Weekly Wages, Average Compensation and Minimum Wage for Australia from 1861-Present

      What Was?
Average weekly earnings, all employees
Average compensation, all employees
National Minimum (Award) Wage
Initial Year *:  
Ending Year *:
* Select initial and ending years within 1861-2022 period.

Wage series range from those that focus on a single occupation to those that attempt to capture the experience of the entire workforce. Because wages for a single occupation are not usually representative of economy wide-trends over the long term, we made the decision to initially present here two highly aggregated measures of average payments to all employees. The strength of these aggregate series is their coverage but this comes at a cost known as the composition effect: changes in the composition of the workforce - the ratio of male to female, part-time to full-time, adult to youth, and skilled to unskilled workers - as well as changes in the average earnings of each group, can affect the level of average earnings for all workers. In an effort to also capture the experience of one of the lowest paid groups – adult unskilled workers – we also include here a third series for minimum wage rates from 1907. Each of the three series is briefly described below, followed by an explanation of the sources, methods and uses of each series.* These wages series are presented in Australian pounds up to 1965, and in Australian dollars thereafter.

Average weekly earnings (financial year), 1860/1 to current.

This series is the ratio of total gross wages and salaries per week to total number of employees. Wages and salaries include overtime and any other direct monetary payment, as well as deductions such as employee superannuation contributions and pay-as-you-earn taxation. Adult and youth, male and female, full-time and part-time employees are included. The series comprises estimates of average earnings of employees in all sectors, 1860/1 to 1899/1900, average earnings of manufacturing employees 1900/01 to 1968/9, and average earnings of employees in all sectors thereafter.

Average weekly compensation per employee (financial year), 1949/50 to current.

This series is the ratio of annual gross wages, salaries and supplements to total number of employees, converted here to a weekly series. Supplements include any in-kind benefit provided by employers, as well as the cost of providing for future benefits such as long service leave, and employer superannuation contributions. The definition of employees is wider than that used in the average earning series - the only exclusions are self-employed proprietors (including independent contractors) and unpaid family members all of whose income is classed as entrepreneurial rather than employment income. For 1949/50 to 1959/60 the data is average compensation in all sectors and thereafter it is average compensation in the non-farm sector.

National minimum wage, weekly (calendar year), 1907-1982; 1997 to current.

For the years 1907 to 1974, this series shows the national minimum award wage for adult males (also variously known as the ‘living wage’ and the basic wage) and from 1975 to 1982 the national minimum award wage for all adult employees. No minimum is presented for the period 1983-1996, but from 1997 the series reports the new federal/national minimum adult wage. This new minimum wage was a mandatory minimum for all workplaces and so is not directly comparable to the minimum award wage to 1982, which was part of Australia’s system of wage regulation and applied only in workplaces covered by this award. Unlike other series presented here, this series is for calendar years.

* The compilation and documentation of these series benefitted greatly from Glen Withers’ generous help in providing his revisions to the original average earnings estimates, Tim Hatton’s feedback and John Buchanan who provided a draft of his forthcoming paper on recent earnings trends.

For more information see: Australian Wages Series – Sources, Methods and Uses


Diane Hutchinson and Florian Ploeckl, "Weekly Wages, Average Compensation and Minimum Wage for Australia from 1861-Present," MeasuringWorth, URL: http://www.measuringworth.com/auswages/

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