Average Weekly Earnings

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    Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS)

    The biannual survey of Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) is designed to provide an accurate estimate of the current average value of wages and salaries paid to employees by an employer over a specified period. It collects employment and earnings data from a sample of businesses taken from the ABS Business Register (ABSBR). The data is used to estimate the average weekly earnings of employees in Australia. Estimates of average weekly ordinary time and total earnings are available for full-time adult employees and total earnings are available for all employees and are classified by sector, state or territory, industry and sex. Estimates of AWE were originally calculated using data from the payroll tax system (and other sources). Following the decision to stop using payroll tax data, the AWE sample survey was introduced in September 1981 to collect data on average earnings. Since the May 2011 edition, Average Weekly Cash Earnings (AWCE) series have also been released as additional (not replacement) AWE series. The difference between the AWCE and the AWE series is the average weekly amount salary sacrificed.

    The primary purpose of the AWE is to provide estimates of the level of average earnings at a point in time and, while not optimally designed for movements in average earnings, the frequency of collection supports a time series of these level estimates. Data on the average level of earnings are useful for providing a level benchmark to compare a specific amount to an average level of earnings (for example, what an individual earns compared to the average).

    All wage and salary earners who received pay for the reference period are represented in the AWE survey, except:

    • members of the Australian permanent defence forces;
    • employees of enterprises primarily engaged in agriculture, forestry or fishing;
    • employees in private households;
    • employees of overseas embassies, consulates, etc.;
    • employees based outside Australia; and
    • employees on workers' compensation who are not paid through the payroll.

    Also excluded are the following persons who are not regarded as employees for the purposes of the survey:
    • employees paid under the Australian Government's Paid Parental Leave Scheme
    • casual employees who did not receive pay during the reference period;
    • employees on leave without pay who did not receive pay during the reference period;
    • employees on strike, or stood down who did not receive pay during the reference period;
    • directors who are not paid a salary;
    • proprietors/partners of unincorporated businesses;
    • self-employed persons such as subcontractors, owner/drivers, consultants; and
    • persons paid solely by commission without a retainer.


    Conceptual framework
    International Labour Organisation, 1972 convention, earnings statistics

    Main outputs

    AWE and AWCE are released by state or territory, by industry, by sector and by sex.
    Note :

    • Earnings are classified into 'ordinary time earnings' and 'total earnings' (i.e. including overtime);
    • Employees are classified into 'full-time adult' and 'other'; and
    • Trend estimates, seasonally adjusted estimates and original estimates are available (AWCE is available for the original series only).

    State - Estimates are published at the state level. They are not available for any smaller geographical area.
    Sector - Estimates are published at the sector level (private/public).
    Sex - Estimates are published for males, females and persons.
    Employment Status - Estimates are published for full-time adults and for total employees. (Note that the number of employees is not published.)
    Earnings Type - Estimates are published for ordinary time earnings and total earnings (includes overtime).
    Industry - Estimates are published at the ANZSIC division level (1 digit).

    ANZSIC DIVISION - Industry Name

    A Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (out of scope for AWE)
    B Mining
    C Manufacturing
    D Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services
    E Construction
    F Wholesale Trade
    G Retail Trade
    H Accommodation and Food Services
    I Transport, Postal and Warehousing
    J Information Media and Telecommunications
    K Financial and Insurance Services
    L Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services
    M Professional, Scientific and Technical Services
    N Administrative and Support Services
    O Public Administration and Safety
    P Education and Training
    Q Health Care and Social Assistance
    R Arts and Recreation Services
    S Other Services

    Other concepts (summary)
    Not applicable

    New South Wales
    South Australia
    Western Australia
    Northern Territory

    Comments and/or Other Regions
    The largest geographical area covered is Australia. Estimates by State are available. Estimates for geographic areas below State level are not possible. Estimates of State by Sector or Industry are available.
    Business within the Jervis Bay territory and external territories {Christmas and Cocos (Keeling) Islands} are out of scope of the survey.


    Frequency comments
    Up until the May 2012 collection, Average Weekly Earnings was conducted on a quarterly basis. However, the frequency of the AWE survey is now biannual, with the May 2012 editing being the last quarterly issue and the November 2012 edition the first produced on a biannual basis. AWE data is now produced twice a year relating to the May and November reference periods only. Data is collected and released on the same basis as before for the May and November reference periods. The survey collects information pertaining to Average Weekly Earnings for the last pay period ending on or before the third Friday of the middle month of the reference quarter (i.e. May and November).


Reference PeriodEvent
August 1941Survey introduced using payroll tax data to estimate AWE.
August 1981Sample survey of employers (QSE) was introduced on an interim basis and was conducted quarterly until November 1983. Payroll tax based collection and the first collection of the interim sample of employers were run in parallel in August 1981.
August 1983 - November 1983Survey introduced in parallel with QSE. New survey of AWE had larger sample size, and was selected from the ABS business register. Some key changes to definitions (e.g. number of employees now equates to those receiving pay in the reference period, rather than those that are on the payroll; and overtime redefined as overtime hours paid for in reference period, rather than overtime hours worked during the reference period).
August 1986Sample re-allocation introduced, based on first five quarters of AWE sample data.
November 1990User review conducted which identified demand for data classified by industry.
1992AWE survey linked with data from previous sources (i.e. ASE and payroll tax based series). Linked data backcast to 1941 and published in ABS cat. no. 6350.0.
March 2001Preliminary AWE publication (ABS cat. no. 6301.0) cancelled.
May 2001 and August 2002The New Tax System introduced in July 2000 resulted in greater than usual rotation of businesses included in AWE.
August 2009Data released based on ANZSIC 2006. Sample redesign and improvements to the business survey frame implemented at the same time. Historical series backcast on the new basis from August 1994 to May 2009.
May 2011AWCE series released. Data published for May 2010 to May 2011.
May 2012Final quarterly reference period before changing to a biannual frequency for the November 2012 reference period.
November 2012AWE changed to a biannual frequency.
May 2013The primary collection mode changed to on-line survey form.
May 2014Winsorisation introduced to treat outliers in AWE, in conjunction with a reduced effort on surprise outliering.
November 2017Routine sample redesign implemented.
May 2018Sector classification for stratification changed to the BRIMS sector variable.
May 2018Response rate targets reduced to 93%.
November 2018Response rate targets reduced further to 91%.


    Data availability comments
    Not applicable

    27/08/2019 06:19 PM