Australians prioritising non-salary benefits to offset cost of living and slow wage growth 

A new report from the Australian Bureau of Statistics Consumer Price Index indicates that the cost of goods and services have increased 1.6 per cent over the past year. As employees are faced with the rising cost of living coupled with slow wage growth, they are looking to increase their total remuneration and offset living expenses through additional non-financial benefits.

  • 62% of Australians say non-salary benefits have become more important to them than base salary when considering a job offer, compared to five years ago.
  • 80% say they would consider additional non-financial benefits if a potential employer was unable to meet their salary expectations.
  • 79% of Australian employees would be motivated to stay with an employer if they offered flexible/remote working options, followed by bonus (62%) and training and development (39%).

New independent research commissioned by specialised recruiter Robert Half and published in the 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide reveals changing employee attitudes towards salary and benefits. While salary negotiation is a standard part of starting a new job, almost two-thirds (62%) of Australian employees say non-salary benefits have become more important to them than base salary when considering a job offer, further highlighting the need for employers to look beyond salary when tailoring remuneration packages. Yet 31% of Australian companies do not offer non-salary benefits. 

Non salary benefits offered to Australian employees

Andrew Morris, Director of Robert Half Australia said: “As the Consumer Price Index shows, everyday essentials have undergone the greatest price increase of all consumer costs. Coupled with slow wage growth, this is creating upward pressure on the cost of living and increased employee concern about their remuneration. Particularly in a market characterised by low unemployment and skills shortages in many industries, this can mean that professionals are particularly open to changing employer in order to secure a more competitive remuneration package.

“Employers stand to benefit as they are in a prime position to win the war for talent by offering above-average packages as a key incentive to attract and secure the best talent. While salary remains a key component of a remuneration package, in a period of slow wage growth, companies may be unable or unwilling to meet requests for significant salary increases. Other financial benefits have become increasingly popular amongst employees and companies are leveraging these cost-efficient opportunities to offset increased salary requests by offering perks, such as company-wide discounts on fitness memberships, salary packaging healthcare or even offering novated car leases which may reduce income tax and cost of living expenses for the employee.”


Millennial employees top the list with 67% saying benefits have become more important than their salary, compared to five years ago, followed by Generation X professionals (59%) and Baby Boomers (54%).

Additionally, 80% say they would consider additional non-financial benefits if a potential employer was unable to meet their salary expectations.

Aside from attracting talent by offering non-financial incentives, such benefits also prove their worth in the context of staff retention. Almost eight in 10 (79%) Australians say they would be motivated to stay with an employer if they offer flexible/remote working options, followed by bonus (62%) and training and development (39%), which in turn highlights that employees would consider moving roles if certain benefits would not be on offer.

Indeed, Australian employers acknowledge that the desire for more benefits is on the rise with 37% of them saying that candidates ask for more benefits in their total remuneration package compared to two years ago. Yet almost a third (31%) of Australian hiring managers do not offer non-salary related benefits to their employees.

Flexibility tops the ranks

The vast majority (85%) of employers surveyed confirmed flexible working hours and the option to work from home are the top non-salary benefits most requested by jobseekers, followed by bonuses (40%) and company-paid mobile phones (26%). Businesses are hearing this loud and clear with 84% of employers saying they currently offer flexible working options to their staff.

“The days when companies solely focused on salary to attract top talent are well and truly over. Employers are finding jobseekers want a more holistic approach to working, with a remuneration package that not only includes a competitive salary, but also non-financial benefits that suit the individual jobseeker’s lifestyle needs,” Andrew Morris said.

“Flexible working hours, the option to work from home and remote working are gaining in popularity as jobseekers not only request these additional perks more often, but they’re expected to be included in a total remuneration package for many roles – particularly when Australia’s slow wage growth is pushing many professionals to consider perks other than a pay rise.

“Employers hoping to win the war for talent, and those that may not be in a position to award pay rises, are increasingly diversifying their incentives offering in order to attract and retain skilled professionals and tailoring each benefits package to the individual employee’s wishes – where possible. This strategy can be a cost-effective measure in both attracting and retaining high-performing staff as it gives companies a competitive edge in a skills-short market where businesses are vying for top talent.”

To find out up-to-date salaries, you can download the full 2019 Robert Half Salary Guide. The salaries listed are based on actual placements made by our offices in Australia and New Zealand, as well as an analysis of the demand for the role, the supply of talent and other market conditions. The industries covered are Finance & Accounting, Financial Services, IT & Technology and Admin and Office Support.

Andrew Morris joined Robert Half in 2002 and has held numerous senior positions during his tenure with the company. Over the last 17 years he has run business operations for Robert Half in Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth, Hong Kong and Sydney. Andrew holds a degree in Business, Economics and Marketing from La Trobe University, and currently oversees a team of 100 that specialise in placing permanent and temporary staff in the Finance, Accounting, Technology and Administration sectors.

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