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Labouring Jobs in Australia

A labour worker and Australia flag on the back with the text Labour Jobs in Australia Complete guide

Unskilled labouring jobs are among the most popular work opportunities for backpackers and new arrivals in Australia. Labourers are in high demand and for an unskilled job you don’t need specific training or experience. But what is it really like to work as an unskilled labourer in Australia?

In this article, I’m going to talk about what it is like to work as an unskilled labourer here in Australia, especially in construction. I’ll talk about how much you are likely to get paid, what kind of hours you will be expected to work, and the kind of tasks you’ll be asked to do. I’ll also talk about the things you need to do to qualify to work on a construction site, and where to find temporary labourer opportunities.

Labouring jobs are great if you enjoy being physically active and working as part of a team. If you are a backpacker, a labouring job can help you qualify for a second working holiday visa. For new arrivals, you can acquire specialist skills on the job through apprenticeships and vocational training that can lead to highly paid skilled labouring jobs.

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Most Common Labour Jobs in Australia

Before we proceed, I believe it’s important to make a clear distinction first between skilled and unskilled labourers.

Skilled Labourers

Skilled labourers, often called tradesmen or tradies here in Australia, have specialist labouring skills, usually acquired through vocational training and apprenticeships that take a minimum of four years to complete. These include electricians, carpenters, construction managers, plumbers, and so on. Skilled labourers will normally require a state license to authorize them to practice their trade.

Many skilled trade occupations, especially in relation to construction, are in high demand in Australia and are listed on the government’s Skilled Occupation List. Therefore, if you have one of these skills, it may be easier for you to immigrate to Australia as more visa options are open to you. Training in Australia can unlock a wide range of job opportunities.

Skilled traders working full-time in Australia can expect to earn between AUD $75,000-95,000 per year, with the most skilled and experienced earning as much as AUD $115,000.

Unskilled Labourers

construction worker measuring level of the bricks

But when it comes to labouring jobs for backpackers and new arrivals, we are mostly talking about unskilled labouring roles. These are the roles that require physical labour but no specialist training. The requirements for the job are generally physical strength, endurance, and a good work ethic. Due to a general shortage of unskilled labourers, there are many open vacancies at any given time, including short-term vacancies for backpackers and temporary workers.

What you can expect to do on the job depends on the type of site you are working on. Construction is estimated to make up more than 80% of the labour job market in Australia. If you are working on a construction site you can expect to be moving heavy materials, digging ditches, transporting tools to skilled labourers, cleaning up site materials, and so on.

But unskilled labourers don’t just work on construction sites. You will also see unskilled labourers stocking retail shelves, assisting with gardening and landscaping, and working on manufacturing, agricultural, or mining sites. These will all come with different tasks, but all involve unskilled physical labour.

Training and Experience Needed

While employers always value experience, there is generally no specific training or experience needed to qualify for an unskilled labouring job. Ideally you should show employers that you have the physical fitness to do the work, that you are good at following instructions, that you work well as part of a team, and above all that you know how to prioritize safety.

However, if you plan to work on a construction site, you will need to acquire a White Card, which verifies that you have undergone general construction induction training and that you understand how to work on a construction site. If you do not have one, your employer will probably be able to help acquire a White Card. I have written an article on how to obtain a White Card, including tips for passing the exam.

Rules vary from state to state, but you will undergo the training with an independent registered training organisation (RTO). They can provide you with a letter authorizing you to work on a construction site as soon as the training is completed, and you should receive your official card within 30-60 days while some providers can make it as early as two weeks.

You will also be required to wear personal protection equipment (PPE) while working. At a minimum this usually includes a hard hat, high visibility top, and steel-toe cap boots. Some of these items may be provided by your employer while others you may need to supply for yourself. Anything that you are forced to purchase should be tax deductible.

Hours and Average Pay

According to recent statistics, 76% of labourers in Australia work full-time, which is 42-44 hours a week. Construction labourers tend to start and finish work earlier, with sites typically running from 7am to 3:30pm, Monday to Friday. But normal working hours depend a lot on the specific industry. For example, shelf stockers often work at night when stores are closed.

Labourers 21 years and older working full-time must be paid a minimum wage of at least AUD 23.23 per hour. Younger workers, trainees, and apprentices can receive less. If you are working on a casual contract, rather than a full-time or part-time contract, you should be receiving 25% more since you will not be receiving sick pay or annual leave.

Unskilled labouring jobs start at around the minimum wage but can earn as much as AUD 50 per hour. You can expect to earn more if you have a lot of experience if you will be expected to manage other labourers, if the work will be particularly physical, or if it is “unsociable” in some way. For example, rural labouring jobs tend to pay more, as do jobs when you work unusual hours, for example, road repairs and maintenance often happen at night in Australia.

Below I list some of the common labouring jobs available here in Australia, both skilled and unskilled, the average pay, and the training required for the job.

Occupation Average Pay Training Required
Commercial Cleaners AUD 23-35 per hour Unskilled
Kitchen Hands AUD 25-30 per hour Unskilled
Shelf Fillers AUD 18-27 per hour Unskilled
Building Labourers AUD 25-50 per hour Unskilled but White Card required
Plumbing Labourer AUD 15-38 per hour Unskilled
Welders AUD 22-38 per hour Vocational Certificate + Apprenticeship
Electricians AUD 24-47 per hour 4 Year Apprenticeship + License
Carpenters AUD 22-49 per hour Vocational Certificate + Apprenticeship
Plumbers AUD 21-46 per hour Vocational Certificate + 4 Year Apprenticeship

Where to Find Labouring Jobs in Australia

If you are looking for labouring jobs in Australia, you will find them on all the major job listing websites. In Australia, the biggest are SEEK and Indeed. You will find that most labour jobs are available in New South Wales (35%), Victoria (23.7%), and Queensland (21.6%). Around 40% of jobs are in rural areas outside the state capitals.

There are also several temping agencies in Australia that specialize in “blue collar” or labouring jobs in Australia. Among the biggest are Drake International, Labourforce Australia, and the Australian Staffing Agency.

If you are on a working holiday visa and you are spending time in accommodation with other backpackers doing temporary jobs, word of mouth is often the best way to find employers that are currently hiring temporary labour.

Do you want to get hired easily? Download our FREE Guide where we featured 16 tried and tested ways to find work in Australia.

Backpacker Survival Guide to Job Hunting in Australia Ebook preview


Unskilled labour jobs are open to women, and you will encounter other female labourers. However, when it comes to labour on construction sites and in areas such as mining and agriculture, it is estimated that women make up only about 3% of the workforce. It is a male dominated industry.

Traditionally, labourers paid on an hourly basis are paid weekly, while salaried employees are paid monthly. Fortnightly payments are also relatively common in Australia. If you have a temporary contract you can probably expect to be paid weekly, but this is something to clarify with your employer before you start working.

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