Our minimum wage has workers living in poverty


For almost 100 years Australia’s minimum wage was about workers’ standard of living. That’s no longer the case. Today the minimum wage is decided by a panel of ‘experts’ dominated by economists. The result is that the minimum wage has fallen badly behind and no longer protects working families from poverty.

The Issues

In this year’s minimum wage review the ACTU sought an increase of $45 per week, while business groups, whose profits are soaring, argued for between no pay rise at all and $10.10 per week. The expert panel said that raising the minimum wage won’t cost jobs but only awarded $22.20. The ACTU argued that common sense should prevail, and that more pay to workers will give people more money to spend in their communities, and that more spending would create more jobs.

This is a big problem

Since 1998, the minimum wage has fallen below the widely accepted poverty line of 60 per cent of median earning. The expert panel said in its latest decision that they “acknowledge that the increase we propose to the award will not lift all award-reliant employees out of poverty”. A country that has enjoyed 26 years of uninterrupted economic growth should not leave workers in poverty.

Women are more likely to be on minimum or award wages, widening and deepening the gender pay gap.