Research Insights - FACTBase Bulletin 71

The Committee for Perth is proud to be leading the way on research into the Future of Work for WA and Greater Perth.

Our latest FACTBase Bulletin - The Transformation of Jobs in Western Australia and Greater Perth provides an overview of employment in Australia and specifically Western Australia over the past 75 years. It considers long-term trends and events that have transformed jobs such as structural change in the economy and economic shocks including historical economic recessions. It also examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on jobs in Western Australia and Greater Perth and compares these impacts to those Australia-wide.

This bulletin is the second piece of research to be delivered under the Committee’s 2020-2021 major project the Future of Work: equipping WA and its people for the changing world of work.

Key findings include:

  • The structure of the economy and jobs market in Western Australia and Greater Perth has transformed over the past 75 years from goods-producing industries to mining and service delivery sectors.
  • The 1980s to 1990s was a period of relatively rapid structural evolution when the economy shifted investment and labour away from sectors such as manufacturing and agriculture towards the mining and service industries. For some workers, this resulted in long-term unemployment because their skills no longer matched the jobs available.
  • The economy of Western Australia and Greater Perth experienced additional, rapid structural change in the early 2000s associated with investment and output growth in the mining sector. This generated growth in jobs in the mining sector as well as jobs in the labour-intensive construction; transport, postal and warehousing; and professional, scientific and technical services sectors. This growth eased in the decade from 2010 to 2020.
  • Structural change in the Western Australian economy since the 1990s has also been associated with service sector employment growth; however, technological change, particularly the adoption of the internet and new software products, has influenced service sector jobs from 2000 onwards. Key changes included an increase in people working in professional occupations, particularly in the health; education; professional, scientific and technical services; and transport sectors, and a decline in employment in some clerical occupations and retail sales.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant and rapid impact on employment in Western Australia and Greater Perth and, to date, job losses in Western Australia have been greatest in the accommodation and food services; agriculture, forestry and fishing; rental, hiring and real estate services; and information, media and telecommunications sectors.
  • There is emerging evidence that the impacts of and responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with shifting global trends, could have the potential to accelerate and generate long-term structural change in the economy.

It is important for industry and government in Western Australia and Greater Perth to develop a strong understanding of the global and domestic drivers impacting on the structural composition of the economy and the impact that these could have on jobs. Understanding these drivers will provide opportunities for coordinated and proactive responses to maintain positive job growth in the short- to medium-term future.

Acknowledgement of Country

The Committee For Perth acknowledges the traditional custodians throughout Western Australia and their continuing connection to the land, waters and community. We pay our respects to all members of the Aboriginal communities and their cultures; and to Elders both past and present.