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The money-go-round

By Michael Emerson

Age group and qualifications count when it comes to income, writes Michael Emerson.

Workers are taking home more cash but where they're employed and how old they are is having an impact on their salaries more than ever.

An analysis of the latest Roy Morgan Research survey reveals that, during the year to March, the average salary and wages for full-time employees rose 3.7 per cent to $74,100. However, the average masks differences between industries, occupations and generations.

Professionals such as lawyers, doctors and teachers have enjoyed the highest salary growth, rising 7.9 per cent. A full-time professional on average earns a little more than $100,000.

Managers also earn, on average, more than $100,000 ($103,800), but their salaries have risen only 3.1 per cent, reflecting the tighter trading conditions and reduction in bonuses in the economic climate.

At the other end of the scale, small-business owners have the lowest average salary: $31,000.

Skilled workers in the trades achieved an average salary of $70,700, which was an increase of 4.7 per cent over the year.

The data also shows the value of skills in gaining a higher salary, with the average full-time unskilled worker earning only $42,900 a year.

In the mining sector, average full-time salaries have increased a staggering 22.3 per cent in the year to March. The average salary for full-timers in this sector is now $121,000. Another sector that has bounced back is finance and business services, where the average salary for full-time staff is $90,500. Workers in this sector had well above-average pay rises (up 9.9 per cent). At the other end of the spectrum, reflecting the difficulties in manufacturing, average full-time wages fell by 0.4 per cent to $66,500.

Workers in retail recorded the lowest average salary ($53,600) but despite the difficult environment, salaries grew by 4 per cent .

Generation Y has had strong salary growth of 8.6 per cent, as promotions and bonuses returned after the lean years of the global financial crisis. The average salary now for a person aged about 30 years is $65,000. A number of Gen Ys are doing particularly well, with 12.1 per cent earning more than $100,000 a year and an elite group (1.6 per cent) on more than $200,000. The high-income earners are in managerial and professional jobs and are also in skilled trades.

Generation X (people born 1965-79) have a higher average salary of $80,700 compared with Gen Y. Gen X have had more time to establish their careers and progress up the ladder. This generation also achieved above-average wages growth, rising 5.1 per cent in the year to March.

Baby boomers, who are nearing retirement age, on average earn $76,600 for full-time work, but their salaries fell this year by 0.6 per cent. The main reason for the fall was the reduction in bonuses paid to managerial boomers.

For older workers, this did not translate into wage growth, with wages falling by 9.4 per cent. Twilight careers are more concentrated in director- and board-level positions and profit bonuses at that level have been reduced due to a more difficult trading environment - other than, of course, in the mining sector.

Michael Emerson has been a market economist for more than 20 years and is a director of Economic and Marketing Development Advisors.

Published: 26 May 2012

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