The Australian industries that have seen the largest increases -- and decreases -- in salary levels over the past 5 years

Monty Brinton/CBS via Getty Images
  • Average hourly pay rates in Australia have increased by just 10.8% in the past five years, barely ahead of inflation at 10%.
  • New data from Seek reveals that average advertised salary levels have varied greatly by individual sector over this period.
  • Job ads in many industries that enjoyed strong pay growth over the past five years are now starting to fall.

It’s been tough to get a decent pay rise in Australia over the past five years.

According to data released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), average hourly pay rates, as measured by the wage price index, have increased by just 10.8% in the five years to March, barely ahead of inflation which rose by 10% over the same period.

For the average Australian, real wage growth has been negligible.

However, that’s not been entirely reflective of trends seen across specific industries.

Some workers have seen their pay increase significantly faster than the national average, while others have seen their pay go backwards over this period in both nominal and real terms.

Nothing demonstrates that better than the table below from Seek.

It shows the average advertised salary level by industry, comparing the levels today from those seen five years ago.


Clearly, average pay rates are not reflective of trends that have been seen in individual sectors.

On one hand, advertised salaries for workers in education and training have surged by over 19%, the fastest increase of all 20 industries monitored.

Several sectors such as government and defense, banking and financial services, insurance and superannuation, along with those tied to the property market such as design and architecture and real estate, have all seen increases of more than 10% on average.

In contrast, and fitting with prior weakness commodity prices and the unwind of Australia’s mining infrastructure boom, average salaries for those working in the mining, resources and energy sectors have fallen steeply over the past five years, dropping 14%.

However, even with that decline, the mining sector still enjoys the highest average advertised salary level in Australia at $116,108.

Linked to the slowdown in mining investment, salary levels for engineers and construction workers have also gone backwards since 2013.

After inflation, real advertised salary levels have fallen in 13 of the 20 industries monitored over the past five years.

While salary trends in individual sectors have diverged significantly over this period, it’s what’s next that is likely of most interest to workers.

Just because salaries have risen or fallen quickly over the past five years does not mean it will be repeated in the period ahead.

Indeed, based on the latest job ads data released by Seek for June, openings in financial services, real estate and architecture — industries where salary levels increased strongly over the past five years — have now fallen over the past year, indicating a softening in demand.

For those looking to boost their salary in the coming years, it will pay — literally — to keep a close eye on where demand for workers is shifting.

At present, the largest percentage increases in job ads over the past year came from mining, community services and government.

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