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Almost half of Australian employees will ask for a pay rise this year – and they're unlikely to get one

Jack Derwin

You always want what you can't have.

With the average employee denied a substantial raise for years, it explains why in part the reason an increasing number of Australian workers are vying for a one in 2020, according to exclusive research produced by research house Robert Half.

For 45% of Australians, getting one is their number one career goal this year, with more than half of those 34 years and under keen to beef up their paycheck, according to the data provided exclusively to Business Insider Australia.

"Remuneration remains a primary concern for employees, particularly as households face rising financial pressures, so recognising their value through a generous remuneration scheme can contribute significantly to their engagement and workplace happiness," managing director Nicole Gorton said.

In lieu of being able to offer it, good businesses should be able to offer "professional development, upskilling opportunities, and workplace wellbeing", Gorton said.

But it makes sense that as the cost of living outstrips real wage growth, Australians would be increasingly hungry for a raise. Considering the pay gap in Australia, it's understandable why women are more likely to ask for one this year.

Separate research from global HR company Adecco breaks down exactly who these workers.

The IT, manufacturing, real estate and the resource sectors are home to the highest number of seekers with more than seven in ten expected to put their hand out this year. Interestingly, those in healthcare are amongst the least likely to ask, perhaps relived to be already amongst those already receiving above-average wage increases.

Of what they hope to receive, construction workers are the most expecting, with around 15% of workers looking for a raise of 10% or higher. Contrast that with the not-for-profit, education, retailer, hospitality, and defence force sectors – around 40% of their workforces expecting little more than a pat on the back from their employers this year.

With wage growth averaging at 2.3% across most Australian industries, there's plenty of workers who will finish the year disappointed. Around 50% of employees were expecting raises above 3% – a ballpark that, unless you're a healthcare worker, looks a long way away.

In fact, it's only in ecommerce where more than half of Australians report being content with their current salaries, with six in ten happy with their paycheck. Compare that to less than half that for teachers, bartenders, waiters, and business servicepeople.

The data demonstrates the clear tension that exists currently in the Australian labour market, as three interest rate cuts last year appear to have only arrested the rising unemployment rate, rather than reduce it. The Reserve Bank of Australia (RBA) has made it clear without getting it to 4.5% or below, sustained wage growth remains but a pipedream.

So while workers may well be within their rights to put their hand out, many may be disappointed with what they come up with.