Welcome Boost for Lowest Paid Workers

3 June 2010

ACOSS has welcomed today’s Fair Work Australia decision to increase the federal minimum wage by $26 per week.

“Around 1.4 million Australians depend on the minimum wage, and we welcome today’s increase which will help people on the lowest wages keep pace with the increasing cost of living,” said Clare Martin, CEO, Australian Council of Social Service.

“Minimum wages dropped behind average wages by over 6% following last year’s minimum wage freeze. Low-paid workers have not received an increase a wage increase for the last 17 months and this is a strong first step to restore the real value of the minimum wage.

“Minimum wages, plus the social security system, are an important safety net to ensure a decent living standard and prevent poverty.

“Today’s decision to increase the weekly minimum wage to $569.90 will help workers pay for increased housing costs, transport, childcare and basics essentials like food and electricity.

“Many workers in the community sector receive minimum wages. ACOSS supports a major pay equity claim for community sector workers which is currently before Fair Work Australia. This wage claim is critical for the future sustainability of community services.”

Who depends on the Minimum Wage?*

  • 52% of low paid employees are women compared with 45% of the overall workforce
  • 630,000 young employees under 21 years are paid at or less than the adult minimum wage
  • 40% of people paid below the minimum worked in five industries – business services, accommodation cafes and restaurants, community services, personal and home goods retailing, and agriculture.

ACOSS’ submission to Fair Work Australia called for a substantial increase to at least maintain the real value of the minimum wage and to start to catch-up the with wage increases awarded to workers nationally. Read the submission here.

*Healy & Richardson 2006, Updated profile of the minimum wage workforce in Australia, Report for Fair Pay Commission, National Institute of Labour Studies.

Media Contact: Clare Cameron, ACOSS – 0419 626 155