Report: Decade of Wages Lost

The McKell Institute

New analysis shows the average frontline worker has not had a real pay rise for more than a decade.

The McKell Institute’s new report, A decade of wages lost, sheds light on the scale and impact of the nation’s nominal wage increase and its recent decline.

The report shows annual real wage declines over the last 18 months have left wages lower than they were 10 years prior. It finds:

  • The average real wage in Australia is lower today than at any point since September 2011

  • Some occupations, including nurses and correctional officers, have lost almost $3,000 in real wages compared to a decade ago. Even teachers, who have experienced a small real wage increase, have seen wages rise by just 0.6% in a decade

  • Queensland has suffered the greatest real wage decline in Australia at 2.5%

  • Australia’s two largest states were on par with average real wages in 2012. They have since fallen in NSW, while Victoria has among the highest in the country

Report author and CEO of the McKell Institute Michael Buckland has warned policymakers to be cautious about placing downward pressure on wages.

“Real wages are at their lowest level in years. The nominal wage growth we have seen over the last decade has been wiped out by inflation,” Mr Buckland said.

“Workers across Australia have been exposed to the onset of inflation and low wage growth and will be worse off for years to come. Paramedics, registered nurses, correctional officers and firefighters are getting paid less, and have a lower standard of living today than they did ten years ago.

“Government policies have been driving anaemic wage growth. This has included public sector wage freezes, inaction on wage theft, and an expansion of the gig economy without adequate regulation.

“The Federal Government will no doubt prioritise reducing inflation but it must also balance this with recovering a decade of lost wages for workers. It will take years to regain the wage growth that has been fought for and now lost.”

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