Blue collar wages put graduates in shade

The great Australian myth that higher education is the gateway to high incomes is put to the knife by figures showing blue collar workers more than holding their own in the wages stakes.

According to the Suncorp Bank Wages Report, an analysis of income data released today, blue collar workers earn $1229 a week, on average, compared with a white collar average of $1085.

And the gap is not because of the mining boom alone. While miners are top of the tree, with an average weekly wage of $2173 (more than $3000 in Western Australia), blue collar categories occupy six of the top 10. Waste, oil and energy are ranked second at $1597, construction sixth at $1307, defence and police seventh at $1270, transport and warehousing ninth at $1219 and manufacturing 10th at $1145.

That puts them ahead of white collar categories of real estate services ($1000), education and training ($985), healthcare and social services ($899), administration ($848) and arts ($689).

Financial services, media and telecommunications and scientific services rank third, fourth and fifth as categories. Hospitality ranks a distant last, with an average $498 representing a rise of just 49 per cent over the past 15 years.

The female dominance in retail and hospitality, and the casual and part-time nature of these sectors, only marginally explains why NSW - the state with the highest female participation rate - had the lowest growth since 1996, reaching $1016, a rise of 70 per cent. NSW men earned $1200 a week as at last November and women $824.

Wages in Western Australia doubled over the same period. Fifteen years ago, NSW workers earned an average $49 a week more than West Australians; now NSW trails the west by an average $76.

Canberrans, at $1286, remain the highest paid but West Australians and Northern Territorians are narrowing the gap quickly.

This article Blue collar wages put graduates in shade was originally published in The Sydney Morning Herald.