The changing face of employment in Canberra

Robyn Hendry 12 September 2018 14

View from Mount Ainslie. Photo: Jack Mohr.

In recent weeks our city, and nation, have been focused on the changing fortunes of those governing Australia. While the drama has been both disturbing and fascinating to watch unfold, there is a more profound shift taking place in employment in Canberra that it is time to pay attention to.

For much of its history, Canberra has been viewed as a ‘government’ town, with our workforce and local economy very much dictated by highs and lows in public sector employment.

In the past, the uncertainty created by something like a Prime Ministerial leadership spill or calling of a Federal election would significantly impact on local business confidence.

However, hard work to diversify our economy has created a new reality in which the ACT’s fortunes are no longer so tightly tied to the fluctuations of the Commonwealth workforce.

Unemployment in the ACT is currently the lowest in the country, standing at 3.6 per cent according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics Labour Force figures.

When we consider that the Territory also has one of Australia’s highest population growth rates, it must be concluded that jobs are being created.

What may surprise many is where they are being created.

Of the 225,700 people employed in the ACT, 144,000 or 63.8 per cent are employed by the private sector. As of the May quarter 2018, only 81,700 or 36.2 per cent of Canberrans reported as a public sector employee. (Source: ABS Labour Force Australia).

For many years, when arguing against the stereotype of Canberra being a public service city, the ACT has proudly pointed out that more than half of the local workforce was employed by private businesses.

However, these latest figures show we have moved far from that position.

So, whatever happens on the Hill, the important change in employment to keep track of is not simply who is in power, but how Canberra businesses are forging a new destiny for our city and protecting us against seismic shifts in the political landscape.

Robyn Hendry is the Chief Executive Officer of Canberra Business Chamber.

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14 Responses to The changing face of employment in Canberra
Jason Newham Jason Newham 12:01 am 16 Sep 18

Thanks Andrew. Current government please pay me $$$$$ to do nothing like others, contract free money for little work. Can we have a meeting about a meeting, 😉$only $550 an hour, ok 👌🏼 . Standard

David Vickers David Vickers 12:21 pm 15 Sep 18

They may not be employed by the public sector but most of their work depends on the public sector.

Sammy Moynihan Sammy Moynihan 1:18 am 15 Sep 18

I AM SURPRISED!!! Well done! Xoxo

Shaunna Wilson Shaunna Wilson 8:21 pm 14 Sep 18

Outsourcing is union busting by stealth, same as temp staff and labour hire.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 6:28 pm 14 Sep 18

Unions in the ACT are mounting a campaign to have employers pass on all benefits that normal employees get to the ABN contractors they employ instead.

Currently, small businesses are being targeted. I doubt very much that the ex-public service “Friday to Monday” contractors will be touched.

Sue Skinner Sue Skinner 11:01 pm 13 Sep 18

I know of so many public servants that were given redundancy packages, or early retirement only to return as very highly paid consultants. They're laughing!

Wade Bermingham Wade Bermingham 10:31 pm 13 Sep 18

they say they've sacked a lot of the blue collar workers over the years and hired contractors to replace them, moving different monies from different buckets and calling it a saving

Ben Roberts Ben Roberts 8:05 pm 13 Sep 18

They are employed as consultants... for the APS

Nigel Owen Nigel Owen 8:02 pm 13 Sep 18

Richard Kennedy - some research

Steve Ulr Steve Ulr 6:38 pm 13 Sep 18

Current government is throwing as much money at the private sector as it can. Cost of services is not an issue if it is going to the private sector. This figure is not surprising at all given the recruitment freezes and hiring of contractors to replace the lost capability.

Janet Ilchef Janet Ilchef 5:39 pm 13 Sep 18

Not only that, public service sector need private sector people (thinking retail, eating places, theatres, tradies etc etc)

Shiva Sapkota Shiva Sapkota 5:21 pm 13 Sep 18

Not with so much outsourcing goig on. Gosh they may try to outsource minstry if possible. These private workers / arrangement are actually paid out of government funds. So it’s like 🐓 and 🥚.

Spiral Spiral 8:07 am 13 Sep 18

I have a feeling that this may be a great example of how statistics can be misleading.

Does this report count contractors (who may be employees of Australian or foreign companies) who are working in a Government Department as Public or Private sector? There has been a huge move towards contractors in the last couple of decades.

Even for people who are definitely Private Sector, such as local tradies or shop employees, how much of their business comes from Public Servants (and contractors)?

When a large business shuts down, (such as a car manufacturer in Adelaide, or a timber mill in Gippsland), it is quickly pointed out that the impact of that closure far out weighs the direct job losses. The people who lose there jobs were spending money on services in the town, which will now have less income.

To get a real and honest view of whether Canberra is really a Public Service town, work out what would happen if the centralised public service was removed. How many other jobs would then go too?

Do those calculations then tell us about the face of employment in Canberra.

    JC JC 7:01 am 15 Sep 18

    A good example of what you are talking about is wh n BHP closed in Newcastle. The city was given extra federal money and programs to help counter the loss with the company being denigrated by then PM Howard for the impact on the wider community.

    Yet the same man was cutting the same number of jobs (and many were cut rather than simply outsourced) in a city that when you add in Lake Macquarie and the lower hunter towns was larger than Canberra.

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