News Advisor How our incomes compare to the rest of the world

How our incomes compare to the rest of the world

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It may not feel like it to many, but Australians have more disposable income than most other nations, including the USA, Denmark and Great Britain, according to new research.

Research by Movehub, a firm which collects data about living abroad, showed that after taxes were paid, Australians enjoy the second-highest disposable income behind Switzerland, but ahead of Ireland, Netherlands, Germany, Japan, Canada and France, among many others (see graphic below).

But while Australians have more in their pockets after a week at work, it doesn’t take long for it to disappear, with Australia ranking among the world’s most expensive places to live. Further, having high disposable income is having an impact on how happy we feel, says another report.

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Acknowledging the cost pressures on many Australians, the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) last week called for the minimum wage to be increased by $27 per week, lifting it to $667.90.

disposable-income-movehubACTU secretary Dave Oliver described the pay rise as “essential” to avoid creating an underclass of working poor.

While poorer workers may indeed be struggling with “deprivation and poverty”, as Mr Oliver claimed, the national average is far beyond that of many comparable countries.

The amount of money available after tax to individual Australians for spending and/or saving may be the second-highest in the world after Switzerland, the survey found.

On average, Australians had $US3780 each month in disposable income – a key indicator that can be used to gauge the overall health of an economy.

This figure is comparable to official bureau of statistics (ABS) data from 2009-10.

But income minus taxes is not the only important measure.

Australians may have high wages, but we also pay very high prices for things like housing.

As this map indicates, major cities such as Melbourne and Sydney are right up in the dark red ‘danger zone’ for global cost of living, unlike many other nations that appear lower on the scale of disposable income.

And despite our disposable wealth, Australians are by no means the happiest, another survey has suggested.

The nation does not even make the top 50 on the most recent version of The Happy Planet Index (HPI).

In fact, Australia ranks a reasonably miserable 76th, well behind such nations as Canada (65th), China (60th), the United Kingdom (41st) and close neighbour New Zealand (28th).

Interestingly, many of the happier nations on the HPI had far lower disposable incomes than Australia.

For example, Brazil ranked 21st for happiness, despite having an average of more than $3,000 less disposable income per month than Australia.


World disposable income data can be found here, and The Happy Planet Index (HPI) can be found here

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