Australians suffer world’s biggest collapse in living standards


Australian households suffered one of the world’s steepest declines in real per capita household disposable incomes last year:

Household disposable income per capita

Australians have likewise recorded one of the sharpest declines in real per capita since the start of the pandemic:

Household disposable income per capita 2

The March quarter national accounts from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showed that annual real per capita household disposable incomes in Australia had collapsed by 7.6% from their June 2022 peak to be tracking at early 2018 levels:

Annual income growth per capita

It is a similar story for Australian real wages.


When adjusted for headline CPI inflation, Australian real wages are currently tracking 7.1% below their June 2020 peak as shown below:

Australian real wages

Not surprisingly, then, the latest employment outlook from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that Australia has recorded one of the world’s biggest declines in real wages.

Australia was one of 16 member countries whose real incomes have gone backwards since the end of 2019. It fell well below the OECD average of 3.5% real wage growth over the same period.


“This is one of the largest drops in real wages among OECD countries,” the organisation said.

The May federal budget projected that Australian real wages would only recover to December 2014 levels by mid-2028:

Real wage forecasts

If this forecast comes to fruition, Australians will have lost around 14 years of progress in their living standards.

You will also notice from the above chart that Australian real wages in mid-2028 are expected to be 4.3% below their June 2020 peak.


This suggests that it could take more than a decade for Australian real wages to recover from their losses.

About the author
Leith van Onselen is Chief Economist at the MB Fund and MB Super. He is also a co-founder of MacroBusiness. Leith has previously worked at the Australian Treasury, Victorian Treasury and Goldman Sachs.