We investigate changes in the occupation structure in Australia between 1966 and 2011, and the effect of these changes on the earnings distribution. Occupation changes exhibited job polarisation (growth in high and low skill jobs, declines in middle skill jobs) in the 1980s and 1990s and general upskilling in the 1970s and 2000s. Any job polarisation has been primarily a male phenomenon. Occupation changes were consistent with the loss of jobs that were high in routine task intensity. Changes in occupational composition and associated earnings changes contributed significantly to growth in overall earnings inequality from the mid‐1980s to the mid‐2000s.