WoMEDA’S report card for Melbourne’s west

WoMEDA’S report card for Melbourne’s west
WoMEDA’S report card for Melbourne’s west

Today, WoMEDA (West of Melbourne Economic Development Alliance) released its mid-year economic update showing that employment opportunities for residents west of Melbourne have grown rapidly, with 100,000 jobs added in just six years. Yet nearly half of workers still have to travel further west on a regular basis.

After a long period of relatively low participation, Melbourne’s west has emerged as one of the strongest labour markets in Victoria, with residents now making up one-sixth of Greater Melbourne’s total working-age population.

Although there has been significant growth in local industries such as transport, warehousing, healthcare and social work, almost half of all workers in West Melbourne still commute outside the region for work, with 32 percent regularly travelling into the CBD. But despite a population of almost 1 million people, Melbourne’s West has only three metropolitan rail lines, which still rely heavily on regional trains operated by the V-Line, resulting in heavy commutes that appear to disproportionately affect women.

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

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

However, there is still a very high level of commuting and while increased home working has eased the pain somewhat, it still impacts labour market participation and productivity. We argue that the need to reduce commuting should be met by policies aimed at growing jobs in the region.”

WoMEDA Executive Director Aisha Nicolay said the gender gap was a serious concern. “The level of commuting and the challenges of securing affordable childcare are two of the most likely drivers of the gender gap in labour market participation in Melbourne’s West.”

The report also includes employment forecasts for the coming decade, which were provided to WoMEDA by the Centre for Policy StudiesWest Melbourne residents are forecast to create 84,000 jobs between January 2024 and mid-2033. This equates to a growth rate of 1.75% per annum over the next decade, well exceeding the national growth rate of 1.4%.

It is expected that more than 30% of that growth will go to health care and social assistance. More than half of the jobs in this region are located here. This will help reduce the overall burden of commuting.

The lead author of the report, Professor Janine Dixondirector of the Centre for Policy Studies at Victoria University, said that “the growth of health and social assistance is an important national trend, but Melbourne’s west has increased its share of jobs in this sector”. She added that “while there is still some way to go, this means the region now has a fairer share of locally delivered health services and associated employment opportunities”.

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

There are positive signs for the manufacturing sector, however. After a six-year decline in manufacturing employment in Melbourne’s west, the Centre of Policy Studies has predicted that the industry will grow by 2,500 over the next decade. Signs of a revival in local manufacturing will be welcome news for West Melbourne residents looking to save time and money by avoiding a gruelling commute.