The ABS concept of earnings is based on the definition adopted by the twelfth International Conference of Labour Statisticians in 1973. Earnings are considered to be remuneration to employees, for time worked or work done, as well as remuneration for time not worked (e.g. paid annual leave). Many employees also receive other benefits in addition to earnings, including sick leave, long-service leave and superannuation.
Statistics on earnings are of interest to evaluate the standard of living of workers, and to make policy decisions regarding income redistribution, social welfare, taxation and wage fixation. Comprehensive earnings statistics are required by all levels of government, social and labour market analysts, industrial tribunals, trade unions, employer associations, academics and international agencies. Information about the benefits received by workers provides a broader picture of working conditions, and of rewards provided for work done.
The ABS produces a range of statistics on earnings paid to workers. The Survey of Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) and the Survey of Employee Earnings and Hours (EEH) both provide a statistical measure of the gross remuneration paid to employees. The Survey of Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership, which is run as a Labour Force Supplementary Survey, provides information about the earnings of employees, as well the number and type of employee benefits received by workers. It does not, however, quantify the value of these benefits.
The wage cost index (WCI) measures the changes to wages and salaries of a representative mix of employee jobs. Unlike the AWE and EEH surveys, the WCI is unaffected by changes in the quantity or quality of work performed. The ABS is currently developing a labour price index, which will also reflect changes in the price of 'non-wage' components (e.g. superannuation and workers' compensation) which contribute to the cost to employers of employing labour. It is expected that the labour price index will be published from late 2004.