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Australia Western Sydney facing planning 'nightmare' because of lack of jobs, report warns

01:05  28 june  2020
01:05  28 june  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

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Western Sydney faces a planning "nightmare" with more than half a million people commuting out of the region to get to work in just over a decade, a report warns.

The Centre of Western Sydney has released research which shows the region is booming but also highlights growing problems — mainly a lack of jobs in the city's west.

"I don't think it's being emotive to say that the planning problem is now a nightmare," said Director Phillip O'Neill.

The think tank from the University of Western Sydney says there are currently 222,000 more workers than jobs in the region.

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At the same time, Western Sydney is experiencing rapid growth — especially in the number of professionals living there.

"The rate of growth of professional, and knowledge-based workers, in Western Sydney now exceeds the rate of growth in Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide combined."

Yasameen Hinna is one of those professionals, about to join the workforce as an engineer.

"I've been living here for 10 years, and studying, and so it would be really great to have more potential work around this area," she said.

Ms Hinna lives in Bossley Park, and is hoping to get a job working on the new Western Sydney airport.

She was commuting east to Arncliffe for a previous job and doesn't want to spend more time stuck in traffic.

"In this country, we spend a lot of time travelling in the car," she said.

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In the last few decades, Western Sydney's workforce has quickly changed.

The report describes Sydney's 'old industrial belt' made up of four local government areas — Parramatta, Blacktown, Canterbury-Bankstown, and Fairfield.

In 1971, 104,000 workers from those areas were employed in the manufacturing industry — more than one-third of the local workforce.

By 2016, that number had plummeted to just 36,000, or 7.8% of the local workforce.

In contrast, in the same period, those areas have gone from having 3,900 university degree holders to 198,000.

The research found that rise is one of the reasons more than 300,000 people currently leave Western Sydney each day for work.

"If things continue the way they've occurred over the last two decades, then our estimate is by 2036, you'll have in excess of 550,000 workers every day leaving Western Sydney to find their place of employment," Professor O'Neill said.

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For some residents in the western suburbs, the issues are already obvious.

Damian Shannon moved to Jordan Springs, near Penrith, because of the area's affordable housing.

He has not been able to find work nearby, so he spends a long time on the train every day.

"Pre-COVID, my average day was about two hours (on the train)," he said.

"Currently, I can do it in about an hour 40.

"Even in the four years I've been out here, the commute is getting harder, the trains are getting fuller."

Professor O'Neill said hard discussions needed to take place about how to create, or move, more jobs in the west.

"We need to have serious policy discussions," he said.

"What we have is a determination by government to build greenfield residential estates a long way from where the major concentrations of jobs are.

"It's simply impossible to fill those suburbs with professional services workers, and then expect them to travel 60-70 kilometres a day in order to find a place of work," he said.

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