‘Worrying trends continue’ in 2017 architect salary survey

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The Association of Consulting Architects 2017 salary survey found 17 percent of firms are underpaying their staff.

The Association of Consulting Architects 2017 salary survey found 17 percent of firms are underpaying their staff. Image: CC0 Public Domain

The Association of Consulting Architects Australia’s (ACA) 2017 salary survey, which looks at the pay rates of architects across Australia, has found that “worrying trends continue” in the under-payment of staff and in the persistent wage gap between men and women.

While salaries have increased “very slightly” in the last year, the findings of the report, prepared by Dr Gillian Matthewson of Monash University’s XYX Research Lab, echo those found in the 2016 survey, which identified that a significant number of practices were paying below-award salaries and the continued presence of a sizeable wage gap between men and women. 

This year, 17 percent of surveyed firms reported salaries below the Fair Work Commission’s Federal Industrial Awards, a 4 percent increase from 2016 when 13 percent of surveyed firms reported below-award wages. Wage increases were relatively flat, with 23 percent of firms reporting salary increases equal to increases in the Consumer Price Index and 33 percent of firm reporting increases of less than three percent. Wage growth in the broader Australian economy is at a “record low,” according to the most recent report released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which found that the Wage Price Index rose 1.9 percent in the year to the end of December 2016.

The updated architects award, which will come into force on 1 July, sets the annual rate for a full-time, entry-level graduate at $49,296. The award rate at the time the salary was conducted was $47,721. The lowest salary reported for a graduate in this year’s survey was $30,000.

Industrial awards represent minimum pay rates. Under federal law, failing to meet these minimum rates is illegal. 

The report also expresses concern that, because the architects award does not include superannuation, while the survey does, “it is probable that even more of the firms who responded to the survey are paying below the award.”

The gap between the salaries of men and women also persists. The report also observed that the distribution of female architects is concentrated at graduate, entry and associate levels. A passage in the report reads, “from ‘graduates’ to ‘registered up to six years,’ women were at levels matching or even exceeding their graduating proportions (which has been around 44 percent since the turn of the century). Women were also nearly half the ‘new associates,’ something that ties with other research that indicates that women do not have trouble attaining this level.”

“However, at the senior levels (as determined by years of experience or by ownership), the picture is different. Women were just 11 percent of the ‘experienced director/principals’ – a level that is below even their proportion in the 2011 Census.” 

Table demonstrating the gap in salaries between men and women from the  Image:  Association of Consulting Architects Australia (ACA)

In terms of pay rates across states, architects in Western Australia were found to have usurped architects in New South Wales as the most well-paid, on average, in most categories. The report notes, however, that the survey data returned from WA was mostly from large firms, where salaries are generally higher. Their counterparts in South Australia, on average, received the lowest salaries across the majority of categories. Victorian architects were identified as earning salaries on the lower end of the scale, as was the case in the 2016 survey, the report noted.

The survey found that there is generally a strong correlation between registration and a higher salary. One exception, however, was found in the results from the “experienced, non-registered” category, where there is a wide range between the average of the lowest and the average of the highest salaries. “Some of those in this role category become highly specialized and valued for that, but such specialization means they do not necessarily need to be registered,” the report said.

The survey recorded responses from 115 firms and 2,771 individuals. 

  Average of average, 2017 Average of lowest, 2017 Average of highest, 2017 Average of average, 2016 Range, low-high

Graduate (up to two years)

$55,996 $54,242 $58,364 $55,390 8%

Non-registered, experienced

$74,691 $69,393 $82,613 $72,412 19%

Registered, up to three years experience

$75,565 $73,691 $78,121 $74,608 6%

Registered, up to six years experience

$81,922 $80,318 $83,661 $80,230 4%

Registered, more than six years experience

$97,960 $91,133 $107,638 $95,525 18%

Associate

$101,793 $96,575 $108,024 $102,087 12%

Experienced associate

$115,964 $112,238 $122,395 $112,697 9%

Principal / director

$123,781 $120,319  $126,468  $138,946 5% 

New principal / director

 $143,716 $139,403  $146,941  $134,450 5% 

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