June 17, 2010:
British and Australian troops serving in Afghanistan have found that they have much in common. For both, Queen Elizabeth II is their head of state. Both have similar legal systems and customs. What they don't have in common is pay rates for the troops. New Australian recruits get $26,000 a year, while their British counterparts get $20,200 a year. American recruits start at $15,540. After three years of service, the Australian troops are making about $38,000 a year, the British $23,000 and American $24,000. Much of the difference is due to changes in exchange rates. Two years ago, it took about $2.50 (in Australian dollars) to buy one British pound. Now it only takes about $1.70. But even with that, the Australian troops get paid more than their British counterparts, and that may explain why there are still more Brits moving to Australia, rather than the other way around.
Base pay is not everything. U.S. troops in a combat zone get various extra payments. These include things like; "family separation allowance" ($250 a month for being away from your family), "imminent danger pay" ($225 for being in a combat zone) and "hazardous duty incentive pay" for particularly dangerous jobs ( Parachute Duty, Carrier Flight Deck Duty, Demolition/handling explosives Duty, Experimental Stress Duty, Handling Toxic Fuels or Propellants Duty, Handling Toxic Pesticides Duty, Dangerous Viruses or Bacteria Lab Duty, Handling Chemical Munitions). For some very dangerous jobs, like high altitude parachute (HALO) jumping, you get an extra $220 a month. This all adds up, increasing the pay of many troops by more than fifty percent. But your average junior rank U.S. soldier in a combat zone will be getting about $30,000 a year, tax free (making that close to $40,000 a year, if taxes were paid). Combat troops also qualify for enlistment, or reenlistment, bonuses, which can bump annual pay by a few thousand more dollars.
The British and Australian military forces also have additional payments for overseas service, but the U.S. enlistment bonuses and tax breaks help make U.S. and Australian pay more equal, at least for troops in a combat zone. However, Australian troops still have an edge, making 20 percent more than U.S. troops. British troops, however, find that they are way behind their Australian cousins on payday. The higher Australian pay is partly a response to recruiting difficulties. The Australian economy has been booming for quite some time, and the military has high standards. The British government has resisted increasing troops' pay in order to keep the ranks full. After having rubbed shoulders with better paid Australian, American (and Canadian) troops in Afghanistan, Brits are returning home in a foul mood, at least on payday. Australia often recruits experienced British troops, offering better pay and citizenship in a new, sunnier, homeland.