While it may seem inconspicuous, 1949 was a marvellous year.
It was the year silly putty was invented (by mistake, no less), but it was also the year of birth of thousands of Australians who will officially reach retirement age in 2014.
Related: Do we need a retirement age?
So what was life – and Australia – like for those born at the dusk of the 1940s compared to the dawn of 2015?
Hungry hungry Australians
Even though World War II ended officially in 1945, its effects were felt long after. National rationing of meat and clothing was only abolished in 1948, and rationing of butter and tea remained in place until mid-1950, according to the Australian War Memorial.
Up until those times, each adult was only allowed about 1kg of meat per week. These days, Australia is one of the top meat-eating nations in the world, with statistics from the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations showing that Aussies ate their way through 121.2kg of meat in 2011 each – about 2.3kg per week. To put that in perspective, the average worldwide consumption of meat per person is just 41.9kg per year.
Bringing home the bacon
Australian salaries were a little different back then, too.
Figures from the State Library of Victoria show the average male factory worker earned just £296 3s 7d per year in 1950, while the women in the same roles earned an annual income of £146 18s 4d.
For managers, clerks and the like in the same year, those figures rose to £433 1s 4d for men and £162 10s 6d for women.
Showing just how much times have changed, most of the information on average salaries is now split by sector or region – rather than gender. The gender gap has closed significantly.
The latest May stats from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show that the average full-time Aussie earns approximately $75,600 per year (ordinary-time earnings of $1,453.90 per week).
Applying the genetic make-up
In the late 1940s, Australia started to encourage migration to the Lucky Country. Just check out this swanky poster that would undoubtedly have thousands of immigrants jumping on boats to our shores (let’s not even get started on the design phase of the 1940s). We needed all hands on deck to rebuild Australia – a time for reconstruction, industrialisation and the dire but compelling motto ‘Populate or Perish’.
And boy, did they come. Displaced Persons (or DPs) were a large contingent of the first wave through 1947 to 1953, hailing from nations all over Eastern Europe as they left war-torn countries. In these short six years, more than 170,000 immigrants arrived on our shores. This post-war trend continued through the 1950s and 60s, when countless people arrived from Italy, Greece, Malta, Croatia and Turkey, giving Australia the unique and vibrant genetic melting pot we enjoy today.
One accidental war-time invention, the microwave, was born not long after the 2014-retirees of 1949. Percy LeBaron Spencer was working with a device that would hopefully advance British radar systems – and instead noticed this device had melted a chocolate bar in his pocket. One thing led to another, and the time-saving, sausage-defrosting, wheat-bag warming, veggie-steaming microwave was born.
Phones were around in the 1950s and 1960s, but they looked more like the kids’ toys of today. Without Facebook, Snapchat, SMS, email, news, cameras, games and apps, we can guarantee no one was lining up at midnight to be the first to purchase the newest version, either.
Meanwhile, a Kodak engineer came up with a new device – the digital camera – in 1975, and apparently baffled his company execs, who couldn’t understand why anyone would want a camera without a film.
At this time, most of the 1949 babies were old enough to be married and have kids (grooms were an average age of 23.3 and brides at 20.9 in 1974, according to ABS). Compare that to 2012, where the median age for grooms was 31.4 years, and brides 29.4 years.
What do you think the biggest difference is from 1949 to 2014?