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July 8, 2011

As I was trudging to work this frosty morning, I walked past an electronic sign advertising “EARLY BIRD SPEACIAL: PARKING ONLY $32”. I was frightened to imagine what their normal rate was. Having lived in Sydney all my teen & adult life I haven’t been able to properly compare the cost of living of Sydney/Australia to other places. Only recently after getting married and living out of home, have I been forced to make more conscience observations on how much everything costs and how big the hole will be in my wallet.

It turns out cost of living is high. Only last year a trip to the US provided a point of comparison. It may have been the rather high dollar at the time, but you get a general feeling that eating and entertainment is definitely more affordable. We ordered from an Asian takeaway store including delivery for three people and threw in a tip.We paid the delivery man $15. On top of that the portions were large enough that I kept some for the next meal.


The distinction of the two countries can however also be seen in the minimal wages. At just over $7 for a US worker and nearly $16 for an Australian, it is clear that the safety net of the minimal wage in Australia is hoisted higher.

The $32 parking that I began my post with, still seems ridiculous to someone like me who earns a medium salary let alone anyone earning minimum. At the current conversion rate a US man would have to work 4.5 hours to just drive through the boon gates, without mentioning the petrol costs. Two hours for a local, would also appear excessive. Obviously a parking spot is not a necessity and one can live without having access to it. I guess my point is that the high cost of living in Australia is coupled with a higher minimal wage that prevents the wider income disparity seen in the US.

Overall the generalization is that lower quartile wages in Australia provide a more comfortable standard of living compared to the lower quartile wages in the US. However if you are fortunate enough to be in a senior position on the US shores than you are much more likely to be getting a lot more pay than in Australia. There are many factors that cause the differences between the two countries. Strength of Australian unions, the more conservative politicians in the US, who advocate for free-markets, are just a couple of observations.

Personally after my short experience in the US, I would prefer to be living in Australia that in my view keeps a better balance of income equality, even if it means less people can shell-out the $32 without blinking.

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 9, 2011 9:25 am

    I agree, I think the cost of living is far cheaper here in Australia when you consider the minimum wage comparisons. A person working a 40hrs week on minimum wage in the US gets less than $300 a week. When you consider things like rent, health insurance, weekly expenses and the like, that person has very little in their pocket.

    An acquaintance of mine currently has to himself $10-20 a week after the most barest of expenses, and that’s eating Ramen noodles most nights. Also, that’s with him living in a place where he shares the rent; it’d be impossible to live alone.

    The story here is much different, assuming a minimum wage, I could live alone, pay my weekly expenses and still have $50-$100 a week to myself. If I lived with friends or family, the amount I pocket would substantially increase. At one point a while back I was pocketing nearly $500 a week after expenses, and I didn’t/don’t even earn that much.

    Even when comparing the average wage, Australia comes out on top with the average Australian earning more than $20k extra than the average American. Even taking into account the differences in cost of living, Australians are better off than Americans.

    There’s other factors as well like the healthcare system, overall I think Australia is a pretty awesome place to live in no matter your wage bracket 🙂

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