Working in Cairns pays below national average
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.
While Cairns incomes are higher than the Cassowary Coast, Tableland and Port Douglas regions, the mining stronghold of Weipa has emerged as the highest earner in the Far North, with an average income of $58,855.
Cairns economist Bill Cummings said the Cairns statistics were not surprising.
"Cairns' per capita income levels are normally lower than national averages, it's not uncommon,'' he said.
"The highest per capita incomes around Australia tend to be in areas of high government employment, including defence, and high mining employment. For instance, there are well above average figures for Canberra and Darwin but also in mining areas, like Mackay. Cairns is not high in those areas of employment.''
Mr Cummings said Cairns' private enterprise businesses influenced the figure, as does the tourism industry.
"One of the other factors is that the income for unincorporated businesses is lower as opposed to wage and salary earners,'' he said.
"There are more self-employed people in Cairns. The figures compared to Townsville (where the average wage is $48,996) show that Townsville has 15 per cent more wage and salary earners, while Cairns has 22 per cent more unincorporated businesses.''
"Wages in the tourism industry are not high. Another factor is Cairns is a relatively attractive place to live, with more people wanting to move here than jobs available.''
Weipa Town Authority chairman Peter McCulkin said the average Weipa salary was a figure that reflected current and future dependence on mining.
"It certainly reflects a very strong influence by Rio Tinto Alcan,'' he said. "In that mix, 20 per cent are indigenous employees, so the figure also reflects a broad multicultural salary base. We consider ourselves the capital of Cape York, we provide jobs for over 450 state and Commonwealth employees here as well. Another factor is the high cost of living: whatever it is to build a house in Cairns is 40 to 50 per cent more here, so the wages need to reflect that.''
An average yearly income at the Cassowary Coast is $36,791, Port Douglas and Daintree is $35,778, Tableland is $39,041 and the Far North, including Cape York and Torres Strait Islands is $40,695.
The highest national average salary was $132,252 in the Melbourne suburb of Toorak.
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Hip pocket hit: 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.