Along with all of the coverage of the great recession we have also seen a good deal of coverage of the countries that have escaped relatively unscathed. The one that keeps catching my eye is Australia. The 22 million people in Australia have been faring pretty well through these difficult years. Phil Dobbie has a good piece on Bnet about it. He cites China as a reason, along with Australian banker sanity. One other key number is immigration. Australia is attracting alot of immigration -- 1.3% immigration in the year ending march 2009. I wrote a post about our immigration numbers the other day -- we currently allow .37% immigration. Australia's current level of immigration is about the same as we had during our peak immigration year in 1907. Ever since then we have thought the American experience a little too good to share with very many others.
Australia had enough immigration that their GDP per capita fell slighly during the recession. So is a country, and by extension its people, better off if it achieves overall growth but at the sacrifice of GDP per capita? I suspect not if it is sustained trend, but for a few years it probably works. Here are some other interesting numbers from the CIA Factbook.
Australia GDP per Capita: $38,500 (23rd) -- the US: $46,400 (11th)
Australia Income Distribution: Rank 110 out of 134 or 23rd best score -- the US: 43 out of 134 or 91st place.
It is not clear to me how to convert the income distribution numbers into a meaningful real world number, but considering how close together the GDP per capita numbers are and how far apart the income distribution numbers are, I would guess there is a pretty good chance that if you take out our hedge fund managers, and put military spending back to a rational level, the average person in Australia is probably better off than the average person in the US.
One of these days I will have to go and check that place out.