Housing booms and mining towns
Mining and construction industries are a large and central part of the Australian workforce, accounting for over one million jobs nationally. How did the end of the recent mining construction boom and the consequent decrease in investment impact on regions? Analysis from the Regional Australia Institute identifies a number of Local Government Areas that were particularly reliant on the mining industry –many a long way from the mine sites themselves.
These distances are demonstrated in the map below (Figure 1), depicting movements of miners with blue points representing major ‘inflows’ or places of work, for example, miners who worked in the Pilbara. Major home locations for these miners are represented by red points. The green blocks represent the extent of mining workers who both lived and worked within the same Local Government Area. The map shows the extent of the mining industry represented in Perth and Brisbane, and the relative lack of mining industry activity in Melbourne and Sydney.
Figure 1 Mining workers: Main Source (Red) and Major Destinations/places of work (Blue), 2011 Census
As seen in Figure 1, mining workers are a highly mobile workforce, often living hundreds, even thousands of kilometres from their place of work. 25 per cent of miners worked more than 100 kilometres from their place of usual residence (Table 1).
|Distance between home and workplace||Construction industry workers||Mining industry workers|
|100 – 1,000 Kilometres||8,934||24,900|
Table 1 Distance between place of work and place of usual residence, 2011 Census.
This long commute was significantly more pronounced than that of construction workers. Just 3 per cent of construction workers worked more than 100 kilometres from their place of usual residence. On average, in 2011, miners lived 206 kilometres away from their place of work, with the combined workforce living a total of 29 million kilometres from their place of work. Construction workers travelled an average of 20km to get to work, with a workforce total of 11 million kilometres (Table 2). The 2011 period studied in this paper was close to the peak of the mining construction boom.
|Industry type||Total Australia||Exclusions
|Total in this study||Total Kilometres ||Kilometre Average|
Table 2 Construction and mining workers, distance travelled to work, 2011 Census.
Figure 2 shows the extent of mining construction activity and highlights some regions that have faced, or were particularly vulnerable to, a downturn. NAB Group economics recently estimated that 46,000 mining jobs were shed between the peak in 2012-13 and 2014-15, and ‘around 50,000 more will be cut going forward’.
High reliance on mining employment was particularly evident in cities around Perth such as Joondalup, Wanneroo and Rockingham and to a lesser extent, Brisbane and surrounding LGA’s. Western Australia overall and Perth in particular clearly faced the brunt of the slowdown in mining construction.
Figure 2 Mining workers: Western Australian detail (blues representing work destination, red represent source/home)
Construction employment showed some similar patterns to the mining data, however while construction activity in mining regions was visible, overall construction activity was distributed over a larger area. The map below shows the prevalence of the construction industry in South-Eastern Australia (Figure 3).
Figure 3 Construction workers: main sources (Red) and major destinations (Blue) of workers, 2011 Census.
We will be able to get a good national picture of the scale of these more recent changes and the places most affected when the data from the 2016 Census is released in October 2017. Early Census data on population counts will come out mid year, but the data on employment and place of work will follow a few months later. We are looking forward to updating this industry mapping in the 4th quarter of 2017, so stay tuned.
 Exclusions included responses such as ‘not stated’, state, undefined, migratory, offshore and shipping.
 Distances were calculated on SA2 centroids using the Haversine great circle formula.