Economy

Meet Australia’s most cashed-up people: WA miners win the wage lottery

Yolanda Redrup /

They’re tough, hard and they’re not afraid to get dirty – miners out west are the most cashed-up people in Australia.

Figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics show male full-time workers in Western Australia earn on average $336.60 more than Victorian workers each week.

Those working in retail may start considering changing industries, as retail workers are the lowest paid of anyone in Australia. The average worker earns just $1022 a week.

Other sectors faring poorly include accommodation and food services and manufacturing.

In WA, the average worker’s total earnings are $1740.50 a week, with males earning a sizeable $1935.70.

The resources boom over the past decade has caused the salaries of WA workers to sky-rocket. Male salaries have gone up an impressive 89%, making them the highest paid in Australia.

On a state-by-state basis, Australian Capital Territory full-time workers, many of which are in the public sector, are still faring well and come in a close second on $1728 a week.

In NSW it’s a sad tale for men, a decade ago they were among the highest paid in Australia, but in the past 10 years their pay rose less than any other group, increasing from $1086 to $1454.

In the past year, overall Australians average weekly total earnings have risen 4.8%.

JP Morgan economist Tom Kennedy told SmartCompany the rise in salaries in WA has been driven by the resources boom.

“You can put the large increase in earnings in WA down to the investment phase of the resource boom, which has been driving growth in the state. There has been a shortage of labour, so they’ve had to increase the pay to attract people to the jobs.

“When we start to see a decrease in investment this will start to fall away and there will be a normalisation and convergence back toward the nation’s average,” he says.

Manufacturing workers have had the smallest pay increases across all the sectors dating back to the GFC.

On a gender basis, the pay gap is once again increasing. Average male wages have jumped 56%, while female wages rose 53% and nationally men are now paid 26% more than women, up 2% from a decade ago.

Kennedy says the data from the past year suggests wage pressure across the economy has been “quite soft”.

“We’re in a period where the economy is losing momentum and this is filtering through to a softer labour market, which is resulting in softer wage increases overall and a higher unemployment rate.

“It’s good to bear in mind the wage gains have been narrowly focused, particularly in the resource sector. If you’ve been in manufacturing, tourism or retail your wage earnings have been much slower in the past decade,” he says.

Kennedy says to some extent this means the argument about the high cost of living is valid, but generally wage growth and inflation is on par.

“At the moment, inflation is low and the cost of living hasn’t accelerated too quickly in the past year.”

“Wage and inflation tend to stabilise and find equilibrium,” he says.

Kennedy says this equilibrium is achieved through varying levels of demand for products and services being met by supply.

“Once there is a correct level of supply and demand they settle at an equilibrium point which satisfies the people wanting the services and the people supplying the services.

“This changes as the economy develops. If people get richer, demand increases for products, which in turn forces the cost of living up,” he says.

Kennedy says over the next two years wage growth will be slower because economic growth is “sub-trend”.

“This year growth will be about 2.5%. In 2014 it will accelerate slightly to about 2.7%, but this is still sub-trend.

“Australia is lacking an evident growth driver over the next decade,” he says.

 

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