Wages rise at fastest pace in 3 years: What you've missed this week.


Wages rise at fastest pace in 3 years, rental vacancies hit 16-year low, and $5 billion super rip-off continues.

Here are five things you may have missed this week.

Wages jump 2.3% - the highest since 2018

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Your wallet may not feel fuller, but the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) says wages nationally grew 2.3% in 2021.

Not everyone shared equally in the spoils. Tasmania recorded the highest annual wage growth of 3%, while workers Western Australia saw the leanest pay rise of just 2.0%.

The 2.3% national increase is the biggest uptick in wages since September 2018. But with inflation currently sitting at 3.5%, prices are rising faster than pay packets, leaving many Australians falling behind in terms of real (after inflation) wage growth.

Rental vacancies plunge, rents rise

Tenants take note, now may not be the ideal time to look for a new rental property.

SQM Research says rental vacancy rates nationally have plunged to 1.3% - a 16-year low. The number of properties awaiting a tenant now stands at 47,977 Australia-wide, down from 57,558 in December.

Louis Christopher, Managing Director of SQM Research, says, "We were expecting a drop in rental vacancies over January due to seasonality, however the drops were larger than expected. And worse for tenants, weekly rental listings in February to date have fallen further for our two largest capital cities (Sydney and Melbourne)."

The acute shortage of rental properties is pushing up weekly rents across the country.

SQM Research data shows capital city combined rents have soared 5.2% in just the last 90 days, with average weekly rents now sitting at $622 for houses and $442 for units.

Christopher warns, "It is now very likely market rents will rise by over ten per cent this year."

$5 billion a year super rip off

The Tax Office could be fighting a losing battle against the $5 billion a year unpaid super rip-off that sees some employers shirk their legal responsibility to pay employee super contributions.

Just 12% of Australia's unpaid super is reclaimed by the Tax Office each year.

Part of the problem is that employers are entitled to pay workers' super contributions quarterly.

This means the Tax Office often has to wait three months before it can take action on unpaid super complaints. By that stage, the offending employers may have gone out of business, at which point the Tax Office's hands are tied and workers miss out.

A report by Industry Super shows almost 3 million Australian workers are short-changed on employer super contributions - with the personal loss averaging $1,700 each year. It's a shortfall that can mean having $60,000 less in super at retirement.

A number of industry bodies are lobbying for employer-paid super contributions to be paid in line with paydays. This would get the money to workers sooner, and allow timely chasing up of non-paying employers.

Until this happens (if it does at all), it's important to make regular checks of your super to see if the boss is paying their due. If you think you're being ripped off, speak to your employer to check contributions are being paid into the correct fund. If you get no joy, use the Tax Office's online tool to report unpaid super contributions.

Tinder users pay different fees depending on data

Consumer group Choice has sent a 'love letter' to dating app Tinder Australia - used by around 3 million Australians, calling on the company to stop using data to charge different people different prices.

It follows research from Consumers International and Mozilla that found Tinder Plus users in several countries across the world are being charged more based on their personal data.

CHOICE senior policy advisor, Amy Pereira, says in 2020, CHOICE found that one Tinder subscriber could be charged up to five times as much as another, with older people charged more. "Worst of all - Tinder doesn't tell its customers about its sneaky pricing practices," adds Pereira.

A check by a number of CHOICE staff of different ages and other demographics revealed that prices for premium options such as Tinder Plus can range from $9.99 to $28.99 per month.

Is crypto the source of joy?

Owning cryptocurrency could be the key to happiness, according to research by Finder.

One in five Australians own digital currencies, a figure that rises to 34% of Gen Z. The Finder survey of more than 6,000 Australians, found 81% of crypto owners say they are happy, compared to 75% of non-investors.

There's no doubt cryptocurrencies may have bought happiness to those who got their timing right. In mid-2021, Bitcoin was trading at $40,600 - a price that rose to about $91,000 in November 2021 to deliver a gain of 124%.

Since late 2021,  Bitcoin has delivered some fairly unhappy results, with a downhill slide that saw the world's best-known crypto trading below $50,000 on 24 February.

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A former Chartered Accountant, Nicola Field has been a regular contributor to Money for 20 years, and writes on personal finance issues for some of Australia's largest financial institutions. She is the author of Investing in Your Child's Future and Baby or Bust, and has collaborated with Paul Clitheroe on a variety of projects including radio scripts, newspaper columns, and several books.