QUALITY DECLARATION - SUMMARY
For information on the institutional environment of the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), including the legislative obligations of the ABS, financing and governance arrangements, and mechanisms for scrutiny of ABS operations, please see ABS Institutional Environment.
The quarterly Survey of Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) produces estimates of average gross weekly earnings associated with employee jobs in Australia, at a point in time. Level estimates and estimates of movement in AWE are linked to both state and federal legislation for adjusting a variety of government payments. AWE data are also used for analysing movements in average earnings, framing and supporting wage claims/submissions, monitoring wage equity and developing taxation and social policies on compensation.
The key earnings series produced from the survey are:
- full-time adult ordinary time earnings (commonly referred to as AWOTE);
- full-time adult total earnings;
- all employees total earnings.
Each of the above series are available for males, females and persons. Estimates are available by state/territory, industry and sector. Seasonally adjusted and trend estimates are produced for key series.
The AWE reference period is the week ending the third Friday of the middle month of the quarter, i.e. February, May, August and November. Due to the wide variety of pay arrangements and systems which exist, most employers are not able to report for this exact period. Therefore employers are requested to report for the last pay period ending on or before this date, and where a pay period is fortnightly or monthly (etc.), the employer is requested to report only one week's proportion.
Survey estimates are released approximately three months after the reference period.
Information for the AWE survey is collected via mail questionnaires which are sent to approximately 5,200 employers. The employer sample selected is stratified by state, sector, industry division and employment size to ensure adequate state, sector and industry representation. A minimum response rate of 95% is achieved for the survey as a whole and for each state, sector and industry.
There are two principal sources of error in surveys, sampling error and non-sampling error. Non-sampling error arises from inaccuracies in collecting, recording and processing the data. Every effort is made to minimise non-sampling error by the careful design and testing of questionnaires, detailed checking of the reported data and direct follow up with providers where significant errors are detected.
Sampling error occurs when a sample or subset of the population is surveyed rather than the entire population. One measure of the likely difference resulting from not including all of the population in the survey is given by the standard error. There are about two chances in three that a sample estimate will differ by less than one standard error from the figure that would have been obtained if the whole population had been included in the survey.
AWE estimates are seasonally adjusted to remove the estimated effects of normal seasonal variation from the series. The seasonally adjusted series are further smoothed to reduce the impact of irregular or non-seasonal factors. Smoothed seasonally adjusted series are called trend estimates. As data becomes available for the next quarter there are usually revisions in the trend estimates for the previous quarters.
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.
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 primarily on information from payroll tax returns.
Data collection methodology have been improved over time, including survey definitions and sample design. Seasonally adjusted estimates were introduced in 1983 and trend estimates were introduced in 1993.
The AWE survey uses Australian standard classifications to facilitate data comparability across statistical series. The August 2009 issue of the AWE publication presents data using the 2006 edition of the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC), replacing the 1993 edition of ANZSIC which had been used since 1994.
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.
With the introduction of the new edition of ANZSIC, industry data from August 2009 onwards will only be available on an ANZSIC 2006 basis. Published industry series from August 1994 to May 2009 will be available on the basis of both editions of ANZSIC.
The ABS conducts a number of sample surveys of businesses which collect information about wages and salaries. One of these, the Wage Price Index, is designed to measure the change over time in the price of labour. Period-to-period movements for the AWE series are not comparable with those for the Wage Price Index. It is important to note that the two series have different purposes and concepts and use different sample selection and estimation methodologies.
Average weekly earnings statistics represent average gross earnings of employees and do not relate to average award rates nor to the earnings of the 'average person'. 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.
There are several aspects 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.
Average Weekly Earnings, Australia (cat. no. 6302.0) contains Explanatory Notes, a Glossary and a Technical Note which provide further information about data sources, terminology and other technical aspects of the series.
Average Weekly Earnings, Australia (cat. no. 6302.0) is available from the ABS website as an electronic version of the summary data and Explanatory Notes, as a more detailed PDF version and as downloadable Excel data files for time series data.
If the information you require is not available as a standard product or service, then ABS Consultancy Services can help you with customised services to suit your needs. Inquiries should be made to the National Information and Referral Service on 1300 135 070.