In Australia, mining workers now earn almost twice as much as workers in manufacturing.

In Australia, mining workers now earn almost twice as much as workers in manufacturing. West Australians now average 24 per cent bigger pay packets than Victorians. And soaring mining and construction wages have widened the gender gap in earnings.

Latest figures from the Bureau of Statistics show that men working in WA now have the nation's highest pay packets, at $1936 for a full week. In 2003 they were below the national male average but since then, the average WA male wage has soared 89 per cent.

No such luck for blokes in the south-east. In 2003, men working in NSW were second only to those in Canberra, with an average pay packet of $1086 for a full-time week. But in the past decade, their wages rose less than any other group, up just 43 per cent to $1454.

WA has had by far the biggest wage growth. Its average full-time wage for men and women rose 87 per cent, almost twice the average 45 per cent pay rise in NSW or 47 per cent in Victoria. It has even overtaken the ACT.

The average full-time wage in the mining industry has shot up 72 per cent in the past decade, to $2478 a week, almost $130,000 a year. Mining workers had the biggest pay rise of any industry, just ahead of construction workers, whose wages rose 68 per cent to $1638 a week.

Manufacturing workers had the smallest pay rises. The Holden workers who this week accepted a three-year pay freeze are among many who have made sacrifices to hold their jobs. Manufacturing workers have won pay rises well below average since the GFC, and even earlier. A decade ago, the average manufacturing wage matched the average national wage. Now it is 9 per cent below.

The pay gender gap is growing again. The average male wage rose 56 per cent, while for women it rose 53 per cent. But that was largely because of fast wage growth in male-dominated industries - mining, construction, transport and the utilities - compared with below-average growth in the female-dominated industries of education, health and welfare.

Nationally, men on average now get paid 26 per cent more than women, up from 24 per cent a decade ago. But in fact the gap shrank everywhere in the south-east - only to be outweighed by the big rises in Queensland, WA and the Northern Territory.

In May, the gap ranged from 43 per cent in WA to 13 per cent in Tasmania. Over the decade, it shrank from 25 to 21 per cent in NSW and from 22 to 21 per cent in Victoria.

Of the 18 industry sectors, women won higher pay rises in 12 and men in just six. Oddly, male pay rises outpaced those of women in education, health and welfare. In every sector, men earn more than women, the gap ranging from 51 per cent in health and welfare to 9 per cent in restaurants and hotels.

In part, that is because men work longer hours, more men are in management, men and women have different roles (most medical specialists are men, but most GPs, nurses and welfare workers are women) and men have more experience and seniority. But part of it defies economic explanation.

16th August 2013