The Survey of Average Weekly Earnings (AWE) is a survey of business units which has been conducted since 1981. Prior to August 1981, the AWE series was based principally on information from payroll tax returns. The survey is currently conducted biannually, in May and November, and was conducted on a quarterly basis until May 2012.
The purpose of the survey is to measure the level of average gross weekly earnings associated with employees. While AWE is not designed to produce movement in earnings data, the frequency of collection supports a time series of these level estimates.
In practice, AWE estimates are used in commercial contracts, more broadly by the private sector for economic and labour market analysis, and in Commonwealth, state and territory legislation for adjusting a variety of government payments, supporting minimum wage claims and monitoring wage equity, and as an indicator of change in underlying wage rates for economic or taxation policy analysis.
Earnings in AWE are broadly defined as current and regular payments in cash to employees for work done, excluding amounts salary sacrificed (except for the Average Weekly Cash Earnings series which are inclusive of salary sacrificed). Descriptions of the underlying concepts of Australia's AWE statistics (including the concept of earnings used in AWE), and the sources and methods used in compiling these estimates, are presented in Labour Statistics: Concepts, Sources and Methods.