Inside Perth’s Workforce

Workforce information

Workforce information

Western Australia has a population of around 2.6 million people, of which more than half make up the State’s workforce of some 1.4 million people. WA has the fourth largest workforce in Australia, and the highest rate of workforce participation of all the states (excluding ACT and NT).

  • Aboriginal Australians make up 1.9% of the State’s workforce, while those born overseas make up 39.8%.
  • Youth aged 15–24 comprise about 14.3%, while those over 60 comprise 9.8%.
  • WA’s male to female workforce ratio is 55% to 45%.
  • Many Western Australians in the workforce hold post school qualifications, with 25.1% holding a university degree and 33.5% a VET Certificate or Diploma.
  • 39.1% have no post school qualifications.

The vast majority (around 79%) of the State’s population and workers reside in Greater Perth (including Mandurah).

However, the regions are quite diverse in nature and incorporate a variable mix of employment in areas such as services, resource projects, agribusiness and tourism.

The majority of workers in the State are employed on a full-time basis (68.3%), with a broadly similar industry employment composition to that of the other states in Australia, with 74.4% employed in the State’s service-related industries, compared to 79.1% for Australia.

The top three employing industries in WA are currently Health Care and Social Assistance, Construction and Retail Trade. One key difference in employment composition relates to WA having a higher proportion of workers employed in the mining industry (6.7%) compared to nationally (1.8%).

Outlook and assessment for WA

WA has a land mass of over two and a half million square kilometres, nearly 10 times the size of New Zealand. Western Australians enjoy a good quality of life supported by strong infrastructure and quality government services. With its immense dimensions, small population and Perth’s distinction as the world’s most isolated capital city, WA is a state of contrast that offers many opportunities for growth and prosperity.

In recent years WA’s richness in natural resources and proximity to Asian markets has provided economic growth and benefits to both industry and community; however, the ever-changing demographic, economic and social climate means that it must continue to adapt and grow into the future. In particular, the State must respond to its changing workforce profile and position itself to meet the developing labour market challenges. The State’s population and labour market have a direct impact on the planning and development of our future workforce.

Employment forecasts

Forecasts from Victoria University’s Centre of Policy Studies (out to 2021–22) and the Australian Government Department of Jobs and Small Business (out to May 2022) show that over the next few years WA’s employment growth by industry is expected to be broadly based. While there is some variation between the two sets of forecasts, an area of consistency is that the industries of Health Care and Social Assistance, Retail Trade and Construction are forecast to continue to be the highest employing industries in the State, by the end of the respective forecasting periods. Other areas of employment growth are expected to be in Professional, Scientific and Technical Services, and Education and Training.

Disclaimer: Forecasts of employment growth

In view of the State’s current dynamic economic environment, it is very difficult for any forecaster to accurately predict specific and detailed movements in employment growth as there are many uncertainties to be considered. As such, care needs to be exercised when interpreting any projections of labour market movements for the State. In particular, the following chart showing the two different forecast sets of employment growth by industry should only be used as a broad guide as to an indicative picture of what the State’s future labour market may look like under the assumptions adopted by either forecaster.

Furthermore, expected growth in employment does not necessarily mean jobs will be easier or harder to obtain in any particular industry area – levels of competition for vacant positions can often be quite marked and variable.

Prospective students or jobseekers are encouraged to undertake research into possible training / career paths they may be interested in.




Employment forecasts by industry for Western Australia (in 000s)

Industry type May 2017 Employment level (DJSB) 2016–17 Employment level (ABS) Employment growth to 2021–22 (CoPS) Employment growth to May 2022 (DJSB)
Health Care and Social Assistance 159.4 154.9 29.7 21.8
Construction 143.4 133.3 3.5 12.8
Retail Trade 128.8 133.2 4.4 2.4
Education and Training 104.0 102.8 15.5 9.3
Mining^ 100.8 99.4 -6.9 4.9
Professional, Scientific and Technical Services 95.5 99.2 26 7.1
Accommodation and food services 100.2 95.5 2.2 15.6
Public Administration and Safety 85.3 81.0 1.6 8.1
Manufacturing* 77.2 80.4 7.5 -2.8
Transport, Postal and Warehousing 66.3 66.8 7.4 4.4
Other Services 60.7 59.5 5.0 3.1
Administrative and Support Services 44.8 46.1 5.3 4.1
Wholesale Trade 43.8 40.6 3.5 0.0
Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing 35.5 34.3 4.4 0.7
Financial and Insurance Services 35.6 33.9 3.7 1.9
Arts and Recreation Services 25.0 27.3 3.1 3.6
Rental, Hiring and Real Estate Services 24.2 23.1 2.8 0.8
Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services* 17.8 17.8 0.5 -1.6
Information, Media and Telecommunications 14.6 14.9 0.9 1.1

Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), 6291.0, 2016–7; Centre of Policy Studies (CoPS), Victoria University, 2017; Australian Government Department of Jobs and Small Business (DJSB), Labour Market Information Portal, Nov 2017.
* DJSB employment growth forecasts are negative for Manufacturing, and Electricity, Gas, Water and Waste Services.

Labour and economic snapshot

The Department prepares a Labour and economic snapshot for Western Australia, based on the most up to date information. The snapshot provides some analysis of the current situation and outlook for the State’s labour market. The current edition of the labour and economic snapshot is now available for download. Its key message is that despite some positive short-term signs in headline results, underlying labour market conditions in WA continued to be subdued in the June 2018 quarter. It also shows the following.

  • Total employment increased by 7,300 persons, with full time employment increasing by 4,200 workers and part time employment increasing by 3,100.
  • The State’s unemployment rate stood at 6.3 per cent, 0.8 percentage points above the national rate. This compares to the March quarter when the unemployment rate for Western Australia was 6.2% and the national rate was 5.5%.
  • At 14.5%, Western Australia’s annual average unemployment rate for youth (those aged 15 to 24 years) is now at its highest level in 20 years.
  • The latest available forward indicators suggest a continuation of patchy conditions in the State’s labour market during at least the next quarter or two, with a somewhat higher demand for workers still not expected to be strong enough to meet the requirements of all of those who are seeking work.

You can view the June 2018 labour and economic snapshot for WA here [PDF 606KB]

Industry information and intelligence

The Department sources information on skills supply and demand, workforce development issues, current emerging skills shortages and other related intelligence from a wide range of sources. This includes strong liaison with peak industry bodies, businesses, non-government organisations and many other stakeholders. In particular, Western Australia has industry training advisory arrangements in place with nine training councils, each covering a particular industry sector of the State’s economy.

Industry training councils

ITCs represent specific industry areas and play a vital leadership role in WA’s workforce planning and development, working closely with key stakeholders including peak employer, employee and industry organisations. In addition to advising the State Training Board and the Department of Training and Workforce Development about attracting, retaining and skilling a capable and sustainable workforce, the ITCs provide:

  • high level, strategic information and advice that informs the State Training Board on the training needs and priorities of industry in Western Australia;
  • market intelligence on skills supply and demand, in particular current or emerging skills shortages; and
  • recommendations for training strategies that support industry’s skills development needs.

ITCs also have a central role in the development of quality vocational and education training curriculum to ensure that the skills and knowledge gained through training is aligned with current industry competencies and requirements. A full list of WA ITCs is available on the WA State Training Board website

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