WoMEDA’S Report Card on the West of Melbourne

After a long period of relatively low participation, Melbourne’s West has emerged as one of the strongest labour markets in Victoria
After a long period of relatively low participation, Melbourne’s West has emerged as one of the strongest labour markets in Victoria
Wednesday 10 July 2024

Today, WoMEDA (West of Melbourne Economic Development Alliance) released its half yearly economic update which shows West of Melbourne residents have seen a rapid surge in employment, increasing by 100,000 jobs in just six years, however, almost half the employed face a regular commute beyond the west. 

After a long period of relatively low participation, Melbourne’s West has emerged as one of the strongest labour markets in Victoria with its residents now accounting for one sixth of Greater Melbourne’s total workforce. 

While there has been significant growth in local industries such as transport, warehousing, health care and social work, almost half of all West Melbourne’s employed workers still commute out of the region for their jobs, with 32 per cent regularly travelling into the CBD. Yet despite a population of nearly 1 million people, Melbourne’s West has only three metropolitan train lines, still relying heavily on V-Line regional trains, resulting in tough commutes that appear to disproportionate impact women. 

The report found that there is a 10 per cent gap between the female and male employment to population ratios for West Melbourne residents, compared with a 7.6 per cent deficit for Australia as a whole. The need to commute to work is cited as a potential cause of this gap alongside the challenges in finding affordable childcare. 

Chair of WoMEDA, Professor Peter Dawkins said that “It’s great to see such high levels of employment in the West of Melbourne, it’s a relatively young population with a lot to offer”. 

However, there is still a very high rate of commuting and while increased rates of working from home have eased some of the pain, it still impacts labour market participation and productivity. We argue the need to commute should be reduced through policies aimed at growing jobs inside the region”.  

Executive Director of WoMEDA, Aisha Nicolay, said that the gender gap is of serious concern. “The level of commuting and challenges in securing affordable child-care are two of the most likely causes of the gender gap in labour market participation in Melbourne’s West”.  

The report also includes forecasts of employment for the next decade, provided to WoMEDA by the Centre of Policy Studies. Growth of 84,000 jobs for West of Melbourne residents is forecast between January 2024 and mid-2033, This represents a growth rate of 1.75%per annum over the next decade, well outstripping the national growth rate of 1.4%. 

Over 30% of that growth is expected to be health care and social assistance, where over half of the jobs are based in the region, which will help to reduce the overall burden of commuting.  

The report’s major author, Professor Janine Dixon, Director of the Centre of Policy Studies at Victoria University, said that “the growth of health care and social assistance is a major nationwide trend, but the West of Melbourne has grown its share of jobs in this sector”. She added that “while there is some way to go, this means that the region now has a fairer share of locally supplied health services and associated employment opportunities”. 

However, the growth in health care and social assistance employment is offset by low growth of those industries such as logistics, manufacturing and construction which have a high share of local employment. 

There are, however, some positive signs for manufacturing. Following a consistent six-year decline in manufacturing employment opportunities in the West of Melbourne, the Centre of Policy Studies has forecast that the industry will grow by 2,500 across the next decade.  Signs of a resurgence in the local manufacturing industry will be welcome news to West Melbourne residents looking to save time, and money, by avoiding a tough commute to work. 

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