Tasmania's pay-packet woes

COMMUNITY groups are alarmed by a plunge in average weekly wages of Tasmanian workers.

Wage figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics yesterday showed pay packets for full-time adult employees across the state dropped by $12.40 in trend terms in the past year.

The Tasmanian downturn defied a nationwide lift in average weekly incomes over the same period.

Data showed the Tasmanian cohort took home an average of $1249.90 a week, leaving them $200 a week worse off than their interstate counterparts.

The state’s average full-time wage fell well short of any other state or territory.

Average Tasmanian earnings irrespective of employment status have also gone backwards, deteriorating significantly over the past six months and tracking well behind where they stood a year ago.

Tasmanian Council of Social Services chief executive Tony Reidy said the latest figures were a serious concern to a state ‘‘stuck in an awful spiral of low wages and underemployment’’.

‘‘Tasmania’s wage base – which is low and getting lower – puts incredible pressure on household finances for battling families,’’ Mr Reidy said.

‘‘Our cost of living expenses are becoming increasingly aligned with mainland states and yet we still grapple with by far the lowest wages in the country.’’

Mr Reidy said the trend was driving people who had never needed social services to reach out for support.

‘‘Charities are being increasingly overwhelmed and unable to meet demand,’’ he said.

‘‘More and more we’re seeing middle-income earners coming through the doors alongside the low-income earners who traditionally use the services.’’

Economist Phil Bayley said the data was entirely consistent with sluggish and federal economies, with slowly rising Australian wages still well below the inflation rate of 3 per cent.

But Mr Bayley said the latest pay rate figures weren’t all doom and gloom.

‘‘Business confidence and the labour market in Tasmania have slowly been improving,’’ Mr Bayley said.

‘‘Low wages and slow wage growth also help businesses employ more people without taking such significant risks.’’

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