6302.0 - Average Weekly Earnings, Australia, Aug 2011 Quality Declaration 
ARCHIVED ISSUE Released at 11:30 AM (CANBERRA TIME) 17/11/2011   
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1 This publication contains quarterly estimates of Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) based on information obtained from a sample survey of employers.


2 Descriptions of the underlying concepts of Australia's AWE statistics, and the sources and methods used in compiling these estimates, are presented in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, April 2007 (cat. no. 6102.0.55.001), which is available on the ABS web site <https://www.abs.gov.au>.


3 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 and fishing;
  • employees of private households;
  • employees of overseas embassies, consulates, etc.;
  • employees based outside Australia; and
  • employees on workers' compensation who are not paid through the payroll.

4 Also excluded are the following persons who are not regarded as employees for the purposes of this survey:
  • 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;
  • persons paid solely by commission without a retainer; and
  • employees paid under the Australian Government's Paid Parental Leave Scheme.

5 The sample for AWE, like most Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) business surveys, is selected from the ABS Business Register which is primarily based on registrations to the Australian Taxation Office's (ATO) Pay As You Go Withholding (PAYGW) scheme. The population is updated quarterly to take account of:
  • new businesses;
  • businesses which have ceased employing;
  • changes in employment levels;
  • changes in industry; and
  • other general business changes.

6 The estimates include an allowance for the time it takes newly registered businesses to be added to the survey population.

7 Businesses which have ceased employing are identified when the ATO cancels their PAYGW registration. In addition, businesses which have not remitted under the PAYGW scheme for the previous five quarters are removed from the frame.


8 A sample of employer units is selected from the ABS Business Register to ensure adequate state and industry representation. The sample is updated each quarter to reflect changes in the ABS Business Register. These changes arise from the emergence of new businesses, takeovers and mergers, changes to industry classification, changes in the number of employees, and businesses which have ceased operations. Such updating of the register can contribute to changes in the AWE estimates.

9 A sample redesign of the AWE survey was undertaken to incorporate the new Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (Revision 1.0) (cat. no. 1292.0), used in the survey from August 2009. Because of the improved groupings of businesses for sampling purposes under ANZSIC 2006, the sample size decreased from around 5,500 to around 5,200 businesses, with no loss to survey accuracy.

10 The statistical unit for the survey comprises all the activities of an employer in a particular state or territory based on the Australian Business Number (ABN) unit or Type of Activity Unit (TAU). Each statistical unit is classified to an industry which reflects the predominant activity of the business. The statistical units are stratified by state, sector, industry and employment size, and within each stratum, statistical units are selected with equal probability.


11 The statistics in this release are classified to industry in accordance with the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), 2006 (Revision 1.0) (cat. no. 1292.0). This replaced the 1993 edition of ANZSIC in the August 2009 issue of this publication, which had been in use since 1994.

12 The 2006 edition of ANZSIC was developed to provide a more contemporary industrial classification system, taking into account issues such as changes in the structure and composition of the economy, changing user demands and compatibility with major international classification standards.


13 With effect from the August 2009 edition, this publication presents data on the basis of the 2006 edition of ANZSIC. At this time the ABS also implemented a sample redesign. The changes resulted in a shift in the level of the series from ANZSIC 1993 to ANZSIC 2006 estimates. The difference in the level of the two series was measured and backcast into the historical series to make a time series of estimates on an ANZSIC 2006 basis. Because of the changes to level estimates, quarterly and annual percentage change movements for the ANZSIC 2006 AWE series are not identical to those under ANZSIC 1993. Differences at the State, Sector and Australia levels are generally insignificant and within current released standard errors for each series.

14 Published industry series have been backcast and data from August 1994 to May 2009 are available on the basis of both editions of ANZSIC on the ABS website. More information about theses changes can be found in the Information Paper: Changes to Average Weekly Earnings, Australia, Aug 2009 (ABS cat. no. 6302.0.55.002).


15 The introduction of The New Tax System in July 2000 had a number of significant implications for ABS business statistics, including changes to the populations for most business surveys. These implications are discussed in general terms in the Information Papers: ABS Statistics and The New Tax System, 2000 (cat. no. 1358.0) and Improvements in ABS Economic Statistics [Arising from The New Tax System], 2002 (cat. no. 1372.0). In relation to AWE, these changes caused a greater than normal rotation of businesses included in the sample for the May 2001 and August 2002 surveys.

16 The Employment benchmarks on the business survey frame were updated to reflect more up-to-date information for use in stratification and estimation for the February 2011 reference period.


17 The ABS uses an economic statistics units model of the ABS Business Register to describe the characteristics of businesses, and the structural relationships between related businesses. The units model is also used to break groups of related businesses into relatively homogeneous components that can provide data to the ABS.

18 The current units model was introduced into the ABS in mid 2002, to better use the information available as a result of The New Tax System. The model allocates businesses to one of two sub-populations. The vast majority of businesses are in what is called the ATO Maintained Population, while the remaining businesses are in the ABS Maintained Population. Together, these two sub-populations make up the ABS Business Register population.

ATO Maintained Population

19 Most businesses and organisations in Australia need to obtain an Australian Business Number (ABN), and are then included on the ATO Australian Business Register. Most of these businesses have simple structures; therefore the unit registered for an ABN will satisfy ABS statistical requirements. For these businesses, the ABS has aligned its statistical units structure with the ABN unit. The businesses with simple structures constitute the ATO Maintained Population, and the ABN unit is used as the economic statistics unit in economic collections.

ABS Maintained Population

20 For the population of businesses where the ABN unit is not suitable for ABS statistical requirements, the ABS maintains its own units structure through direct contact with businesses. These businesses constitute the ABS Maintained Population. This population consists typically of large, complex and diverse businesses. The statistical units model described below was introduced to cover such businesses.

21 Enterprise Group: This is a unit covering all the operations in Australia of one or more legal entities under common ownership and/or control. It covers all the operations in Australia of legal entities which are related in terms of the current Corporations Law (as amended by the Corporations Legislation Amendment Act 1991), including legal entities such as companies, trusts, and partnerships. Majority ownership is not required for control to be exercised.

22 Enterprise: The enterprise is an institutional unit comprising (i) a single legal entity or business entity, or (ii) more than one legal entity or business entity within the same Enterprise Group and in the same institutional subsector (i.e. they are all classified to a single SISCA subsector).

23 Type of Activity Unit (TAU): The TAU comprises one or more business entities, sub-entities or branches of a business entity within an Enterprise Group that can report production and employment data for similar economic activities. When a minimum set of data items is available, a TAU is created which covers all the operations within an industry subdivision (and the TAU is classified to the relevant subdivision of ANZSIC). Where a business cannot supply adequate data for each industry, a TAU is formed which contains activity in more than one industry subdivision.

24 For more information please refer to the Information Paper: Improvements in ABS Economic Statistics [Arising from The New Tax System], 2002 (cat. no. 1372.0).


25 AWE statistics represent average gross (before tax) earnings of employees and do not relate to average award rates or to the earnings of the 'average person'. AWE estimates are derived by dividing estimates of weekly total earnings by estimates of the number of employees. Changes in the averages may be affected not only by changes in the level of earnings of employees but also by changes in the overall composition of the wage and salary earner segment of the labour force.

26 There are several factors which can contribute to compositional changes, including variations over time in the proportions of full-time, part-time, casual and junior employees; variations in the occupational distribution within and across industries; variations in the distribution of employment between industries; and variations in the proportion of male and female employees. Such effects may apply differently within different states and territories, and over time.

27 The definition of earnings currently used in the AWE survey is, broadly, current and regular payments in cash to employees for work done. Thus, earnings series from the AWE survey have historically excluded amounts salary sacrificed, as these have been considered conceptually as payments in kind. However, under the revised conceptual framework for measures of employee remuneration, as presented in Information Paper: Changes to ABS Measures of Employee Remuneration, 2006 (cat. no. 6313.0), amounts salary sacrificed are now considered conceptually to be wages and salaries in cash. Accordingly, the AWE survey was redeveloped, and from August 2007, the collection of information on amounts salary sacrificed by employees commenced. However, the AWE series has continued to be published on the old conceptual basis (i.e. exclusive of amounts salary sacrificed) to maintain long term comparability of the time series.

28 Although the AWE survey has conceptually excluded amounts salary sacrificed, in practice, there was evidence that earnings series from the AWE survey had inadvertently included some amounts salary sacrificed. The ABS worked closely with data providers to identify any instances of misreporting, and to amend their reporting practices where necessary.

29 As a result of the separate collection of salary sacrificed amounts from August 2007, and other analyses, the ABS was able to quantify the extent of misreporting that had occurred, and to estimate the impact of this misreporting on the historical series. Consequently, AWE data series for August 1996 through to May 2008 were revised to exclude all amounts salary sacrificed. For further information see Information Paper: Revisions to the Average Weekly Earnings Series, Aug 2008 (cat. no. 6302.0.55.001), released 11 November 2008.


30 Since the May 2011 issue of this publication, an Average Weekly Cash Earnings (AWCE) series has also been released as an additional (not replacement) series of the AWE series. The difference between the AWCE and the AWE series is the average weekly amount salary sacrificed. Data relating to the AWCE series are only available in Excel spreadsheets on the ABS website Downloads tab and not in the PDF version of the publication. For more information relating to the AWCE series, refer to the Information Paper: Release of Average Weekly Cash Earnings Series, May 2011 (cat. no. 6302.0.55.003).


31 The current AWE series, based on information obtained from a sample survey of employers, was introduced in August 1981. Prior to August 1981, the AWE series was based principally on information from payroll tax returns. Revised estimates of AWE for the period August 1981 to November 1983 were included in Average Weekly Earnings, States and Australia, March 1984 (cat. no. 6302.0), published on 12 July 1984. Users who need a measure of the movement in earnings for a period which spans both the payroll tax based and employer survey series should refer to Table 3 in that publication which presents both series linked to a common index base (August 1981 = 100.0).


32 Period-to-period movements for the AWE series are not comparable with those for the Wage Price Index (WPI). It is important to recognise that the two series have different purposes and concepts and use different sample selection and estimation methodologies.

33 The AWE survey is designed to measure the level of average earnings in Australia at a point in time. It does this by collecting information from businesses on their number of employees and their total gross weekly earnings for a specific pay period each quarter. The WPI is a price index designed to measure the change over time in the price of labour. It does this by pricing specific jobs, in terms of wage and salary payments to employees occupying the jobs, and collecting information from businesses each quarter on price changes in those jobs. It is unaffected by changes in the quality and quantity of labour purchased by employers.

34 In addition to changes in the price of labour, AWE estimates are affected by changes in hours worked and by compositional changes in the employee workforce (see paragraphs 25 and 26). The WPI prices a fixed quantum of labour services for each job, and hence changes to base earnings resulting from increases in hours worked or from changes in the composition of the employee workforce will not be reflected in the index.

35 For further information on the WPI, please refer to the Explanatory Notes of Labour Price Index, Australia (cat. no. 6345.0) and Labour Price Index: Concepts, Sources and Methods, 2004 (cat. no. 6351.0.55.001) which are available on the ABS web site.


36 Estimates of average weekly earnings are rounded to the nearest 10 cents.

37 Percentage changes are calculated on the actual values and may differ from calculations based on rounded estimates.


38 Seasonal adjustment is a means of removing the estimated effects of normal seasonal variation from the series so that the effects of other influences can be more clearly recognised. Seasonal adjustment does not aim to remove the irregular or non-seasonal influences which may be present in any particular series. Influences that are volatile or unsystematic can still make it difficult to interpret the movement of the series even after adjustment for seasonal variation. This means that quarter-to-quarter movements of seasonally adjusted estimates may not be reliable indicators of trend behaviour.

39 AWE uses the concurrent seasonal adjustment method to derive seasonal factors. Concurrent seasonal adjustment uses data up to and including the current quarter to estimate seasonal factors for the current and all previous quarters. This process can result in revisions each quarter to estimates for earlier periods. However, in most instances, the only noticeable revisions will be to the seasonally adjusted estimates for the previous quarter and one year prior to the current quarter.

40 AWE also uses Autoregressive Integrated Moving Average (ARIMA) modelling, which generally results in a reduction in revisions to seasonally adjusted and trend estimates when subsequent data become available. For more information on ARIMA modelling see Feature article: User of ARIMA modelling to reduce revisions in Australian Economic Indicators, Oct 2004 (cat. no. 1350.0).

41 While seasonal factors for the complete time series are estimated each quarter, they will continue to be reviewed annually at a more detailed level to take into account each additional year's original data. The annual review is conducted on data up to and including November each year with the results reflected in estimates released in the February issue of this publication.


42 Seasonally adjusted estimates can be smoothed to reduce the impact of irregular or non-seasonal influences. Smoothed seasonally adjusted series are called trend estimates.

43 The ABS considers that trend estimates provide a more reliable guide to the underlying direction of the original estimates and are more suitable than either the seasonally adjusted or original estimates for most business decisions and policy advice.

44 The trend estimates in this publication, obtained by dampening out the irregular component from the seasonally adjusted series, are calculated using a centred 7-term Henderson moving average of the seasonally adjusted series. Estimates for the three most recent quarters cannot be calculated using this centred average method; instead an asymmetric average is used. This can lead to revisions in the trend estimates for the last three quarters when data become available for later quarters. Revisions of trend estimates will also occur with revisions to the original data and re-estimation of seasonal adjustment factors.

45 If a series is highly volatile then the trend estimates will be subject to greater revision for the latest few quarters as new data become available. However, it is important to note that this does not make the trend series inferior to the seasonally adjusted or original series.

46 For more information, refer to Information Paper: A Guide to Interpreting Time Series - Monitoring Trends, 2003 (cat. no. 1349.0) which is available on the ABS web site.

47 Five feature articles which have appeared in the ABS monthly publication Australian Economic Indicators (cat. no. 1350.0) may also be of interest:
  • Picking Turning Points in the Economy (April 1991);
  • Smarter Data Use (March 1992);
  • When it's not “business-as-usual”: Implication for ABS Time Series (Aug 2009);
  • Use of ARIMA Modelling to Reduce Revisions (Oct 2004); and
  • Trend Estimates and Unusual Real Events in ABS Statistics (Aug 2003).

48 The privatisation of Telstra Corporation in November 2006 impacted on the private sector and public sector AWE series. For the purposes of ABS statistics, this change from public sector to private sector was effective from March quarter 2007. The effect of this change was significant for both the private sector and public sector series. As a result, a trend break was applied to both series between November 2006 and February 2007. For more information please see Information Paper: Future Treatment of Telstra in ABS Statistics, 2007 (cat. no. 8102.0), released 26 February 2007.


49 The following publications contain related information:
  • Australian Labour Market Statistics (cat. no. 6105.0)-issued quarterly;
  • Employee Earnings and Hours, Australia (cat. no. 6306.0)-issued biennially;
  • Employee Earnings, Benefits and Trade Union Membership, Australia (cat. no. 6310.0)-issued annually;
  • Employment and Earnings, Public Sector, Australia (cat. no. 6248.0.55.002)-issued annually;
  • Information Paper: Changes to ABS Measures of Employee Remuneration, 2006 (cat. no. 6313.0)-issued 14 November 2006;
  • Information Paper: Changes to Average Weekly Earnings, Australia, Aug 2009 (cat. no. 6302.0.55.002)-issued 5 November 2009;
  • Information Paper: Improvements in ABS Economic Statistics [Arising from The New Tax System], 2002 (cat. no. 1372.0)-issued 6 May 2002;
  • Information Paper: Release of Average Weekly Cash Earnings Series, May 2011 (cat. no. 6302.0.55.003)-issued 21 July 2011;
  • Information Paper: Revisions to Average Weekly Earnings Series, Aug 2008 (cat. no. 6302.0.55.001)-issued 11 November 2008;
  • Labour Force, Australia (cat. no. 6202.0)-issued monthly;
  • Labour Force Projections, Australia, 1999-2016 (cat. no. 6260.0)-issued 1 September 1999;
  • Labour Price Index, Australia (cat. no. 6345.0)-issued quarterly; and
  • Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods, Apr 2007 (cat. no. 6102.0.55.001)-issued 6 July 2007.


50 As well as the statistics included in this and related publications, the ABS may have other relevant data available on request. Details of additional data available are shown in the Appendix on page 33 of the PDF version of this publication.