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Australia's 20 best and 20 worst performing salaries

Australia's 20 best and 20 worst performing salaries

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Shaped by local and global forces, some roles have rocketed in value while others tumbled. As we approach 2020, SEEK’s Senior Employment Trends Analyst, Leigh Broderick looks back at the 20 best and 20 worst performing salaries and shares his insights into where Australian salaries may head in the next decade.

Three trends driving the top performers

Super smashes its way to number one

 

Super smashes its way to number one

Super smashes its way to number one

The gold medal goes to roles in the Superannuation industry, which had the highest recorded salary rise of 46%. The industry has undergone rapid expansion – according to the Association of Superannuation Funds of Australia, superannuation assets in Australia had grown to $2.8 trillion by the end of the March 2019 quarter. Interestingly, however, there hasn’t been corresponding growth in the number of available roles, suggesting the increase in salaries we’re seeing in the SEEK data has been driven by the demand for specialised roles in the industry.

Rise of a caring nation

Rise of a caring nation

Rise of a caring nation

No less than eight of the 20 fastest risers were in health and education. These included teachers and carers in every age group from preschool to secondary school and people working in aged care, disability support, child welfare and youth and family services. This suggests recognition for those traditionally at the lower end of the scale. As the population grows and ages and initiatives like the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) are introduced, demand for skilled professionals in Healthcare and Education has seen consistent year-on-year growth in Australia. According to the Federal Government, spending on health grew by about 50% in real terms to $16 billion over the decade to 2015-16 and, today, Healthcare and Education combined are Australia’s largest employers by far. 

STEM burns bright

STEM burns bright

STEM burns bright

It’s little wonder that careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or STEM, take up three of the top 20 places. Technology is playing an increasingly important role in both the economy and everyday life. Yet, despite heavy government promotion, between 2008 and 2018 the proportion of people studying these subjects fell. The consequent skills shortage can’t be resolved overnight, and is more likely to intensify, so it seems the value of qualified professionals in STEM will only continue to increase.

Australia's top 20 salary gains

RANK
INDUSTRY
ROLE TYPE
2018-2019
%
1 Insurance & Superannuation Superannuation $98,796 46%
2 Science & Technology Mathematics, Statistics & Information Sciences $118,937 44%
3 Education & Training Teaching Aides & Special Needs $66,907 43%
4 Design & Architecture Web & Interaction Design $103,321 38%
5 Education & Training Teaching - Primary $84,521 36%
6 Science & Technology Biotechnology & Genetics $92,466 35%
7 Community Services & Development Aged & Disability Support $71,545 32%
8 Farming, Animals & Conservation Horticulture $68,522 30%
9 Trades & Services Carpentry & Cabinet Making $68,076 29%
10 Education & Training Teaching - Secondary $87,934 29%
11 Community Services & Development Volunteer Coordination & Support $71,644 29%
12 Hospitality & Tourism Gaming $65,485 29%
13 Design & Architecture Landscape Architecture $90,172 28%
14 Community Services & Development Child Welfare, Youth & Family Services $77,702 28%
15 Trades & Services Hair & Beauty Services $52,102 28%
16 Manufacturing, Transport & Logistics Public Transport & Taxi Services $74,253 26%
17 Real Estate & Property Valuation $98,662 26%
18 Healthcare & Medical Nursing - High Acuity $82,754 26%
19 Information & Communication Technology Engineering - Software $116,547 26%
20 Education & Training Childcare & Outside School Hours Care $61,273 26%

Source: SEEK Salary Review, annual full-time salary averages by role type, 2011/12-2018/19, SEEK.

Three forces shaping downward moves

Mighty mining digging itself out of a hole
At the peak of the mining construction boom, eager workers were lured to far-flung corners of Australia to earn salaries beyond their wildest dreams – examples abounded of truck drivers on mining sites earning over $150,000 a year. As the projects concluded, however, salaries fell. The result? Mining, Resources & Energy claimed a dispiriting nine of the 20 lowest places on our list of salary movement. That said, given the inflated starting point, this is better interpreted as a correction rather than a fall. Rebounding commodity prices and the consequent return of salary growth in the industry suggest the future could be brighter, though the cyclical nature of mining means this is definitely an industry to keep your eye on.

Construction cops collateral damage
Construction growth was largely tied to the mining industry at the beginning of the 2010s. Then, as the boom ended, the industry picked up again, this time due to residential construction. This growth is now starting to slow – construction appeared three times in our list of the biggest falls – so the hope is that investment in public infrastructure will help to pick up the slack for the 1.1 million Australians employed directly by the industry.

Legal eagles have their wings clipped
Of the 350+ role types on SEEK, Legal Professionals who were Generalists in a Law Firm took the biggest salary plunge. Paul Rawlinson, Global Chair of law firm Baker McKenzie, has said that, while 30 years ago clients might pay millions to have thousands of documents manually reviewed, today much of that labour has been handed over to machines. That doesn’t necessarily mean lawyers are surplus to requirements – it’s more likely that spending less time on tedious manual tasks frees them up to be more productive, creative and efficient. It could also explain how Generalist Lawyers show the biggest fall in salary, of 21%. Rather than being less valuable, they could well be doing more specialised work.

Australia's 20 biggest salary falls

RANK
INDUSTRY
ROLE TYPE
2018-2019
%
1 Legal Generalists- Law Firm $82,044 -21%
2 Construction Planning & Scheduling $100,052 -18%
3 Engineering Materials Handling Engineering $103,453 -17%
4 Engineering  Mechanical Engineering $97,633 -16%
5 Mining, Resources & Energy Oil & Gas - Drilling $107,045 -16%
6 Engineering Process Engineering $109,532 -14%
7 Mining, Resources & Energy Mining - Exploration & Geoscience $120,461 -13%
8 Accounting  Insolvency & Corporate recovery $78,093 -13%
9 Mining, Resources & Energy Oil & Gas - Exploration & Geoscience $120,961 -12%
10 Construction Quality Assurance & Control $102,594 -11%
11 Real Estate & Property Residential Sales $69,658 -9%
12 Consulting & Strategy Environmental & Sustainability $96,251 -9%
13 Mining, Resources & Energy Mining - Operations $123,688 -9%
14 Mining, Resources & Energy Oil & Gas – Production & Refinement  $115,677 -9%
15 Mining, Resources & Energy Mining – Engineering & Maintenance $129,094 -8%
16 Science & Technology Environmental, Earth & Geosciences $97,142 -8%
17 Mining, Resources & Energy Mining - Processing $119,888 -8%
18 Mining, Resources & Energy Surveying $122,229 -7%
19 Mining, Resources & Energy Oil & Gas – Operations $113,314 -7%
20 Construction Health, Safety & Environment $113,308 -7%

Source: SEEK Salary Review, annual full-time salary averages by role type, 2011/12-2018/19, SEEK.

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