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How Much Do Tradespersons Really Earn?


  • Tom Karmel

    () (Flinders University)

  • Ben Braysher

    (National Centre for Vocational Education Research)


A popular view is that tradespersons’ earnings compare favourably with those with university education. This view is not borne out by wage data, but a common rejoinder is that it is the self-employed tradespersons who make the ‘big’ money (and probably under-report their income). These ideas are examined by analysing household expenditure data in conjunction with income data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ Household Expenditure Survey and the Survey of Income and Housing. The data also allow us to look at wealth across occupations. Our findings are that neither expenditure data nor wealth data change significantly the relativities between the trades and occupations more associated with higher education. While no doubt there are some very rich tradespersons, on average those with university degrees earn more than those with trade qualifications. And there is little evidence to suggest than on average self-employed tradespeople ‘do better’ than those who are employees.

Suggested Citation

  • Tom Karmel & Ben Braysher, 2015. "How Much Do Tradespersons Really Earn?," Australian Journal of Labour Economics (AJLE), Bankwest Curtin Economics Centre (BCEC), Curtin Business School, vol. 18(3), pages 329-344.
  • Handle: RePEc:ozl:journl:v:18:y:2015:i:3:p:329-344

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    More about this item


    Wage level and structure; professional labour markets; occupational licensing;

    JEL classification:

    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being
    • J44 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Particular Labor Markets - - - Professional Labor Markets and Occupations


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