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Sydney: Social Security & Office Etiquette

Are you planning on working in Sydney as an expatriate? InterNations helps you prepare for the transition: get key information on finding work, obtaining the proper visa, and learning about Australian business etiquette. Read on to find out more about relocating to Sydney for work.
Don't forget your pension plans while working in Sydney!

Taxation and Social Security

When you first arrive in Sydney, you need to apply for a Tax File Number (TFN). This can be done online on the Australian Taxation Office website. Your TFN is your individual identification number for everything related to taxation and social security.

Every employee in Sydney earning more than 18,200 AUD per year is taxed between 9.7% and 44.9% of their salary. This personal income tax is calculated progressively, depending on your wages and other circumstances. It does not include the so-called Medicare Levy, which amounts to another 2% of your gross salary.

Please note that for temporary residents, the minimum income threshold does not apply; they are taxed at flat rates, which is 32.5 cent for every dollar they make if they earn less than 80,000 AUD a year. The income tax is increased in accords to your income bracket. Also, temporary workers who are foreigners do not have to pay the Medicare levy. 

Full access to the Australian social security system is only granted to permanent residents after a waiting period of several years. Temporary visitors on a working visa are not eligible for social security. If you are employed by an Australian business and experiencing financial hardship, your employer might be able to claim Living Away from Home Allowance for you. You can find out more about this kind of tax concession on Australian Government Taxation Office website.

Pension Plans

The Australian state pension is called Age Pension. It normally becomes available to all permanent residents who have been living and working in Australia for at least ten years prior to retirement. The amount you receive does not depend on how much tax you have paid, but it is calculated on the basis of a living wage.

If you want to work in Australia on a temporary visa, you should think about the effects this might have on the retirement benefits you are entitled to in your home country.

If there is an international social security agreement between Australia and your country, this usually means that the time you spend working Down Under is not “lost”. It will count towards your state pension at home. Currently, Australia has social security agreements with the following countries:

  • Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark
  • Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, (South) Korea, Latvia
  • Macedonia, Malta, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal
  • Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, and the USA. 

Please refer to Centrelink for more information on social security in Australia.

Another form of retirement saving is the so-called Superannuation fund. This is a retirement fund granted to every employee in Australia regardless of residency status. The monthly contribution of at least 9.5 percent of your salary is compulsory. It is paid by your employer into your “Super” fund.

For more information, consult the ATO website on Super funds. Upon leaving Australia, you can claim your Super fund: read up on the Departing Australia Super Payment via the ATO info page.

Business Etiquette

There aren’t many embarrassing business faux-pas for expats in Australia. As long as you treat everyone respectfully and politely and refrain from any sort of self-aggrandizement, you’ll find that Australians are rather easy-going in the office and reliable and straightforward business partners. To be on the safe side, it is always best to wait and observe common practice first before making any assumptions.

You will most likely be invited for formal or informal business drinks and dinners during your time in Sydney. Alcoholic beverages are usually consumed during such events, but they are not compulsory. On a formal occasion, the business partner who issued the invitation is usually responsible for paying the bill. However, at informal after-work drinks with colleagues or business associates, everyone just pays for one round of drinks.

Office Atmosphere

The atmosphere in your new workplace might be less hierarchical and formal than in your home country. Colleagues and business associates from all ranks and positions often address each other by their first names.

Depending on your line of work, formal business attire may be required in the office and particularly at business meetings. Offices are usually air-conditioned, but on hot days it is acceptable to take off your jacket in most situations. When meeting someone for the first time, both men and women greet each other with a firm handshake and direct eye contact.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

Serhat Ahmed

"Without experience of having lived abroad, I thought it would be hard to get to know other expats. But not with InterNations."

Lotta Koskinen

"When I first attended the Sydney Bar night I was really nervous. But everyone welcomed me and I quickly felt as part of the community."

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