Why don’t job shortages match up with pay increases?

Angus Kidman 28 November 2016

FoodServices_Shutterstock

Demand doesn't always seem to lead to a higher salary.

So below you can see two columns. On the left is the list of 10 jobs that are hardest to fill in Australia in 2016, according to Manpower's 2016 talent shortage survey. On the right are the 10 occupational areas which saw the biggest wage rises in the last year, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics:

Hardest to fillHighest wage growth
Skilled tradesHealth care and social assistance
EngineersElectricity, gas, water and waste services
Management/executivesAccommodation and food services
Sales representativesEducation and training
IT staffRetail trade
Accounting and finance staffFinancial and insurance services
DoctorsOther services
TechniciansPublic administration and safety
Office support staffTransport, postal and warehousing
DriversManufacturing

Basic economic theory would suggest that jobs which are hard to fill should also attract the best salaries and the most frequent increases. There are many areas where the two match up fairly well: we can see medical professionals, tradespeople, drivers and salespeople on both lists. And some of the discrepancies can be explained by the fact that the categories used by the ABS are broader than those in the Manpower data.

Beyond that, it's worth recognising that wages growth can be harder to achieve for higher-salaried positions. Accommodation and food services is in the top 10 for growth, for instance, but basic "food services" jobs have very low wages, so even with a healthy growth rate, those people still aren't earning much. Conversely, one of the biggest challenges for finding doctors is persuading them to work in rural areas at all, no matter what they're being paid.

Overall, salaries in Australia are growing more slowly than ever. Even in areas where there are shortages, there seems to be a limit on how much employers are willing to pay.

Angus Kidman's Findings column looks at new developments and research that help you save money, make wise decisions and enjoy your life more. It appears Monday through Friday on finder.com.au.

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