The wages of Australian workers are failing to outpace inflation, while the jobless rate stagnates and the average female worker misses out.
According to official twice-yearly data released on Thursday, the average worker is earning a total of $61,240 a year, including overtime and bonuses – up just 1.6 per cent from $60,263 a year ago.
This followed news on Wednesday that wages grew through 2016-17 by just 1.9 per cent, the lowest for any financial year since the series began in 1997.
The rate of pay rises matched inflation exactly, at 1.9 per cent, meaning wages are officially failing to outpace the rising cost of living. Households appear to be going nowhere.
Worse still, wages in the private sector grew just 1.8 per cent over the last financial year, meaning the majority of the workforce actually copped a real wage cut.
Professor Marian Baird, a leading researcher at The University of Sydney on women and employment, blamed a lack of confidence and union membership among workers, which created a “self-reinforcing downward spiral”, especially in the private sector.
“It’s still a very flat labour market and the improvements are very marginal if at all,” Professor Baird told The New Daily.
“If you’re in the private sector, you’re reading the messages that wage growth is low. You’re thinking your job might be insecure – that’s what everybody is telling you. So you’re probably unlikely to go in and ask for a pay rise.
“Because wage movements are measured across the board, that’s much easier for employers to then say they can’t afford it, because no-one else is doing it.
“And of course they’re not unionised as much, so they don’t have that collective voice.”
The gender gap improved a little in the latest data, but remained stark.
The average Australian male was earning $73,606 a year in May, including overtime, up from $72,389 last year. This was a 1.7 per cent increase.
However, the average woman was earning only $49,150 a year, up from $48,079 a year ago. The good news was that the 12-month increase of 2.2 per cent was slightly larger than for men, meaning the gap closed marginally.
And conditions in the labour market haven’t improved dramatically.
The latest figures for July had the jobless rate unchanged at 5.6 per cent (on the trend measure) while the underemployment rate edged up slightly to 8.5 per cent (on ‘original’ numbers, the only monthly data available).
Jobs were created last month, but they were all part-time (+48,200), with 20,300 full-time positions vanishing.