The goal is better alignment of jobs, education and housing opportunities across the three cities. For jobs and education, this means improving access to these opportunities alongside population growth. For housing, this means providing a diversity of housing types that respond to changing community preferences and needs at different life stages.
With much of the data reported in the Pulse in 2019 based on the 2016 Census, we have expanded our analysis with new data:
- Impact of COVID-19 on employment (new)
- Jobs distribution by type in centres and industrial lands (new)
- Internet access (new)
- Online learning (new)
- Vocational and education training (new)
- Aged care and retirement accommodation (new)
- Housing types by household composition and number of bedrooms (new)
- Rental vacancy rates (new)
The COVID-19 pandemic is impacting employment across Greater Sydney and the shift towards working from home highlights the importance of digital infrastructure and connectivity.
While the need for jobs, education and services remains, the way these are delivered and accessed is changing.
How the housing market responds to the pandemic may also create opportunities to broaden housing types, tenures and price points, improving housing choice.
The overall distribution of jobs across Greater Sydney and their type of tenure has affected different groups of workers in different ways due to the pandemic. Part time and casual workers, particularly women and young workers (aged 15-24) are impacted the most.
Twice as many women than men work in part-time or casual jobs in Greater Sydney, 40 per cent of the working population compared to 20 per cent of men12. A large proportion of those women work in two industries particularly impacted by the pandemic according to Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) surveys: retail trade, and accommodation and food services (15 per cent and 11 per cent respectively). Similarly, a 54 per cent of young workers are employed part-time compared to the working age population (25 per cent)13. Figure 2 shows that younger workers are employed in these industries and are also significantly affected.
Figure 2: Youth employment by industry in Greater Sydney (2016)14
Working from home accelerated since late March 2020. While detailed data across all sectors on working from home during the pandemic is not yet available, analysis of the working from home 2016 Census data shows residents in knowledge and professional service industries have a higher propensity to work from home, owing to the nature of this work, although all sectors are represented (see Figure 4).
This provides the context to examine the distribution of jobs by type in metropolitan and strategic centres and on industrial lands by district (see Figure 3).
Larger centres in Eastern City and North districts are likely to have a higher proportion of knowledge and professional services workers working from home. This has also been observed in the reduced trips on public transport to centres with commercial office space as published by Transport for NSW (TfNSW).
Conversely, the larger proportion of industrial and population services jobs in Central City and Western City districts suggests workplaces in those districts are less affected as industry retools to meet the needs of the pandemic and warehousing and logistics operators cope with the increase in online retailing.
The increase in working from home and online retailing is supported by the relatively high levels of home internet access across all districts, with North, Eastern City and Central City districts at or above 90 per cent and South and Western City districts at 88 and 87 per cent respectively (see Figure 5). The pandemic highlights the importance of digital infrastructure to provide access to work and online shopping, and to services such as eHealth, online banking, learning, entertainment and to make social connections.
Increased access to the internet means more students learn online. Between 2008 and 2018, domestic and international online study almost doubled (see Figure 6).
* Refers to the five major universities in Greater Sydney and studying online in some capacity
In addition to university study, 15.4 per cent of the Greater Sydney population aged 15 plus studied in some capacity in the vocational education and training (VET) sector or TAFE, in 2019. This increased from 13.5 per cent in 2015.19
VET study is defined as either nationally recognised (accredited qualifications/courses, training package qualifications or skills sets) or not nationally recognised (often a single subject or short course to meet an identified training need).
The most popular fields in 2019 were management and commerce; society and culture; engineering and technologies; food, hospitality and personal services; and architecture and building. The most popular units of study in 2019 were resuscitation, first aid, basic emergency life support, work safety on a construction site and responsible service of alcohol.
In response to COVID-19, the Australian Government announced the JobTrainer fund, which will provide for around 340,700 additional training places for school leavers and jobseekers. Open Universities Australia has partnered with Open Learning to create the Open Microcredential Development Grant available for all universities to design short courses of 50–150 hours.
TAFE NSW has made available a suite of free online courses while the regulations surrounding the qualification framework are adjusted to create Undergraduate Certificates (only available for enrolment until May 2021) to allow for quicker reskilling and upskilling. There has been 100,000 enrolments in TAFE’s fee-free online short courses in NSW since their introduction at the start of the pandemic.
The 2019 Pulse of Greater Sydney showed housing types by Greater Sydney and by districts in 2016 to highlight housing diversity.
Housing types vary across Greater Sydney and all councils have either updated, prepared or are preparing local housing strategies for their area. Based on analysis of local housing needs, and in consideration of local conditions and consultation with the community, these strategies will help to provide a diversity of homes in a variety of locations.
Figure 7 shows the high proportion of couples without children and single person households living in separate houses.
The trend of more people working from home highlights the importance of housing diversity and size, particularly for households that need more flexible living spaces. Figure 8 shows the proportion of families, couples without children and group households living in two-bedroom (or smaller) dwellings across Greater Sydney.
Residential rental vacancy rates, as shown in Figure 9, point to a market impacted by the pandemic. Notably, rates continued to fall in Outer Sydney until June 2020 before rising significantly.
The fall in tourist and international student numbers may reflect the initial rise in vacancies in Inner Sydney, where there is a greater proportion of short-term accommodation.
We have also examined specialised aged care and retirement living units. Figure 10 shows that almost 10 per cent of the Greater Sydney population aged 65 and over live in these forms of housing, with 13 per cent in the North District. The projected increase in people aged 65 and over across the metropolis will increase the need for these types of housing choices.
Figure 7: Dwelling types by household composition20
Findings and future focus
The COVID-19 pandemic is changing the economic environment. How people live, work and spend has implications for strategic planning. We need to understand these changes and adapt in order to boost productivity, support jobs and education and create great places with a diversity of housing.
Notwithstanding the significant impacts to the economy and jobs, Greater Sydney continued to have high rates of growth during the last economic shock in 2009, as the economy was stronger in relative terms. The indicator shows a future focus for economic recovery will be to address greater impacts on youth and female employment.
The pandemic has highlighted the importance of internet access and its implications related to skills development, service access and equality. Digital infrastructure can be optimised to address inequities in access across parts of Greater Sydney while also helping to manage challenges such as peak travel demand and greater flexibility that can achieve time savings.
The tertiary sector has been impacted by international border closures introduced during the lockdown, and by more students, both domestic and international, studying online.
Conversely there has been a local uptake in online VET courses, enabling those affected by job losses to retrain and/or boost their skills.
Local housing diversity provides more housing choice to meet changing needs. Local housing strategies are identifying the need for a range of housing types at different price points and assessing different opportunities to improve the mix of housing in the local area. Many councils have prioritised affordable housing contribution schemes. These will start to be implemented in 2020 and 2021.
State agencies have identified potential to deliver diverse and affordable housing options in major projects such as the Herbert Street Precinct in St Leonards and Landcom’s Queenscliff development. This trend is anticipated to continue.
With more people working from home, studying online and seeking online entertainment, housing diversity is more important than ever. There are indications that there may be further trends such as more people choosing to live in other parts of the State given they now enjoy more flexible working arrangements.