A cut-price supermarket chain in Australia offering a $108,000 starting salary to university graduates has prompted further concern over the increasing wage gap between New Zealand and its neighbouring economic powerhouse.
Along with the attractive salary, the German-owned Aldi supermarket chain would provide 200 Aussie graduates with a company car and five weeks of annual leave.
The salary being offered by Aldi is well above the Australian average of $60,509 a year for all employees, based on Australian Bureau of Statistics figures.
According to Statistics New Zealand the 2009 average income for all Kiwi employees was $35,360.
According to the Government's careers website, graduate solicitors in New Zealand earned between $32,000 and $45,000 a year, and qualified surgeons working for a District Health Board earned between $128,595 and $195,441 annually.
Both Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises, which together operate all the major supermarket brands in New Zealand, would not reveal the salaries they paid to university graduates.
"Foodstuffs offers salaries that are in line with New Zealand pay rates as well as numerous associated training and development programmes," said Murray Jordan, managing director designate for Foodstuffs.
A spokesman for Progressive Enterprises said the company would not comment on the graduate package being offered by Aldi as it "was not relevant" to New Zealand.
Don Brash, chairman of the 2025 Taskforce, the Government-appointed group charged with closing the wage gap between Australia and New Zealand over the next 15 years, said the salary offered by Aldi was "an enormous figure".
"All these stories point to the fact that there is now a very large gap between incomes in Australia and incomes in New Zealand for doing similar jobs, and that gap is sucking New Zealanders across the Tasman.
"We can't afford to let that gap keep growing, in fact, we can't afford to let it get as big as it is now because it will ultimately destroy New Zealand society," he said.
Brash said the only way to close the wage gap was to increase productivity and growth in New Zealand.
Aldi's managing director of the Prestons region, David Zalunardo, said the supermarket chain was looking for educated and enthusiastic staff, who would be rewarded for their hard work and initiative.
"Members of Aldi's graduate programme are assigned mentors who guide them through all responsibilities, including recruitment, planning and origination for a group of Aldi stores," he said.
In 2005 it was expected that Aldi supermarket's would to soon enter the New Zealand market when the company filed more than 100 applications to trademark its brands in New Zealand, but it never arrived.
It was hoped Aldi's arrival would break the so-called "duopoly" Foodstuffs and Progressive Enterprises hold over the New Zealand supermarket trade.By Christopher Adams