Writing in the Australian today, the Prime Minister says:
Average real wages have risen by 17.9 per cent since March 1996, compared with a fall of 1.7 per cent under the previous Labor Government.
Can anyone find evidence supporting the suggestion that real wages actually fell from March 1983 to March 1996? When talking about real wages in the past, the PM has relied on ABS quarterly average earnings data, so I expect that this is what is being referred to here. However, when I put the ABS CPI (6401.0) and average wage (6302.0) data together, I get increases of around 6% between the Nov 83 and Feb 96 quarters (the average wage series only starts in Nov 83). Hardly rapid growth, but there’s plenty of daylightÂ between +6% and -1.7%.
Update: With help from Mark Davis, I’ve worked out what’s going on. The PM is referring to theÂ trends in average wages, not average full-time wages (you can get Howard’s numbers byÂ combining these national accounts wage numbers with this CPI data). The obvious rebuttal is: of course average wages fell over this period, there were a whole lot more people working part-time in 1996 than in 1983. When you compare apples with oranges, don’t be surprised if the answer looks pear-shaped.