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.