While the pay for an apprentice in Australia varies by industry, there’s a strong case to be made that the average wage for this working segment is not enough to live on.
As of 1 July 2012, the national minimum wage for Australians is $15.96 per hour ($606.40 per week). On average, apprentices earn significantly less, having to work at least three years to earn anything approaching the current minimum wage.
According to Fair Work Australia, the wages for apprentices are $10.22 per hour for a first-year apprentice; $12.08 for the second year; $14.87 for the third year; and $17.65 the fourth year.
Andreas Cebulla, a senior research fellow at the Flinders-based National Institute of Labour Studies, has started a year-long study to determine whether low apprenticeship wages are forcing Australian trades workers into homelessness and housing instability.
Cebulla says the study was prompted by claims made by social welfare experts who have noticed a recent increase in homelessness among apprentices. The goal of the project is to determine if there is a causal link between homelessness and low apprentice wages.
“[A]pprenticeships pay little and housing is expensive so, eventually, apprentices can’t maintain their homes and when that happens they can’t maintain their jobs either,” Cebulla states.
A secondary goal of the study is to determine if there is an association between wages and the drop-out rate among apprentices.
There are approximately 35,000 apprentices in South Australia, most of whom earn less than half of what qualified, experienced trades workers earn.