Thursday 9 May 2013

Which occupations pay the 'best'?

Latest figures from the Australian Tax Office (for the 2010-11 financial year) provide details of the taxable income reported by different occupation categories. Its interesting that my salary package is almost exactly the same as the average taxable income of the two categories that I most closely match ('Auditors, Company Secretaries and Corporate Treasurers' on $95,747 or 'Other Natural and Physical Science Professionals' on $97,319 - although it is a bit odd that the essentially identical occupation category 'Natural and Physical Science Professionals (other)' has an average taxable income of only $84,148). However my 'taxable income' is a lot less than this, due to tax-deductions for investment loan interest payments, so I'd need a hefty pay-rise for my taxable income to reach these averages.

Surgeons are ranked as the highest earning occupation, with an average taxable income of $350,383 (which would make them 'ultra-rich' according to Leigh's classification system). Personally I don't begrudge them earning "four times as many train drivers, six times as many nurses and nine times as many hairdressers..." (a line which reminded me of a story in "Hitch-hiker's guide to the universe" where all the valuable occupations were evacuated from a doomed planet in the first wave of escape rockets, while such 'valuable' occupations as these were left behind, with a promise that they'd be picked up later on...).

The figures aren't quite as illuminating as they could be - for example, judges are lumped together with solicitors under 'Judicial and Other Legal Professionals' on an average of $177,702. In reality, a NSW supreme court judge earns $368,500, and the Chief Justice of the High Court, Robert French, now earns $508,250 while the chief justices of the Federal Court and Family Court, Patrick Keane and Diana Bryant, earn $430,000. So being a 'judge' as an occupation probably trumps that of being a 'surgeon'.

As with most statistics, averages can obscure more than they reveal. For example, the occupation 'chief executives and managing directors' earned an average taxable income of $164,931, which is just a fraction of what large corporations such as banks and mining companies pay their chiefs. A more representative figure would probably be the median taxable income, rather than the average.

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