to pay their rent or mortgage.
  • 22% sometimes couldn’t pay for medicine or health care.

Young people in particular are reporting higher levels of hunger.

A record 84% believe the income gap between rich and poor in Australia is too high.


Migrants reported high levels of discrimination.


Australians have a more favourable view of immigration and multiculturalism compared to five years ago.

Most believe accepting migrants from overseas makes Australia stronger:

A huge majority agreed multiculturalism has been good for Australia:


Only 36% of people trust the Federal Government, a huge downturn on the levels of trust seen during the pandemic (56%).

However, support for democracy is strong, with 92% of people rating it as a good system to govern Australia.

The report found political participation is consistently high in Australia.

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