Sunday, December 2, 2012

The Everage Cairns

Noted this week was a report in the Cairns Post  with a negative comparison of Cairns wages relative to Australia  ....... and Townsville *sigh*:
THE average Cairns worker is taking home $44,813 in yearly salary, about $3000 less than the national average, the Australian Bureau of Statistics says.
Now doesn't that make Cairns look poor? However in terms of regional variation after downloading the data, Cairns looks quite everage to me? This is consistent with a theme I will return to that Cairns is more everage than thought by many.

This report was based on small area data released by ABS this week. It is average personal income data. There are some problems with this: The data is for 2009/2010 which is now two years ago; That was the period of highest unemployment in FNQ, which was also most particular to higher income males; The data is personal income and not household data; The data is exclusive of  Government transfers such as dole and  pensions.

Care should also be taken with average components such as the wage and salary data referenced by the Post as most individuals will have multiple sources of income from different components which such as superannuation and invvestment. Consequently the average wage for a region can be higher than the total average income. The Post appear to have taken their $44,813 number by incorrectly averaging unweighted SA3 wage and salary data for North and South Cairns? Close enough perhaps!

Average incomes in the more productive larger capitals are almost always above regional areas, except for some mining centres. Greater Sydney leads the way with total income average of $55,010. This is well above Greater Melbourne at $50,413.  Greater Brisbane comes in at $48,895. Because these are the largest populations centres they have a significant impact on that national average.

The wage and salary average for the Rest of Queensland is $44,835 which is almost exactly the same as the Post have used for Cairns! Average total personal income from all sources for Rest of Queensland is $42,981 while the equivalent for Cairns is almost $45,000. So Cairns is above the regional Queensland average on that measure.

Total average income, as well as average wages & salaries, are higher in Cairns than both the Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. Total average income in regional Victoria is just $38,995 so perhaps the Post should use that as a headline comparison?


  1. Good point about the valid comparison being with the rest of Qld rather than a state average which includes the capital city. Another important consideration is that the cost of living (particularly rent or mortgage repayments) would be signficantly lower in Cairns than in the capital city.

  2. Comments at the Cairns Post typically emphasise that the cost of living in FNQ is high. However this often neglects many aspects such as you have mentioned.

    Fuel prices are higher but that doesn't necessarily mean fuel costs are also with travel times to work much lower. When I resided at the beaches I was told often by people that they just couldn't live that far from the city with a 20 minute drive to work!

    Also a cost advantage in the tropics is that you just don't need expensive winter clothing! My biggest annual clothing decision is whether I will need to replace my jumper (one) each winter. Although currently I am also concerned about whether I will need a new sarong this wet season!