Money Work Find out which industries pay the most
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Find out which industries pay the most

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The income gap between rich and poor Australian is widening. Photo: Getty
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Miners, bankers and utility workers are pulling in the nation’s fattest pay cheques, new official data has revealed.

Earlier this month, Australia’s statistics bureau published estimates of average and median weekly wages for 19 industries, giving us a rough idea of how much these workers are paid each year. Unfortunately, pre-budget speculation was at fever pitch, so the release got overshadowed.

Despite the slow death of the resources boom, mining was the clear leader with an average wage of $117,000. Perhaps this was aided by the recent mini-recovery in iron ore and coal prices – or by the fact that the ABS figures date back to August 2016.

In all industries, median wages (what a worker right in the middle gets paid) were a fair bit lower than average wages, which is probably because high-paid workers at the top dragged up the average. The ABS includes ‘owner managers’ as well as ’employees’ in its figures, so that is sure to have an impact.

As always, the gender pay gap was stark. Female construction workers were the only ones who out-earned (on average wages) their male colleagues. However, the ABS cautioned that this figure had a 25 to 50 per cent standard of error, probably because very few women work in construction.

highest paid industries wages

For those who don’t like the look of their industry average, such as retail workers earning about $39,700 or fast food workers earning somewhere near $30,000, the news gets worse.

Not only will many low-paid workers have to contend with penalty rate cuts in future, but pay rises are a long way off.

We learned on Tuesday, based on newly published minutes, that the Reserve Bank board voiced serious concerns about the state of Australia’s labour market at its monthly meeting on May 2. It expected only gradual improvement in unemployment and wage growth.

So does Treasury. In last week’s budget, the boffins predicted that wages will have grown by a very sluggish 2 per cent in 2016-17, and still be stuck at 2.5 per cent in 2017-18.

In the so-called “out years”, Treasury really ramps up its projections: 3 per cent in 2018-19, 3.5 per cent in 2019-20, and 3.75 per cent in 2020-21. But barely anyone believes those very sunny numbers, as they seemed designed to plug holes in budget revenue.

  • Keep reading The New Daily this week for coverage of the all-important ABS numbers on wage growth (Wednesday) and unemployment (Thursday).

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