The leafy Maitland suburbs of Lorn and Bolwarra have emerged as the Hunter’s highest earning suburbs, beating off more fancied coastal addresses in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie, new Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows.
The north Maitland area had a median income of $36,623, with the majority of residents working in the healthcare and education and training sectors.
While almost a decade has passed since the Hunter’s mining boom, the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Jobs in Australia project shows the industry still continues to generate the region’s highest median incomes.
The region’s other highest median income areas were the suburbs of Edgeworth and Cameron Park at $34,323, Maryland, Fletcher, Minmi at $33,813, Singleton at $33,490 and Muswellbrook at $32,836.
The highest earning inner Newcastle area was Lambton-New Lambton with a median income of $32,707 In Lake Macquarie the highest earning area contained the suburbs of Glendale, Cardiff and Hillsborough with a median income of $32,100. In Port Stephens the area bounded by Williamtown, Medowie and Karuah had a median income of $31,249.
A median income represents the mid-point across all incomes in a statistical area and is generally much lower than a average income. It includes income from short-term contracts, children’s jobs and welfare.
As a result, some areas, such as the beachside suburb of Merewether ($29,176) had lower median incomes as a result of their broad income mix.
“Median incomes do not take into account the hours worked,” an Australian Bureau of Statistics spokeswoman said.
“Where you have a lot of part-time or short-term contract work you tend to get a lower median income.”
The Hunter’s median incomes compare with the average state median income of $25,813 and the national median income of $24,920.
Professor of economic geography at Western Sydney University Phillip O’Neill said the ABS statistics highlighted socio-economic differences between regional and capital cities.
“The lower Hunter doesn’t display the stark socio-economic divides that you find in Sydney and Melbourne. Along Newcastle’s desirable beach suburbs you still find cheaper accommodation options and lower income households occupying family homes that they have held for generations, plus surviving tracts of social housing,” Professor O’Neill said.
“In the Lower Hunter there are better-off parts of each town but these tend to be defined at the street level rather than at neighborhood level. As a consequence our settlements continue to be quite diverse compared to elsewhere. Thankfully, it’s a characteristic that is held onto as important.”
Top median incomes
- Maitland north - $36,623
- Edgeworth-Cameron Park - $34,323
- Maryland-Fletcher-Minmi - $33,813
- Thornton-Millers Forest - $33,688
- Singleton - $33,490
- Muswellbrook - $32, 836
- Lambton-New Lambton - $32,702
- Adamstown-Kotara - $32,462
- Stockton-Fullerton Cove - $32,053
- Williamtown-Medowie-Karuah - $31,249
Australian Property Monitors data shows the median residential sale price for Lorn this year is $730,000. It compares to $600,000 for 2017.
Maths tutor Kamran Ebrahim and his wife Mahtab Asghari have been renting in the suburb for two years.
“It’s a safe neighbourhood that’s close to nature and has lots of well established houses. We love it, although I doubt I could afford to buy a house here,” he said.
Mr Ebrahim said he was surprised the suburb had topped the Hunter’s median income list.
“I’m a little bit surprised given the number of older people who live here. On the other hand you don’t go around asking people how much they earn,” he said.
The statistics show the Hunter is continuing to transition from a heavy industrial economy to a service-based economy.
Health care, which employees about 14 per cent of all workers, continues to be the Hunter’s largest overall employer.
It is closely followed by retail and accommodation services sectors that each employ 9.2 per cent of workers. Administration support and education and training both employ more than 8 per cent. Construction employs 7 per cent and manufacturing 6.3 per cent.
Despite generating the highest median incomes, the mining sector only employs 3.1 per cent of workers.
Professor O’Neill said the employment trends in the Hunter generally highlighted the positive effects of population growth. But they also pointed to areas of concern in decades to come.
“Workers in Newcastle and Lake Macquarie are not as highly skilled as you would like given the challenges of the future. The exception is in education and training where we see a very high proportion of workers (64 per cent) with higher education training. This reflects the expectation by employers in our schools, universities and child care centres that staff are properly trained and credentialed,” he said.
Of particular concern is the health care, hospitality and retail sectors where a large proportion of workers do not have post-school qualifications.
“There are worrying signs that the health sector is lagging in skills take-up with only 43 per cent of this sector possessing higher education credentials. One explanation for this is the rising number of health care workers employed outside the formal institutions like hospitals where credentialing is closely supervised,” he said.
“In the hospitality and retailing sectors there is very poor skills formation with 69 per cent and 65 per cent (respectively) of workers in these sectors having no post-school training whatsoever. As technological disruption hits these sectors these workers are very vulnerable to job loss.”
In the Lower Hunter townships there are better-off parts of each town but these tend to be defined at the street level rather than at the larger neighbourhood level.”Phillip O’Neill - Professor of economic geography at Western Sydney University
The statistics also confirm the significant gap in the lifetime earnings of men and women.
In 2015-16 the median earnings for male employees per job aged 25-29 was $22,890, which jumps to $41,230 for men aged 30-34.
By contrast women aged 25-29 earn nearly $3,000 less than men on average at $19,024. The male median income jumps 80 per cent when they go into their early 30s, however, for women the median income rises just 45 per cent to $27,523.
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