With the Fair Work Commission (FWC) handing down an increase to the minimum wage on Wednesday, research by the Australia Institute has found that Australians are broadly supportive of lifting wages amid rising inflation.
In a survey of more than 1,400 voters on election day last month, 83 per cent expressed support for wage increases to keep up with the cost of living and 10 per cent said that they opposed.
Support for wage lifts was found to be strong regardless of voting intentions, including 88 per cent of Labor voters, 79 per cent of Coalition voters and 83 per cent of Greens voters.
“Our research shows that while conservative commentators might be alarmed at the idea that wages should increase as fast as prices, among the voting public, the idea seems reasonable and fair,” said economist and director of the Centre for Future Work Dr Jim Stanford.
“There is no economic basis for the view that wages keeping up with inflation will only cause further inflation. The current cost-of-living crisis is clearly due to factors (like supply chain disruptions and global energy prices) that have nothing to do with Australian wages.”
About 65 per cent of Australians believed that their income had lagged behind inflation over the past year while just 13 per cent said that their income had increased faster than the cost of living.
Women were more likely to indicate that their income had grown less than the cost of living (70 per cent) during the past 12 months in comparison to men (60 per cent).
“Unit labour costs in Australia are falling, not increasing. Workers should not be punished further with falling real wages for a problem they did not create,” said Dr Stanford.
“Wages can and should keep pace with rising prices to protect the real living standards of Australian workers, while the true causes of inflation are addressed.”
When asked about the impact of government policies on how fast wages grow, respondents were split on whether they do (40 per cent) or do not (42 per cent) have an influence.
Increasing the minimum wage emerged as a key issue in the lead up to the election, with Anthony Albanese expressing his support for a rise of at least 5.1 per cent in order to keep up with inflation.
In response, Scott Morrison claimed that Mr Albanese did not understand the consequences of his proposal and described him as a “loose cannon on the economy”.
Around 39 per cent of survey respondents felt that Labor best addressed the issues of wages and the cost of living during the election compared to 26 per cent for the Coalition.
Jon Bragg is a journalist for Momentum Media's Investor Daily, nestegg and ifa. He enjoys writing about a wide variety of financial topics and issues and exploring the many implications they have on all aspects of life.