Rich Australians get richer while most wages stagnate, data shows

The ASX in Sydney. Source: AAP

The average Australian household is now worth more than $1 million, but new figures show the richest Aussies are getting the most benefit.

Australia's richest households have gotten richer over the past decade while middle and low-income earners have barely seen an increase in their earnings.

On average, Australian households are now worth more than $1 million, but that figure is heavily skewed by the wealthiest 20 per cent, who now control 60 per cent of all household wealth.

Asset-rich, cash-poor Australians are relying on strong increases in property prices and superannuation balances to drive the wealth growth, as income growth has stagnated.

Australian middle and low-income earners have barely seen an increase in their earnings
Australian middle and low-income earners have barely seen an increase in their earnings
AAP Image/Joe Castro

Australian Bureau of Statistics chief economist Bruce Hockman said average household wealth was $1.02 million in 2017/18, compared to nearly $749,000 in 2005/06.

"While ABS data has shown that there is a recent downturn in the property market, over the longer term there has been sustained growth (of) 37 per cent since 2005/06," he said on Friday.

And he said over the same time, the average household superannuation balance has almost doubled.

But income growth has been weak.

In the four years leading up to the Global Financial Crisis, average household weekly incomes grew by $220 in real terms.

In the 10 years since then, they have only increased an average of $44 a week.

Households earning an average of $798 in 2004 jumped to $1018 by 2008, but a decade on they've only increased to $1062.

"For low-income households there has been an increase of $28 in average weekly household income over the past decade, while for high-income households there was an increase of $57," Mr Hockman said.

'Historic inequality'

The Australian Council of Trade Unions said the figures showed many households are being "left behind" as wealth inequality grows in Australia.

"The wealth which is generated by working people in Australia should benefit all Australians, not be concentrated more and more in the hands of the wealthy few," secretary Sally McManus said.

ACTU secretary Sally McManus.
ACTU secretary Sally McManus.

"Disposable income has only increased a measly $44 over the past decade - working people simply have no money to spend."

She claimed the Morrison Government "is presiding over a period of historic inequality and refuses to protect the vast majority of Australians who are struggling, by supporting wage increases and more secure work".

"Working people need a bigger share of the wealth being generated in this country, largely by their own effort. They need pay rises and better rights at work."

20 per cent control 60 per cent

The ABS calculates household net worth by balancing land, vehicles, businesses, savings and superannuation, with mortgages, investment loans, and credit card and other forms of debt.

The latest figures show the wealthiest 20 per cent of households control 60 per cent of all household wealth, and the richest Australians have seen their wealth grow faster than middle and low-income earners.

The middle 20 per cent held 11 per cent of all household wealth, averaging $564,500 per household in 2017/18.

The lowest 20 per cent controlled less than one per cent of all household wealth, with average wealth currently at $35,200 - less than $1000 higher than where it was in 2003/04.

Additional reporting: Nick Baker

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