26 May Australian job market holding its own
Originally published Sydney Morning Herald 26 May 2014
Australia’s labour market is growing slowly and pay rates compare well with those in other developed nations.
In terms of jobs growth, Australia is performing about the average of other developed countries, such as Japan and Germany, with just under 1 per cent expansion, and we are doing better than the US, which has only 0.6 per cent growth. Iceland and Ireland are the leaders, growing jobs at more than 3 per cent, but they are coming from a much lower base. In the UK, jobs are growing again, up 1.5 per cent in 2014. According to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) figures, jobs in Greece and Spain are still in free-fall, particularly for younger people.
How do Australians’ rates of pay compare with those of workers of other nations? Actually, we are paid comparatively well. When wages are compared and adjusted for exchange rates, Australia comes near the top of the league table, earning an average of $US77,000 ($83,350) a year. The Swiss are the best paid at $US90,000. Surprisingly, we have average higher rates of pay than the US at $US55,000, the Germans at $US45,000. and Britain at $US51,000. Australians have a much higher rate of pay than Koreans at $US29,000 and about 10 times the Chinese average pay of $US7500. The low rates of pay in China mean it is much cheaper to manufacture goods there compared with manufacturing in Australia and the US.
Yet, are Australians the hard workers we think we are? Well, according to the International Labour Organisation, Australian workers are at the bottom end of hours worked per week; we work on average 34 hours a worker, just less than the Brits, who average 35.8, but slightly more than the Kiwis, who work on average 33.6 hours a week. The hardest workers are those in Qatar (50 hours a week) and Saudi Arabia (49.9 hours a week). The Chinese also work much harder than Australians at 46.2 hours a week.
In terms of overall unemployment, Australia ranks well and is at the lower end when compared with other nations. Australia’s rate of unemployment is just 6 per cent, lower than the OECD average of 7.5 per cent. Italy has an unemployment rate of 12.7 per cent, Ireland 11.8 per cent and Spain 25.3 per cent.
And the overall picture for Australia? Our job market is faring quite well on the international stage, we don’t work too hard and we are comparatively well paid. Unemployment is quite low, and although youth unemployment is an issue, it is much worse in many other countries. So, are we still the lucky country after all?
Michael Emerson is an economist and director of Economic and Market Development Advisors, emda.com.au.