Curious Hobart: How do wages compare between Tasmania and the mainland? – Curious Hobart
By Michael Dalla Fontana
Tourism is booming in Tasmania, and with tree changes all the rage, it’s no surprise visitors to Australia’s island state are pondering a move to the Apple Isle.
Sure enough, an anonymous inquirer has asked Curious Hobart to investigate the question: “I’m thinking of working in Hobart. Are wages comparable with other major cities?”
ABC Hobart set out to answer the question.
What do the figures say?
On the face of it, it doesn’t look good.
According to figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), median income is lower in greater Hobart than in any other capital city area.
More wage data is available at a state and territory level, and it shows the same wage gap between Tasmania and the mainland.
According to the ABS’s average weekly earnings report from May last year — the most recent report available — Tasmanian workers earn less per week than workers in any other state or territory.
The average weekly ordinary time earnings for a working Tasmanian adult was about $1,377, $206 below the national average.
On average, Tasmanians take home less per week than their interstate counterparts. (Supplied: ABS)
Richard Eccleston, director of the University’s of Tasmania’s Institute for the Study of Social Change, said there were a few explanations for the wage gap.
“Fewer Tasmanians work and more people work part-time,” Professor Eccleston said.
“The other factor is we’ve got an aging population and people on pensions.”
Top five employment industries in Tasmania
|Retail trade||Health care and social assistance|
|Health care and social assistance||Retail|
|Manufacturing||Education and training|
|Public administration and safety||Public administration and safety|
|Education and training||Accommodation and food services|
Source: UTAS Institute for the Study of Social Change
But we all know wages differ industry to industry.
Professor Eccleston said like any regional economy, employment in Tasmania was driven by small business, personal services including health care, and the public service.
“That’s just the nature of a regional economy,” he said.
“The other driver of employment is hospitality and tourism.”
How do wages for frontline public sector jobs compare?
With that in mind, the ABC conducted an entry-level wages comparison between Tasmanian frontline public sector employees and their colleagues interstate, with information supplied by Tasmanian unions.
For months, the unions representing Tasmania’s 29,000 public sector workers have been locked in negotiations with the State Government over the 2 per cent pay rise cap for public servants, which they argue should be at least 3 per cent.
So how do the wages actually stack up?
At entry level on paper, paramedics in Tasmania are paid about $69,000, with Victorian juniors topping the nation on $76,000.
New nurses in Tasmania pocket just over $69,000, leading the state pack. Victoria trails on $60,000.
Police rookies are paid just under $60,000 in Tasmania, with New South Wales and West Australian junior officers taking home $71,000.
New teachers in Tasmania can expect just under $60,000. If they had a job in the Northern Territory they would be getting just over $73,000.
The Australian Education Union says teachers in Queensland and South Australia are currently bargaining, so they may be moving upward on the pay scale.
But the AEU said that even with the 3 per cent pay rise they’re fighting for, Tasmanian teachers could still be the lowest paid — or at best, the second lowest paid — when all is taken into account, including experience.
Overall, there are some significant differences of up to $13,000.
‘I was anxious about the pay cut’
A Tasmanian nurse who moved back home after spending six years working for Queensland Health in Cairns told the ABC she has suffered a hit to the “back pocket”.
Twenty-five-year-old Kym — who did not want her last name revealed — came home in September for family reasons, and is working in the state health system for the first time.
She’s a level three registered nurse.
“It was an easy decision in terms of moving home for family reasons, but definitely [I] was anxious about the pay cut,” she said.
“I’ve just done the maths, and my current base salary is just shy of $8,000 less than my base salary in Queensland.
“So that is almost 10 per cent behind in base salary.
“It is down 16 per cent when working a late shift, a night shift and weekends, when my base salary is factored in.”
She said she wouldn’t recommend that her friends apply for jobs in Tasmania if money was an issue.
“People outside my own circumstances probably wouldn’t come down and stay,” she said.
Tasmanian Treasurer Peter Gutwein remains firm on the Government’s wages policy.
“Since March 2014 [when the Liberal party won office], average growth in the Consumer Price Index has been just 1.7 per cent per annum, which is less than our wages policy of 2 per cent per annum,” Mr Gutwein said.
Tasmanian Treasurer Peter Gutwein wants anyone looking for a public service job not to expect a bigger pay rise than 2 per cent. (ABC News: James Dunlevie)
“On top of that, many public servants receive pay rises in excess of 2 per cent, as they enjoy increment movements for each 12 months of service to the public.
“For example, teachers moving through the band receive total annual pay increases of between 3 per cent and 7.2 per cent,” he said.
Bigger rewards for special skills
The public sector is only part of the picture.
Small business employs thousands of Tasmanians, and the Small Business Council’s Robert Mallett said he believed, for the most part, wages in Hobart were the same as they were large cities interstate.
The Small Business Council’s Robert Mallett says those with skills in short supply can test the market. (Supplied: Tasmanian Liberals)
“If you’re on an award wage — and there are 30 or 40 different awards — then in that case, the award wage is the same no matter where you live in Australia,” he said.
Mr Mallett said cuts to weekend penalty rates in the hospitality sector were being felt across the board, not just in Hobart.
“It’s the same across Australia, they are not specific to Tasmania at all. You get the same deal in Sydney as you would in Hobart,” he said.
Professor Eccleston said there was “significant employment” in hospitality and tourism, “but those jobs tend to be lower paid and less full-time”.
He said as Tasmania’s tourism industry became less seasonal, there would be more full-time work that was better paid.
Mr Mallet said that just like anywhere, it was a different story for a person with skills negotiating a wage.
“It depends on the skills in need, skills shortages, and how desperate the person is to want to employ you,” Mr Mallett said.
“So, for example, if a particular engineering company wants an engineer, it may pay exceptionally good wages to encourage someone to come to Tasmania to live.”
If it’s not the money, why are people moving here?
Mr Mallet said a job in Hobart meant more than just money.
Salamanca Place along Hobart’s waterfront is part of the lifestyle valued by the business council’s Robert Mallet. (Damien Larkins, file photo: ABC News)
He believes Hobart still offers a great lifestyle.
“There’s the dollar cost, and in my opinion there is the emotional cost of living,” he said.
“The emotional cost of living here is much cheaper than Sydney or Melbourne,” he said.
“From my place in West Hobart, I’m overlooking the city.
“My car will stay under the carport because I will walk to my office, I will walk to Salamanca, I will walk to the restaurants, I will walk to North Hobart.
“I won’t have to worry about traffic or any of that garbage. There’s virtually nowhere you can do that on the mainland.
“It’s easier to access major services.”
But Professor Eccleston said not every tree changer could afford to make the move.
“Historically, people have had the view that wages and availability of work tend to be less, but part of the compensation is that housing is much cheaper,” he said.
“Clearly that’s changed significantly in the past three years, in Hobart in particular.
“Hobart house prices have now overtaken Adelaide, Perth, Darwin and are fast catching up to Brisbane.”
Will the wage gap close?
A cloud-covered Mount Wellington frames a city-scape of Hobart where life is seen as easier than other Australian capitals. (Stephen Jay: ABC News)
Professor Eccleston thinks so.
“The indicators are that the wage gap that has been Tasmania and the mainland is starting to close,” he said.
“The state of the economy has improved significantly in the last four years, and as the economy starts to grow the amount of work and wages will start to grow.
“We are starting to narrow the gap but it certainly takes time.
“Tasmania has a fantastic lifestyle [and] more people of working age are moving to Tamania.
“Tasmania’s becoming more like the rest of Australia in terms of both employment and cost of living.”
In the latest projection, Tasmania is on track to meet the Government’s 650,000 population target nine years ahead of the planned 2050 date.
Professor Eccleston said it was nothing the state couldn’t cope with if it planned properly.
“I think if we plan and build smartly, we can grow the population and the economy without housing being too unaffordable whereas clearly in cities like Melbourne and Sydney, the scarcity of land and the cost of building [makes] it more difficult.
So check out the specifics of your situation if you plan to come to Hobart without a job. You could be in for a surprise.
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