Australia’s major cities are expanding at a rapid rate, according to recently released data from the Australian Census 2016. As populations continue to grow, how do experts view the future of work?
Each week in Melbourne, nearly 2000 people put down roots in the city, placing it in good stead to become Australia’s most populous city by 2050. Not that the figure for Sydney is far behind; the harbour metropolis welcomes 1,656 new residents each week. These staggering numbers, released this week as part of the Australian census 2016, shows that major Australian cities are fast-expanding centres for workers – and reveal interesting trends for how and where we will work into the future.
But it’s not just Australia’s two biggest cities that have changed, metropolitan populations have grown significantly across the board. For one, the combined population of Australia’s capital cities accounted for 82 per cent of the country’s total population growth; it increased by 276,500 people (1.7 per cent) between 2015 and 2016.
How will work change as Australian cities grow?
Experts looking to the future see growth opportunities for these cities’ workforces, and name densely-packed inner city living as the dominant trend for workers.
“There’s no doubt that the big opportunities for employment growth in Victoria over the next 30 years will be in health and professional services,” says Bernard Salt, demographer and founder of the Demographics Group. In terms of other jobs in what will soon to be Australia’s biggest city, he names smart manufacturing and food processing as other areas of growth.
And while job losses have been focused in rural regions such as outback Queensland and the WA wheatbelt, skilled and knowledge worker jobs are driving people to the inner city areas – specifically to corporate head offices, professional services firms, government administration and large hospitals and universities. Since 2000, job growth has been delivered in into healthcare and social assistance (up 730,000 jobs), professional services (up 440,000), education (up 330,000) and construction (up 410,000).
As metropolitan cities now skew younger than the population average, the challenge to businesses is to meet the wage, culture and development expectations of this growing workforce, says Mark McCrindle, principal social researcher, trends analyst and demographer at McCrindle. “There’s now more options for a young person in our capital cities. They might not have a reason to leave an organisation. They just might not have a compelling reason to stay.” However, many sectors that traditionally pay less, such as education, hospitality and retail are struggling to get staff to work in the city, he says “Young and emerging staff can’t afford to live there and a two hour commute is just not a lifestyle they’re looking for.”
Salt’s predictions for Victoria offer insights for the future of work in all fast-growing cities. “The CBD will still be dominant, but we’ll see a number of stronger regional centres emerge, such as Geelong, Ballarat and Bendigo.” In much the same way Sydney’s urban centre is being balanced with increased business growth in Parramatta, he sees suburbs like Footscray, Dandenong and Monash becoming more important business hubs.
“The idea of living at the edge of the city and commuting to the city centre is very much 20th century.” In the 21st century, he says, cities will become a jigsaw of self-contained communities, with transport, retail and housing centred around these mini “satellite” cities.
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Leonie Pearson, writing at The Conversation, says regional cities are full of economic prospects for those unable to access the opportunities of the inner city – if the right investments are made. New research shows regional cities generate national economic growth and jobs at the same rate as larger metropolitan cities, she says. “Regional cities are as well positioned to create investment returns as their big five metro cousins.”
Research by the The Regional Australia Institute shows that Sunshine Coast-Noosa and Gold Coast are “gaining cities”: their positive economic performance is supported by high population growth rates. It finds that stimulating local businesses will deliver big job growth opportunities. However, the impetus falls on government and private sector investment to turn opportunity into business growth.
Salt’s analysis also supports the trend for the distribution of job growth. Since February 2000, job growth in Mandurah (south of Perth) and metropolitan Melbourne’s west (eg. Melton) has exceeded 90 per cent; more than double the national average. On the Gold Coast, job growth increased by 79 per cent.
The future challenge
Recently politicians and leaders have been kicked into gear to help workers and businesses adapt to rising populations, says McCrindle. Transport initiatives and projects to attract businesses to move their offices to new metropolitan centres are part of this. “No longer do people want to live in the outer suburbs and commute into the CBD. These days people want access to work, education and lifestyle options within their regions.”