25 February 2019

Canberrans earn $414 a week more than Tasmanians but it’s harder for strugglers

| Glynis Quinlan
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The ACT has the highest weekly earnings of any state or territory but this can mask the plight of those struggling on low incomes.

Living in the ACT can be good for the hip pocket according to the latest data, with Canberrans on average earning $414 a week more than Tasmanians and $208 more than the national average.

While Australian Bureau of Statistics data points to ongoing low growth in average earnings, the ACT continues to have the highest weekly earnings of any state or territory – with full-time adult workers earning an average of $1,813.30 a week.

However, those high average incomes are masking the difficulties faced by Canberrans struggling on low incomes according to the ACT Council of Social Service (ACTCOSS) which says “the market operates at the higher cost of living spend”.

Recently-released ABS figures show that the average weekly ordinary time earnings for full-time adults in Australia in November 2018 was $1,604.90. This was an increase of 1.2 per cent over the previous six months and an annual increase of 2.4 per cent.

Chief Economist at the ABS, Bruce Hockman, said that average earnings in the public sector remain higher than in the private sector, with average weekly earnings for full-time adults in the private sector increasing by 2.3 per cent over the year compared to an increase of 2.6 per cent in the public sector.

Mr Hockman said the ACT continues to have the highest average weekly earnings, while mining remained the leading industry at $2,611.70.

“Meanwhile, Tasmania remained the state or territory with the lowest average weekly ordinary time earnings for full-time adults at $1,399.50 while accommodation and food services continued to be the lowest paid industry on average at $1,161.00,” said Mr Hockman.

ACTCOSS Director Susan Helyar said there is a big divide between Canberrans on average incomes and those on low incomes – with income support payments the same no matter where you live in Australia.

“Because of the high average incomes and the high cost of living, income support is woefully inadequate,” Ms Helyar said.

She said that the ACT has the most expensive rental housing in Australia, some of the highest transport costs, and that the extreme weather means people use more electricity and face a higher level of hardship in terms of energy costs.

“Even if you are a smaller proportion of the population, your life is very difficult,” Ms Helyar said.

“In a city like Canberran being on a lower income can make it difficult to participate.”

Ms Helyar said these concerns point to the need for low-cost housing, more ACT Government concessions and increases to allowances such as the Newstart Allowance.

Ms Helyar said that the main opportunities for Canberra’s job seekers are in the lowest paid industries.

“Some of the major growth areas in Canberra in terms of employment are in hospitality, tourism and community services and all these roles – particularly the entry-level roles – are lower paid,” Ms Helyar said.

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