Wage Costs Survey

   Page tools: RSS Feed RSS Bookmark and Share Search this Product

    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)


    The Wage Costs Survey (WCS) is an irregular survey which samples employers in the Australian economy. The survey provides data on the cost of employing wage and salary earners, in particular, the cost associated with payment for time not worked (paid leave). Data is provided on a National and State level, Public and Private Sector, Public institutional, Industry and Employer size basis.


    The Survey of Wage Costs is conducted to provide supplementary data to the Survey of Major Labour Costs (MLC). The supplementary data collected provides a basis for the calculation of labour costs per hour worked and allows for an better estimate of 'on-costs' to the employer to be made than the MLC survey alone. On-costs are the costs incurred by employers for which there is no productive return and includes payment for time not worked, superannuation, employer taxes and workers' compensation).


    WCS collects information on the following components of gross wages and salaries paid to employees: payments for time worked, annual leave, sick leave, other leave (maternity, long service, other) public holidays, annual leave loading and infrequent bonuses. In addition the WCS collected data on the number of hours worked and paid for. WCS did not collect data on leave taken where it was not recorded by employers.

    In 1991/92 WCS covered employers in all States and Territories and all industries except for those primarily engaged in agriculture, forestry, fishing, and hunting; private households employing staff; overseas embassies, consulates, etc; and the Australian permanent defence force. The statistical unit for the survey comprised all activities of an enterprise in a particular State or Territory. Each statistical unit was classified to an industry which reflected the predominant activity of the enterprise in the State or Territory. In a small number of cases, where an enterprise had significant employment in more than one industry, a separate statistical unit was created for each industry.


    Conceptual framework

    Based on the International Labour Organisation's "An Integrated System of Wages Statistics" which defines the scope of labour costs (including wage costs) to be included in statistical collections. Australia complies in most respects with the ILO guidelines for this survey, except that the WCS did not capture all leave taken as in practise not all leave is formally recorded by employers. This occurs where employees are granted leave, typically for short periods, without any formal record of absence. Executives may take longer periods of unrecorded leave.

    Main outputs

    The following components of gross wages and salaries paid to employees were collected in the WCS:

    Hours paid for (earnings were derived from MLC);

    • Payment and hours for time not worked broken down by
    • annual leave;
    • sick leave;
    • other leave (maternity leave; long service leave; other leave);
    • public holidays;
    • annual leave loading;
    • workers compensation (number of hours paid only. The cost of wages and salaries for employees on workers' compensation was recorded in the MLC survey); and
    • payment of infrequent bonuses.

    Payment for severance, termination and redundancy payments were collected from MLC but form part of the wage cost component of employing labour.

    In addition to the above the WCS also produced statistics on:

    • cost per hours worked
    • costs per hour paid
    • percentage of total labour costs
    • average cost per employee; and
    • together with the survey of Major Labour Costs, the on-costs of employing labour.


    Private/public sector


    Employer size


    Public institutional sector

    Level of government

    The classification of labour and wage costs is based on the ILO International Standard Classification of Labour Costs

    Other concepts (summary)

    Not applicable

    New South Wales
    South Australia
    Western Australia
    Northern Territory

    Comments and/or Other Regions

    Not applicable


    Frequency comments

    The survey was initially intended to be a triennial survey conducted with the Survey of Major Labour Costs. It was conducted in respect of the 1986/87 and 1991/92 financial years, a five-year gap.


    The survey was first conducted in 1986/87. It was conducted again for the 1991/92 reference year.


    Data availability comments

    14/08/2007 04:23 PM