CANBERRA, AAP – Low unemployment, high vacancy rates and growing cost of living pressures have put workers in the driver’s seat when it comes to salary demands.

A survey by consultants Robert Half found just over four in five employers think candidates for new jobs have become more demanding when it comes to negotiating salary compared to pre-pandemic conditions.

More than three quarters of employers are planning to increase starting salaries for new hires by 10 per cent.

While this is well above the current national wage growth rate of 2.3 per cent, it still falls short of the average 15 per cent salary being demanded by job candidates.

“Employees who feel undervalued, overworked, underpaid or think their career is at a standstill – now is the time to explore options,” Robert Half Asia Pacific managing director David Jones said.

“Australia’s skills-short market certainly favours the candidate, putting skilled talent in the driver’s seat when it comes to securing a new role,.”

National Skills Commission figures released on Wednesday showed skilled jobs advertisements posted on the internet in February were 36.2 per cent higher than a year earlier and a massive 60.4 per cent above levels prevailing before the COVID-19 pandemic two years ago.

It comes at a time when the unemployment rate is already at a 14-year low of four per cent with the Reserve Bank of Australia and Treasury expecting it to go even lower to levels not seen since the early 1970.

Economists expect next week’s federal budget will forecast wages growth of three per cent and above from the middle of next year, a level not seen March 2013 and prior to the coalition government coming to power.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese is not convinced stronger wages growth will be achieved under a coalition government.

“This happens every single budget and every single time the plan and the projection don’t meet the reality,” he told reporters in Sydney, adding that the government had missed the mark on wage projections 52 times out of 55 attempts.

“This is a government that is always about the promise, never about the delivery.”