Are you making enough money? — Jason Murphy breaks down new ABS info to see how you rank against the rest of Australia. Picture: iStock
Are you making enough money? — Jason Murphy breaks down new ABS info to see how you rank against the rest of Australia. Picture: iStock

How your pay compares to other Aussies

ARE you getting ripped off at work? Putting in way too many hours for not enough money? Want to know how can you make more money?

Now you can find out. The Australian Bureau of Statistics just dropped a whole lot of data on how much money everybody is making in their main job. Whether you sit in front of a computer or dig up turnips, these numbers will tell you something.

It might contain some surprises, so hold on to your hats.

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This next chart should be compulsory reading for anyone who just finished school. What industry you go into makes a huge difference to how much money you make.

(The first chart shows weekly earnings and the second one shows hourly earnings. They look different because of different levels of hours worked in different industries. It shows median earnings in your main job.)

Kids, you should follow your dreams. Just make sure your dreams include a few relevant financial details. It is excellent to want to be a chef, so long as you do it in full awareness of what it will make you. Don't be that person who quits the industry age 32, furious they are not rich yet.

Making less money than someone you're more talented than? It hurts. And it could happen every hour of every day for the rest of your life if you pick the wrong industry.


They talk about life hacks? Suppressing your desire to be an actor and instead becoming an accountant is probably the biggest life hack a person can possibly imagine. (Especially since struggling actors tend to prop up their earnings by working hospitality, which is also one of the worst paid jobs in existence.)

Yes, some actors make it big. But so do some accountants. The top partners at those big accounting firms make millions each year. And there's no bottom end of accountants struggling to make ends meet.

You need to play the odds. Some industries, like hospitality, simply have a lot of lower paid jobs in them. Not to mention that in many cases, those same industries offer less than full time hours.

Other industries have less downside and still a bit of upside. For example I recently found out how much money school principals make in Victoria. Between $136,000 and $207,000 a year. Assistant principals make not much less. Which was way more than I expected. You can't hope to make over $85/hour in hospitality, for example, but you can in education.


Australians all let us rejoice/

For we are young and free/

We've golden soil/

And wealth for toil /

… girt … etc./

What the lyrics fail to point out about wealth for toil is it depends on where you are.

It might alter the rhythm of the anthem to parenthetically specify that your wealth for toil accumulates 25 per cent more slowly in Tasmania than the ACT, but it would at least be accurate. (It's a terrible song anyway - I doubt a few edits would hurt.)

This next graph shows the difference in median earnings in your main job between Australia's states and territories. The first page shows weekly earnings and the second one shows hourly. Again, they are different because different states have different levels of full time and part time workers.



To finish with, here's the big picture. Australians who earn $1,066 a week are right in the middle. If you make that much (before tax) you can feel a kind of Buddhist calm. When you look around half of the people you see are making less money than you, and half are making more. Breathe in, breathe out. The universe is centred around you.

If you are a part-time worker, that kind of money would put you way above the middle of the pack. The median part time worker makes just $530 a week.

If you're a full time worker though, $1066 a week leaves you stranded below the middle. For full-timers, you need to make $1320 to be in the middle of the Australian income distribution

The sweet spot is being a full time male. My fellow fellows who do the daily grind get $1400 a week, as a median. ($34.90 an hour). Here's where you may lose some of that Buddhist calm we discussed earlier - women on the same schedule get $1229 a week ($32.90 an hour).

This effect is mostly to do with men and women doing different types of jobs, and partly to do with direct discrimination in those jobs. But even the first cause should make us stop and pause - why is it society encourages women into lower paid roles?

To anyone who has just finished school - boy or girl, man or woman, get open minded about what kind of job you might have. Money isn't everything, but it's not nothing either. Don't get trapped by other people's expectations about what you should do, and think carefully about the financial consequences before you choose your career.

- Jason Murphy is an economist. He writes the blog Thomas the Think Engine. Continue the conversation on Twitter @jasemurphy