How much do you earn?
It’s a simple question that carries a lot of weight. One that many Australians are uncomfortable discussing even among their closest friends.
A poll conducted by University of New South Wales (UNSW) found that almost 90% of Australians surveyed said they were an average household, with an average income, somewhere in the suburban middle.
But is that true? And how does your salary compare to your neighbours, friends or relatives?
Read on to find out.
Median incomes and middle Australia
According to the latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), the median income in 2018 was $1,288.70 per week, or about $67,000 a year.
But when you break that down between men and women there’s a stark difference. The median men’s salary was $79,300 per year, vs $54,700 for women.
While gender is one variable. Industry, location, and age also determined income.
Average income by age
|Age||Average weekly income|
|Average annual income|
|20 years & under||$383||$19,916|
|21 to 34 years||$1,127||$58,604|
|35 to 44 years||$1,503||$78,156|
|45 to 54 years||$1544||$80, 288|
|55 years & over||$1373||$71,396|
How do I compare to the neighbours?
A common theme encountered by the research teams was people’s difficulty comparing their salary to the rest of the country.
According to the University’s Professor Peter Saunders, ”Most Australians have a greatly distorted impression of where their incomes place them relative to others… Almost no one thinks they are in the bottom, and even fewer think they are in the top 20%.”
While that speaks volumes about our national identity, and egalitarian aspirations, the truth is obviously more complicated. Australia may not place the same emphasis on class divide as other countries, but that doesn’t mean it’s not real.
If you’re looking for a snapshot of where you sit relative to the rest of Australia, the ABC has a useful tool.
The tables below also provide a useful snapshot.
Average income by industry
Mining continues to be the highest paid industry in Australia. But it’s worth noting that these numbers take a very broad stroke, with large salary discrepancies within specific industries.
|Industry||Average annual income|
|Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services||$99,900|
|Financial and Insurance Services||$95,200|
|Professional, Scientific and Technical Services||$89,600|
|Information Media and Telecommunications||$87,300|
|Public Administration and Safety||$80,300|
|Transport, Postal, Warehousing||$77,100|
|Education and Training||$67,600|
|Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services||$63,600|
|Health Care and Social Assistance||$61,100|
|Administrative and Support Services||$61,000|
|Arts and Recreation Services||$47,200|
|Accommodation, Cafes and Restaurants||$32,000|
Average income by location
Where you live can impact your salary. There’s a $22,000 difference in average annual income between the ACT and Tasmania. But the differences between NSW, VIC and QLD are probably smaller than most people anticipate.
|State||Average annual income|
|New South Wales||$68,000|
Salary growth, disposable income and coronavirus
Income doesn’t exist in a bubble. It’s influenced by a multitude of factors, including age, industry, gender and other variables. It’s also influenced by global pandemics. Australia’s slow wage growth is well documented, and the global pandemic certainly isn’t going to help.
In fact, data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics shows that average weekly disposable household incomes have grown by just $44 over the past decade.
That’s a real problem. And it has knock-on effects, including superannuation and retirement.
While there are no simple answers, speaking with a financial planner can help you plan ahead, and look at how you can get the most out of your current income. Whether that’s reducing your tax obligations, putting more aside for a rainy day, or planning for retirement, we can help you understand your options.