An examination of award wages among Australian apprentices and trainees
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Low rates of award pay for apprentices have been seen as discouraging young people from starting an apprenticeship as well as contributing to low completion rates. This criticism, however, assumes that few apprentices receive above-award payments. Analysis of data from the 2009 Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) Survey of Education and Training finds that over-award payments for apprentices are common, especially in the electrotechnology, automotive, and engineering trades. Most trainees also receive over-award payments, particularly existing workers, older trainees, and male trainees. In most cases, the relevant award wage for apprentices and trainees is below the national minimum wage. More importantly, the method for determining the apprentice award wage in most cases does not take into account age or level of schooling, even though apprentices are increasingly older and are more likely to have completed Year 12. This has led to a decline in the apprentice award wage, relative to the applicable award wage in alternative employment.