Where the Wealthy Work

Whilst contemplating how to spend the $100 million I intended to win in last night’s Oz Lotto draw, I began to think about the distribution of wealth in Australia. As my dreams of instant lotto wealth were dashed (just like my tip for the Melbourne Cup) I became more interested in who our wealthy are and where they live.

Data reveals that of the nine million households in Australia, the top 20 per cent earn around 40 per cent of all income. The lowest quintile earn just 7 per cent of total household income. This is the basis for many active in the ‘social justice’ space to demand a redistribution of wealth to ensure more equality in the community. They suggest that the government should take more from those that make and give it to those that make do.

Among the national figures is a state-by-state breakdown detailing average weekly household income and average household wealth. Given the political class warfare attacks on the wealth of miners, captains of industry and business owners, the figures reveal some interesting facts.

The wealthiest part of Australia is that haven for public servants, the Australian Capital Territory. On average, the ACT household income is over $1,100 per week and they have a net wealth in excess of $843,000. The lowest state on the list is Tasmania with average income and wealth of $708 and $586,000 respectively.

These figures are interesting for several reasons. Given that the largest sector of workers in the ACT is engaged in the public service (PS), it suggests that they are paid more than most other Australians. In addition to the reputation the PS has for almost unbreakable job security, is it any wonder that many consider our public servants detached from real world concerns?

However, when our government employees are amongst the best paid and wealthiest in the country, it gives rise to question the sustainability of the current level of public employment. If better pay and greater job security can be gained by joining the public service compared to private enterprise, what incentive is there for people to strive for private sector success?

Starting your own business is fraught with risk. You don’t get annual leave, sick pay, personal leave and a myriad of other benefits working for yourself. Most businesses can’t afford to provide the flexibility of work conditions that many in the public service enjoy or the extra superannuation and perks. These include happiness lessons, $15,000 coffee machines, wine cabinets and yoga classes.

Frankly, our government can’t afford it either.

We have seen public sector employment grow significantly over recent years with the commensurate increase in budget expenses. A lot of waste has been exposed and yet the march of public sector growth continues unabated.

The long-term implications of this growth are critical to the future of our nation. If an increasing number of us rely on the government to pay our wages or sustain our lives, the burden of wealth creation will fall on fewer. This is not the path to prosperity. We need to reinvigorate the entrepreneurial spirit and promote the blossoming of free enterprise if we are to provide for our future generations.

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