October 25, 2013
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When Americans think of Australia they generally imagine a vast and arid desert, inhabited by killer wildlife and famous for Crocodile Hunter, Sydney Opera House and glorious beaches. However, the land Down Under is far more progressive than many countries care to understand and in fact could actually teach the United States a thing or two about how to look after its own population. Here are some interesting facts and policies found in Australia that you probably haven’t head about.
1. Minimum full-time wage is almost $17 per hour.
For those seeking a good excuse to move to Australia, look no further. Australia’s minimum wage is $16.38 an hour ($15.77 USD), demonstrating that high wages do not necessarily hamper a country’s economic growth. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, in May 2013 the average full-time adult weekly earnings were $1,105.20.
While the minimum wage for youth is still on the lower side, the hourly rate actually increases by $2 every two years between the ages of 15 and 21. Casual workers are covered by a national minimum wage and paid an extra 24 percent, which equates to up to $20.30 an hour. In the state of New South Wales, the average hourly rate for a 21-year-old is $18.30 an hour, with casual employees paid an extra $4 an hour: $22.33 per hour.
Despite the fact that Australia is comparatively more expensive to live in than the United States ( a Big Mac costs approximately 53 cents more), the system is working to Australia’s advantage with unemployment in the country sitting at only 5.6 percent.
2. Youth are paid to study and look for jobs.
For Australian youth aged between 16 and 24 years currently studying, undertaking an apprenticeship or looking for work, the Australian government rewards them by providing a generous monetary allowance, which is income-tested. A person under 18 years of age and living at home with her parents can earn up to $223 biweekly, which increases to $268.20 ($258.30 USD) once she reaches 18 years of age.
Yet, the benefits do not end there. If or when a youth decides to leaves the parental home for study reasons or to look for work, her youth allowance can be increased to $407.50 biweekly. Alternatively, if a youth is single, lives away from the family home and has a child, the government will pay her up to $533.80 ($514.10USD) biweekly.
3. Healthcare is a universal right.
Australia’s public health system, called Medicare, is one of the best in the world providing universal basic coverage to all citizens and free treatment at public hospitals. The Department of Human Services branch of the federal government pays for Medicare benefits and includes coverage for dental, optho, and mental health as well as services for the elderly and disabled.
There is some cost-sharing at private hospitals and for certain doctors but even then the government foots the majority of the bill (up to 75%). Medicare is funded partly by a 1.5% income tax Medicare levy. An additional levy of 1% is imposed on high-income earners without private health insurance. In addition to Medicare, there is a separate Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme that considerably subsidizes a range of prescription medications.
4. Aussies receive up to 30 paid days of vacation per year.
Unlike the United States, where mandatory paid holidays for employees simply do not exist, Australia is the vacation nation capital. At the minimum, each Australian is legally entitled to 20 days (4 weeks) of vacation per year, plus 10 paid annual public holidays, with public servants receiving even more generous vacation benefits.