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What is the cost of living in Australia?

The cost of living has soared in most western countries as high inflation rates and rising interest rates bite hard into wages.

After 12 interest rate rises, Australia’s inflation rate finally began to slow in 2023.

It fell to 6% in the second quarter after reaching a peak of 7.8% in the final quarter of 2022.

It mirrored the pattern seen in the United Kingdom but not before they reached a peak of 11.1% in October 2022.

It’s important to understand the cost of living to assess the real buying power of your wages.

The first thing to appreciate about Australia is that the cost of living varies dramatically depending on exactly where you are working.

Sydney is by far and away the most expensive capital city – Adelaide, Hobart and Darwin are the cheapest.

If you work in rural areas, that cost may drop even further depending on the location.

Where to live and work in Australia

Your biggest single expense will be accommodation.

Whether you buy or rent, you’ll need deep pockets to live in Sydney where the median house price is $1.46m.

That will buy you a two-bedroom terrace house around 5km from the city.

Or if you are renting in Sydney, you’ll need around $875/week for an 85m² furnished apartment in a plush area.

That rent falls to around $625/week in an average suburb.

In Adelaide, the median house price is just $882,500 and comparative rentals only $530 and $400.

All of Australia’s capitals except Canberra are oceanside.

Brisbane experiences a tropical climate, Sydney tends to be more humid.

While Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth all enjoy hot summers and mild winters.

It just depends on what you are looking for.

The size of Australian properties can vary greatly with land playing a big factor in price.

In addition, the closer you are to any CBD, the more you will pay.

But you’ll find housing in regional areas much cheaper again.

The median price in Mt Gambier, on the coast between Adelaide and Melbourne, is just $382,000.

Additional housing expenses

Whether you choose to buy or rent, housing expenses in Australia don’t end there.

If you are a home owner, you’ll need to pay council rates and they vary not just from city to city but council to council.

Annual bills of more than $2000 are not uncommon.

You’ll also need to factor in rising utility bills with the cost of electricity, gas and water each potentially reaching similar levels to the council rates.

Monitoring usage can help reduce the cost of power bills, along with energy efficient white goods and globes, solar panels and hot water systems. 

It’s also important to shop around when selecting energy retailers who rarely reward customers for their loyalty.

Internet, phone and pay-TV subscription services add to housing expenses and should not be forgotten when drawing up monthly budgets.

Tax and social security

Australians are taxed on a sliding scale depending on what they earn beyond the tax-free threshold of $18,200.

But that threshold only applies to Australian residents. Non-residents pay tax on every dollar earned.

If a GP who is a foreign resident earns an average wage of $270,000, they would pay $101,700 in tax.

GPs employed by a hospital may receive 11% of their salary paid into their nominated superannuation fund.

It is essentially a pension account you may not access until aged 60.

GPs employed by a clinic are treated as self-employed and would need to make their own separate contribution.

A Medicare levy of 2% is applied to your tax return which pays for Australia’s public healthcare system.

In addition, a Goods and Services Tax (GST) of 10% is also added to everything bought or consumed in Australia at point of sale.

Healthcare costs and insurance

Medicare pays for the treatment of all Australians in public hospitals as well as subsidising a range of healthcare services and medications.

Australian citizens, permanent residents, eligible temporary residents and some on specific regional work visas may access public healthcare.

Private health insurance relieves the burden on the public system and allows subscribers to be treated in a private hospital by the doctor of their choice.

There are many private healthcare funds including Doctors Health Fund which was created by the Australian Medical Association in 1977 exclusively to serve medical professionals and their families. 

Health insurance costs include hospital cover and extras cover, normally at three varying levels, as well as ambulance cover.

The average cost of private health insurance in Australia differs across the states but is around $160/month for singles and $320/month for families.

Transportation expenses

Depending on the city, it’s difficult to get by in Australia without a car.

That’s despite the fact that the bigger cities like Sydney and Melbourne have extensive rail and light rail systems to complement bus networks.

The sheer size of Australian cities, as well as the nature of their jobs, makes cars a necessity for most professionals, such as doctors.

So you’ll need to include the cost of a car, registration, insurance, maintenance and rising petrol prices into your budget. Running costs alone may reach $15,000/year.

Public transport fares vary between $4-12 based on the length of the journey with monthly passes anywhere between $100-$200 depending on the city.

Education expenses

Australian public schools are largely free to attend although nominal fees as well as the cost of books can reach $1000 per year.

Rules for families on temporary visas vary from state to state but they may need to pay for their children to attend a public school.

There are also a number of independent or private schools with the most expensive costing up to  $45,000 per year in Sydney and around $30,000 in smaller cities.

Some schools of Catholic denomination may be significantly less than that.

Private schools do offer full and part scholarships to gifted students for their academic or musical talents or their sporting prowess.

There are also various federal and state subsidies available to offset the cost of schooling to some groups although they are largely aimed at disadvantaged families and those living in remote areas.

Food and dining out

The cost of dining out in Australia has soared with inflation, lifting the price of many main courses in restaurants well beyond the $40 mark.

It has taken average restaurant bills to around $100/head.

Pub meals tend to be slightly cheaper but the frugal minded will want to spend most of their time eating in.

The arrival of ALDI has introduced more competition for the supermarket dollar as Coles, Woolworths and local independents like Drakes and IGA battle to attract the average family’s $250 weekly grocery spend.

Entertainment and leisure

Like restaurants, the cost of entertainment and leisure has also risen steeply.

It’s not unusual to pay $12 for a pint of standard beer at a pub although there are still plenty of happy hours, selling the same for about half that.

Entrance to AFL matches in 2023 was frozen at $27 for adults.

General admission to other sports is similar but significant savings can be made by purchasing memberships or multi-game passes.

Beaches, parks and gardens are free although nearby parking may come with a cost.

Contact Health Recruitment Australia today

It’s vitally important to have your eyes wide open whenever considering such a monumental decision as moving overseas for work.

The cost of living in Australia has risen, but the reality however is that doctors in Australia earn wages well above the average worker.

Therefore, as long as you plan and budget well and live within your means, most doctors should be able to enjoy very comfortably lives in Australia.

Australia is attractive to so many people for different reasons.

Its bustling cities offer a never-ending raft of possibilities whether you love sport, the arts or nightlife.

If it’s solitude you seek, Australia’s vast coastlines and sparse interiors are there to enjoy. 

Remember, Sydney is Australia’s most expensive city with a cost of living nearly 50% higher than Adelaide.

For more information about working down under, talk to Health Recruitment Australia.

HRA is a recruitment agency focussed specifically on matching overseas doctors of all ages with the right clinics in Australia. We’ll find the right opportunity for you, based on the lifestyle and career you want to build.

There is currently a significant shortage of GPs in Australia, with multiple opportunities for doctors keen to make the move.

The financial rewards and quality of life are what draws so many overseas healthcare professionals to Australian shores with conditions far superior to what they are used to in the UK, Ireland and throughout Asia.

Why not start with an informal, no-obligation discussion with the experienced team at Health Recruitment Australia? Contact us.

Enquire now, and we’ll be
in touch shortly!


Enquire now, and we’ll be
in touch shortly!