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Australians resorting to theft amid high cost of living

Over the past year, the average Australian monthly grocery bill has risen by seven per cent to $740.

Over the past year, the average Australian monthly grocery bill has risen by seven per cent to $740. Photo: Getty

Some Australians are turning to low-level crime to survive, as households buckle under the soaring cost-of-living.

More than one-in-10 Australians, or about 2.4 million people, confessed to having stolen from businesses in the past year as they reached financial breaking point, a survey of more than 1000 respondents from comparison website Finder has revealed.

Over the past year, the average monthly Australian grocery bill has risen by seven per cent to $740, according to Finder’s Consumer Sentiment Tracker.

The most common theft is happening at supermarket checkouts, with five per cent of people walking out without paying for groceries.

Four per cent of respondents admit to deliberately scanning an item as another cheaper product at self-service checkouts.

Many Australian households are financially strapped with a rising number in survival mode, the head of consumer research at Finder Graham Cooke said.

“Aussies are clearly struggling to afford basic necessities and some are turning to criminal behaviour to get by,” Mr Cooke said.

The survey was released on the same day as Foodbank Australia’s latest report which found 36 per cent of all households are struggling with food insecurity – an increase of 383,000 from the previous year.

The Foodbank Hunger Report 2023 found 3.7 million households went hungry in the past year.

Finder’s Consumer Sentiment Tracker found four per cent of Australians had driven away from the bowser without paying for fuel in the past year, while two per cent had left a cafe or restaurant without paying.

Gen Z are more likely than their older counterparts to take basics such as food or fuel without paying, with about one-in-four respondents admitting to stealing.

More than 10 per cent of Gen Z had left the supermarket without paying for an item, compared to three per cent for Gen X – which has prompted shops to ramp up monitoring at the checkout.

Mr Cooke advised those struggling to afford food to visit food banks rather than risk getting a criminal record.

“With supermarket profits up dramatically, it would be understandable for consumers to expect their retailers to do more to help them get through the cost of living crisis,” he said.

– AAP

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