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Employee earnings beat inflation in 2019

Australian cash and coins

Despite concerns about sluggish wages growth, employees still pocketed an inflation-beating increase over 2019, new figures show, even as overtime rates eased.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) revealed that the median weekly earnings of Aussie workers increased by 2.3 per cent over the course of the year to August 2019. That beat the inflation rate, which is currently sitting at 1.7 per cent.

Interestingly, the ABS found that female employees enjoyed a substantially higher percentage growth in their earnings than male employees.

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This discrepancy is due, in part, to the increasing casualisation of the workforce as well as the performance of the different industries typically populated by men and women.

“Median weekly earnings for male employees rose by less than that of female employees, partly because of the growing number of males working part-time hours, and the industries and occupations that men and women are working in,” said ABS head of labour statistics, Bjorn Jarvis.

Economists, politicians and the Reserve Bank have all expressed concerns over the relatively slow rate of wages growth this year, particularly in light of the mid-year finding that company profits were growing at almost double the rate of employee pay.

Indeed, an enterprise negotiation specialist in June urged employers against playing hardball on wages lest it “come back to bite them”.

Flexible working rises, overtime falls

Employees are now more likely to have access to flexible working arrangements, the ABS said, although this has increased only a small margin over the past four years.

The ABS said that employees with flexible working hours made up a larger proportion of the workforce in August 2019 than they did in the same month in 2015.

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This year, 34 per cent of workers had flexible work hours, up from the 32 per cent rate recorded in August 2015.

There was a similar increase in the proportion of employees regularly working from home, at 32 per cent (compared to 30 per cent in 2015).

Employees are also working less overtime than they used to, the bureau found.

This year, 34 per cent of workers regularly work overtime, it said, down on the 36 per cent in 2015. Those on call or on standby also fell, from 24 per cent in 2015 to 22 per cent in 2019.

Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti

Adam Zuchetti is the editor of My Business, and has steered the publication’s editorial direction since early 2016. 

The two-time Publish Awards finalist has an extensive journalistic career across business, property and finance, including a four-year stint in the UK. Email Adam at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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