Exit Poll: Overwhelming Majority of Australians Want Wage Growth in Line with Cost of Living

As the Fair Work Commission prepares to announce this year’s increase in the national minimum wage, new polling data shows that the vast majority of Australians support lifting wages to keep up with rising inflation.

The Australia Institute conducted a special exit poll, surveying a nationally representative sample of 1,424 Australians on the evening of Saturday May 21, following the federal election. Among other questions, the survey asked about voters’ attitudes towards cost of living and low wage growth.

Key Findings:

  • An overwhelming majority of Australians (83%) support wage increases that keep up with cost of living, only 10% disagree.
    • Strong support for boosting wages to keep up with inflation was expressed across all voting intentions (Coalition 79% agree, 13% disagree; Labor 88% agree, 8% disagree; Greens 83% agree, 11% disagree; PHON 70% agree, 14% disagree; IND/other 84% agree, 7% disagree.)
  • In this context, criticism directed at Mr. Albanese during the election campaign for agreeing that wage increases should keep pace with inflation more likely hurt the Coalition campaign, not the Labor leader.
    • 39% of respondents felt Labor was best placed to address the issues of wages and the cost of living, compared to 26% who felt the Coalition had the stronger position.
  • Almost two in three Australians (65%) believe their nominal incomes have lagged behind inflation in the past year.
    • Regarding what can be done to ameliorate this problem, Australians were evenly divided: about half of respondents believe government policies can significantly alter the course of wage growth, while the other half do not.

“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 Dr Jim Stanford, Economist and Director of the Centre for Future Work.

“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.

“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.

“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.”

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