Viral video reveals huge pay packets of Aussie tradies – but there’s a catch

A video of several Queensland tradies openly revealing their enormous pay packets has gone viral across social media, earning the envy of plenty of Aussies.

The clip features various roles, from a plumber to a carpenter and a diesel fitter, opening up about their six-figure salaries, like a coal miner bagging $160,000 a year.

“I think I’m in the wrong career,” the poster who shared it on Reddit wrote, with plenty in agreement that the big bucks being earned were pretty enticing.

Among the top earners in the video were another diesel fitter specialising in heavy earth-moving equipment on $130 per hour – the equivalent of at least $250,000 annually based on a 38-hour week – and an auto electrician on $120,000 per year.

Truth about tradie pays

One of the examples that really stood out was a scaffolder who revealed he makes $3000 per week – and that’s after tax, equating to $156,000 free and clear each year.

“200k is the new 100k,” wrote one, pointing to a growing belief that a yearly salary of $100,000 is no longer considered a good salary due to the housing crisis and cost of living pressure.

“Why does putting up some metal framing around a building pay so much?” one asked.

Another replied: “Because it’s a horrible job that destroys your body.”

For most trades, one commenter pointed out the hard physical toll demanded, writing of a friend: “He’s in his late fifties and his body is trashed. New knees, new shoulder … he physically can’t do it anymore. Trades are for the young.”

Another commenter, who said he’s a 29-year-old tradie earning $200,000 per year, has “already had two spinal surgeries”, adding that “it’s not a glamorous life”.

Others offered additional context – some work is seasonal, markets can go up and down, and that long travel is sometimes involved – that reduced the allure.

The video was created by getahead – a Brisbane-based tech start-up that bills itself as “like Tinder, but for jobs” where jobseekers create a profile and swipe right on roles they’re attracted to.

“One of the things that’s compulsory on our app is salary transparency, so companies must put at least a range on every job so that it’s clear to jobseekers what they’re applying for,” founder Sam McNamara explained.

“With that in mind, we thought it would be a good idea to going out and interview people, asking them what they do for a living, what sort of money they make, the perks of their job and everything in between.”

While giving a tantalising insight into people’s usually private affairs, Mr McNamara said the intention was more about “inspiring people to pick a career that helps them get ahead in life”.

A lucrative career

Analysis conducted by insurance brokerage TradeRisk found the average gross salary for a tradie last year was $90,940 – a 11 per cent increase in 2019 figures.

That’s the average taxable income reported in 2023 – roughly on par with data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

“We believe it is the best representation of how much Aussie tradies are really earning, as it utilises the taxable incomes provided to us by thousands of self-employed tradies from around Australia,” TradeRisk said in its report.

Coming in at top spot were boilermakers, with an average income of $112,535, followed by electricians on $96,338 and plumbers on $95,507.

The report’s author anticipated pushback, explaining: “Before you say, “I know plenty of electricians and plumbers who earn more than $100k”, yes, we know they do, and plenty in our data did too, but these are average figures.”

Carpenters ranked fourth on the list with a $88,979 salary, followed by plasterers in fifth on $83,327.

The potential pay on offer can also depend on where you live, with SEEK data showing tradies in Canberra have the highest average annual salary at $89,999.

The nation’s capital is followed by Sydney with an average yearly pay of $80,450 and the Newcastle-Maitland-Hunter Region on a neat $80,000.

Meanwhile, tradies who work in mining can make some serious coin, with Talent.com reporting an average salary of $124,000 per year.

Entry-level positions start at $101,000 while the most experienced workers can bank $180,000 per year.

A big driver of the high salaries across all trades is how in demand skills tradies are.

According to Jobs and Skills Australia, the most common worker shortages across all occupations are in the Trades Workers and Technicians category.

Half of all occupations in that bucket – like construction labourers – are deemed to be in the midst of a worker shortage.

A labour shortage in the home-building sector is particularly acute, with the Housing Industry Association warning it could derail the Federal Government’s plans to build 1.2 million new homes over the coming five years.

“More effort is needed to increase the capacity of the industry,” HIA senior economist Tom Devitt said.

“Access to skilled labour from overseas will remain crucial, as will the need to train and upskill our existing workforce. More support for apprenticeships, including maintaining current apprenticeship subsidies, will go a long way in this direction.”

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