Official figures reveal Wagga is closing the regional pay gap, but there’s still a long way to go.
The data, released by the Australian Tax Office, showed Wagga’s average taxable income was $54,599, up almost $2000 on the previous year. It placed the city just ahead of Albury’s $54,200 and Griffith’s $48,582, but still well short of the national average of $59,215.
Compared to other large inland centres in NSW, Wagga was second to Orange, which had an average taxable income of $56,388. Armidale was the worst, with an average of $49,043, but Tamworth didn’t fare much better with $49,230.
However, the regional cities came nowhere near Sydney for earning potential. Darling Point, Edgecliff and Point Piper topped the list with an average $192,500. Thankfully, they were also much higher than the lowest-paid Rowena in north-east NSW, which had an average taxable income of about $12,000.
Wagga’s superannuation accounts also got a bit of a boost, with an average value of $122,865.
Riverina accountant Ashley Gunn said with flat wage growth it was hard to put extra money into super, but people should do their sums well ahead of retirement.
“If you want to live comfortably for 20 years after you retire, you’ll need about $1.2 million,” he said. “But it’s hard to justify putting that in there when you’re young. As people get closer to retirement, in general terms, they should top up their accounts – you can play catch up, to a point.”
The gender pay gap was also glaringly obvious in the data. Out of almost 1200 recorded jobs, less than 100 paid women more than men on average. They included receptionists, school teachers, beauticians – and goat farmers.
“To find professions where women earn even slightly more than men, the ATO has had to go to goat farming and beauticians,” Roderick Campbell of The Australia Institute said. “Some of these are obviously low-income professions, where minimum wages come into play and even out that inequality. It really shows the gender gap is still there.”
Surprisingly, Griffith was a strong performer with its average business income, outpacing all Evocities-member cities with $115,125. Wagga was close behind on $114,926, while Armidale again came last with $78,429.
Wagga Business Chamber vice president Daniel Donebus welcomed the result.
“It’s absolutely a good thing,” Mr Donesbus said. “We all benefit from a vibrant local economy and it’s heartening to be informed that whatever people may see on the surface, we have runs on the board and it gives great confidence going forward for what can be done.”