The Earnings of Tradespersons over the Business Cycle


Michael Craig Corliss, Centre for Labour Market Research, University of Canberra, ACT 2601, Australia. Email:


The article examines the changes in earnings and earnings dispersion of tradespersons over the business cycle since 1991 and the returns to investment into apprenticeship training. The main findings are that some tradespersons earn significantly more than the median earnings, but many do not, in particular food and agricultural tradespersons. For most trades the net present value suggests investment in apprenticeship training is worthwhile. However, this is not the case for all the trades, namely automotive, food and agricultural trades. Among tradespersons there is a very high degree of dispersion in earnings and this has increased over time. Further, there is evidence of significant gender difference in earnings. Finally, while the premium paid to qualified tradespersons relative to unqualified tradespersons has increased markedly over time, for older qualified tradespersons, younger tradespersons the premium paid to qualified tradespersons compared with unqualified tradespersons has declined considerably.