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Since 1998, Australia’s minimum wage has fallen below the accepted Australian poverty line of 60% of the median wage. It is unacceptable to have reliant, full-time workers going without meals or unable to afford heat in their homes — especially when Australia has had almost 30 years of uninterrupted economic growth. Global Citizen campaigns on the United Nations’ Global Goals, including on ending hunger and poverty. Take action now.

Over 2 million Australian workers will soon receive a pay rise, the nation’s Fair Work Commission (FWC) has revealed.

An increase of 3% to the national minimum wage means Australia’s lowest paid workers will, as of July 1, receive an additional $21.60 AUD a week, the FWC’s latest Annual Wage Review has declared. The new hourly rate of $19.49, compared to the current rate of $18.93, cements Australia as the nation with the highest minimum wage in the world.

The latest extension is lower than last year’s increase, which came in at 3.5%.

FWC President Justice Ross said the lower increase was due to recent changes within Australia’s economy, including new tax-transfer schemes that benefit low-income earners, a cut to inflation, and a near decade-low growth rate for Australia’s gross domestic product.

He warned an increase beyond 3% could harm job availability.

"We have decided to award a lower increase this year than that awarded last year due to the changes in the economic environment,” Ross stated in the review. “We are satisfied that the level of increase we have decided upon will not lead to any adverse inflationary outcome, nor will it have any measurable negative impact on employment.”

The new rate falls well short of the 6% increase — or an additional $43 per week — advocated by the Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU). The ACTU claim an expansion of this size would lift all single-income families with one or two children above Australia’s relative poverty line at 60% of the national median income.

"We have a long way to go to ensure that the minimum wage is enough for workers to live on and support their families,” ACTU Assistant Secretary Liam O’Brien stated. “No one in Australia should be living in poverty while working full time, but we know that thousands of people are facing this reality.”

While real dollar terms place Australia as the nation with the highest minimum wage worldwide, experts claim this isn't a fair representation. The Australian Centre for Future Work (CFW) says the cost of living needs to be taken into account.

An appropriate measure, the CFW claims, is examining the ratio of minimum wages relative to the median wages of full-time workers. When analyzed in this manner, Australia’s minimum wage in 2017 came in at 55% of the median income poverty line. This percentage means Australia instead ranks 11th on the OECD’s minimum wage chart.

In the days following the new minimum wage announcement, Australians took to Twitter to contest the pay rise, with hundreds of low-income earners claiming the increase would in no way be in line with a living wage.


Defeat Poverty

Australia’s Lowest-Paid Workers Are Set to Receive a 3% Wage Lift

By Madeleine Keck